Former Mossad director Tamir Pardo
Former Mossad director Tamir Pardo
Photo: Archive
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the UN Security Council on Iran in 2018

Israel needs coherent strategy on Iran and Palestinians

Opinion: As a regional military power, Israel should set policy based on comprehensive evaluation of national interests and not by improvisation, casting off the existential fear and the shadow of the Holocaust of yore

Tamir Pardo |
Published: 03.06.21, 23:35
Israel lacks an comprehensive national security policy. Its position on Iran's nuclear aspirations was formulated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu alone, without consultation with the security cabinet.
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  • Israel's concessions - allowing advanced weapons systems including F-35 stealth bombers to be sold to the UAE and an agreement to allow the sale of advanced submarines to Egypt - were all decided in the same manner.
    The declared annexation of West Bank land and the subsequent reversal of this policy was also carried out in a similar fashion, and even the decision to deliver vaccines to certain countries and deny them to our Palestinian neighbors followed the same process.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    בנימין נתניהו נאום העצרת הכללית של האו"ם
    בנימין נתניהו נאום העצרת הכללית של האו"ם
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the UN Security Council on Iran in 2018
    (Photo: AP)
    All of these decisions were made devoid of process and without consideration for national security implications.
    The origin of this practice lies in another era. It was a time when Israel's leaders were acting on the basis two assumptions, which although ignoring wider ramifications were justified at the time: That the world "owes us" after the Holocaust and that we are an island surrounded by a sea of enemies.
    These were the early days of statehood and ghetto mentality of a people who had no control over their destiny prevailed.
    In the decades since then, the world has changed and the new Israeli leaders who emerged were not motivated in the same way their elders were. Israel has become a regional power and has lived in peace with its most powerful neighbor, Egypt, for more than 40 years. It has also had a peace treaty with Jordan for over a quarter of a century.
    More treaties have been signed recently, namely the September 2020 Abraham Accords that normalized ties with the UAE, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. And those are just the deals that are in the public eye. Other clandestine relations exist, providing different levels of security cooperation with other nations in our region.
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    L-R: Bahrain FM Abdullatif al-Zayani, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Emirati FM Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House
    L-R: Bahrain FM Abdullatif al-Zayani, PM Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Donald Trump, and Emirati FM Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan at the signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House
    Signing of the Abraham Accords at the White House in Sept. 2020
    (Photo: AFP)
    This changing strategic reality requires a shift in the way policy is decided and adjusted. That is the only way to ensure decisions made in one sphere do not have a negative effect on other national interests.
    The current method of making policy by improvisation is evident in Israel's response to two of the greatest threats the country is currently facing: Becoming one state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and the Iranian nuclear program.
    Since 1967, nearly all Israeli governments have avoided deciding the best path for the country's future, refusing to choose between assimilating 2 million Palestinians into Israel's population or to completely separate from them.
    Some governments excused this indecision by claiming there was no "Palestinian partner" with whom to negotiate. Regardless of the validity of such an excuse, the result remains that the fate of the country is placed in the hands of the current or future Palestinian leadership.
    This inability to make a decision and he reliance on ongoing military rule until such time as a "partner" is found has resulted in over 50 years of gradual movement towards a future binational state.
    None of Israel's national institutions have been asked to weigh the ramifications of such an eventuality. Israel's future security, economic stability, international standing and regional relations were never examined in the context of one state.
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    Construction in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba
    Construction in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba
    Construction in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba
    (Photo: EPA)
    On Iran, the government's policies lacks a unified approach to the challenges ahead.
    Israel has been dealing with Iranian entrenchment along its norther frontier in isolation from the other issues relating to the policies of the Islamic Republic.
    This means the northern frontier is viewed separately from the predominate threat of Iran's race to obtain nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them.
    It also disregards the advantages that could be gained from efforts by the United States and its allies to thwart Iran's plans, the importance of the strategic alliance with the U.S. for Israel's national security and the impact of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians on such a valuable strategic alliance.
    It is time for Israel to end its reactive policies and form a broad strategy based on all of the interests and concerns the country is facing.
    It is time for Israel to take initiative, exhibit capabilities and make use of opportunities. With this new approach, Israel will be met by a fresh like-minded response from Washington.
    A group of high-ranking veterans of the IDF and other security agencies has been advocating for Israel to investigate a diplomatic path on Iran before considering any military option.
    These veterans are urging the Israeli government to support American efforts to bring Iran back into full compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement and condition any easing of sanctions on such compliance.
    4 צפייה בגלריה
    ג'ו ביידן בישראל, מרץ 2016
    ג'ו ביידן בישראל, מרץ 2016
    Then-U.S. Vice President Joe Biden during a visit to Israel in March 2016
    (Photo: AFP)
    Once this has been achieved, Israel can back continued negotiations to plug the holes in the original Iranian nuclear agreement and the question of Iran's medium and long-range missile project and its regional aggression can be addressed.
    Such a shift in position would then allow Israel to come up with initiatives to halt the slide into binational statehood and even draft agreements on a two-state solution that could be presented further down the road.
    As Israel approaches the 73rd anniversary of its birth, with unmatched military might and other assets such as technological ingenuity, it is time for the government yo recognize it is leading a mature and powerful nation that can decide its own path, firstly by formulating a strategy to guarantee its future national security.

    Tamir Pardo is a former director of the Mossad Intelligence Agency

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