Israel’s Strategic Dilemmas

Israel faces such a precarious military, demographic, geographic and economic reality that normalisation with the regional nations is the sole and most cost-effective solution for Israel’s security and strategic needs as well as its survival
Adnan Khan Adnan Khan7th October 202014 min

The Abraham Accords, informally known as the Deal of the Century, is the latest attempt for the normalisation and acceptance of Israel with its neighbours. Israeli Defence Minister and alternate Prime Minister, Benjamin Gantz, thanked US President Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the UAE for inking the Abraham Accords. Gantz highlighted, “I would like to thank first and foremost US President Donald Trump, a true friend of Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed. The agreement expresses the alliance between regional countries that are interested in regional stability and cooperation, and emphasizes Israel’s eternal aspiration of reaching peace with its neighbors.”

Israel’s violent birth into the Middle East has always posed a problem for its neighbours and for its own image. A policy of state expansion through war with its neighbours and illegal settlement expansion into Palestine has done little to improve this image. For Israel, the normalisation with another nation in the Middle East represents a significant achievement as it has for long worked to normalise its presence in the region. Acceptance and normalisation in the region is the only solution for the long-term security of Israel due to the many strategic weaknesses. These weaknesses are geostrategic in nature meaning they exist due to the very nature of the nation and so are a constant or at the very least pose exhaustive problems for it.

Israel is an artificial nation created by colonial powers. The nation is so small that in any war scenario Israeli territory would suffer from significant loss and damage as it will have to fight from within its own territory. As a nation with less than 8,100 mi² of land, smaller than Wales in the United Kingdom and a population the size of London, Israel lacks strategic depth. At its narrowest, Israel is a mere 10 miles wide (not including the West Bank). A hostile fighter could fly across the core of Israel (from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea) within four minutes. Israel is surrounded by Muslim nations. Egypt, the largest country in the region and with a population 11 times the size of Israel can field a military that will outnumber Israel. This means Egypt can absorb casualties at a far higher rate than Israel. This would mean the Egyptian military can engage in an extended, high-intensity battle that would break the back of the Israeli military with a rate of attrition that Israel cannot sustain. If Israel was forced to simultaneously engage with the other countries it shares borders with, dividing its forces and supply lines it would run out of troops long before Egypt, even if Egypt were absorbing far more casualties.

Every war, invasion or attack, is an existential threat for Israel. Despite its aggressive posture, the country’s geography and demography works against it. As a result, Israel depends upon US military and economic assistance. For its investment in military platforms is prohibitively expensive and purchasing platforms from abroad have consistently come with strings attached. The quantitative imbalance has been dealt with through the development of an industrial base that maintains an asymmetrical Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Knowing it cannot compete with the region on quantity, Israel has focused on maintaining fewer but qualitatively more advanced platforms. If Egypt or Syria were to go through rearmament, they would bankrupt Israel. The wars Israel has been victorious in were not possible without US supplies.

Israel faces significant economic dilemmas. It has a GDP of around $370 billion which is just too small to cater for its strategic imperatives. This has a knock-on effect on how much taxes the government collects, especially as it subsidises the world’s Jews to migrate to Israel to normalise its occupation. Israel’s demography also suggests it has a labour shortage as it only has 4 million people. Economic development and industrial development are labour intensive and dependent on knowledge and skills retention. With such a small labour force Israel is reliant upon foreign knowledge and expertise. All of this means Israel cannot survive with the domestic economy it has and it has come to rely upon foreign markets.

As a nation with less than 8,100 mi² of land, smaller than Wales in the United Kingdom and a population the size of London, Israel lacks strategic depth

Israel will never become self-sufficient as it will always have to import energy. Israel relies heavily on external imports for meeting most of its energy needs, spending significant amounts from its domestic budget for its transportation sector which relies on gasoline and diesel fuel, while the majority of electricity production is generated using imported coal. Whilst the region has an abundance of oil and gas, none of this is in Israel. The geography of Israel is also not naturally conducive to agriculture. More than half of the land area is desert and only 20% of Israel’s land area is naturally arable. The climate and lack of water resources also do not favor Israeli farming as a result Israel suffers from a chronic water shortage.

To get around its economic dilemmas Israel has focused on key industries for its survival; technology, military and foreign aid transfers. It also relies on influential Zionists from across the world, especially in the US to influence the foreign policies of these states in favour of Israel. Israel has a heavy dependency on the goodwill of other states. If it was to lose favour  it is too small for a country to be self-sufficient. Because of the strategic role Israel plays in the Middle East, it has been spoiled with military hardware and technology which would have otherwise taken it decades to develop. Israel is reliant upon foreign nations and people for its survival, without them it simply could not exist due to the geographical challenges it faces.

Israel has supported America’s agenda in the Middle East as it needs a foreign patron to survive. But the US being a global power has interests within the Middle East beyond Israel. Despite significant lobbying efforts in the US and constant statements of shared history and interests, Israeli governments have regularly fallen foul of the US and even been disciplined by them. The Obama administration agreed to a nuclear deal with Iran despite condemnation by Israel as it strengthened Iran. The US looks upon two states in historic Palestine with parts of the West Bank being a Palestinian state. This is a strategic problem for Israel as it will not control all the strategic areas in and around Palestine. Israel has attempted to build settlements and expand its final territory, but it does not see eye-to-eye with the US on this issue. Israel is such an artificial creation which is why there is very little it can do and to compensate for this it needs a foreign patron, the US, to survive. Despite differences with the US on numerous issues, Israeli leaders have concluded there is no other way it could survive in the region without a foreign backer.

Israel is such an artificial creation which is why there is very little it can do and to compensate for this it needs a foreign patron, the US, to survive

Israel faces such a precarious military, demographic, geographic and economic reality that no amount of  development can change these facts. Despite receiving significant US funds and military equipment it is outnumbered and surrounded. The only viable strategy for Israel is for the regional nations to normalise relations with it. This will allow it to focus on commercial and economic issues rather than military and security matters. Therefore, normalisation with the regional nations is the sole and most cost-effective solution for Israel’s security and strategic needs as well as its survival.

The next parts in the series will explore how Israel has attempted to normalise its relations with the nations in the region and beyond.

 

3 comments

  • Avatar
    Abu Pikachu

    11th October 2020 at 8:44 pm

    1) Where did you get that Egypt has a much bigger army than Israel? According to Globalfirepower Israel has a total personnel of more than 600,000 while Egypt only has an active personel of 440,000 (reserves are not to take into consideration when you’re the agressor, I believe).

    2) “The quantitative imbalance has been dealt with through the development of an industrial base that maintains an asymmetrical Qualitative Military Edge (QME). Knowing it cannot compete with the region on quantity, Israel has focused on maintaining fewer but qualitatively more advanced platforms. “

    Could you eloborate what you mean here by quantity and quality, not sure I follow

    3) If Israel really has no ressources – and surrounding states are loyal to the US anyway – what use does US have of her if she can just be subsided by other nations? What strategic properties does she than any other state doesn’t give the US?

    4) Lastly, what’s in it for the Emirates to normalise relations with Israel? Also, if all the surrounding states are loyal to the US, why won’t they all just normalise ties with Israel? Do they really fear their muslim population?

    Reply

  • Osman Mustapha
    Osman Mustapha

    12th October 2020 at 11:51 pm

    1) If you read carefully, on the same site, Egypt’s Total population is 99 Million. Available manpower is almost 43 million, which is 43.2% of the Egyptian people. Fit for service is 36 million( 36%). Total military personnel is 920,000 where 440,000 are active and the reserves 480,000.
    Israel has a very tiny population which is 8.4million where the total military personnel are 615000. 170000 are active, and 445000 are counted as reserves. Lastly, Egypt army is ranked 10th some reports suggest its even 9th in the world. Israel however, is 18th in the world ranking.

    When it comes to conquering a nation, land power is more significant than Airpower because air power can only carry out three power projection missions and provide support to land troops. One is interdiction which involves close airstrikes on the enemy’s front to delay or neutralize the movement of enemy supplies or land troops to the front line and disrupt communications. Second, is airlift which is merely increasing the number of friendly troops on the battlefield from location A to B. Third, is the Strategic bombing which is isolating troops in the battlefield from their homeland some airpower enthusiasts use this as a shred of evidence that Airpower can win wars on its own. But history shows this wasn’t the case under the war on terror, WW2-1, the Cold War or the European wars pre-1914. Its is very rare. Therefore, Egypt retains many advantages than Israel event thoguhSirael has a technological edge in some areas like Airpower.

    2)
    Over the years the Israeli army has indeed become more sophisticated in its command structure and leadership as compared to the Egyptians. Also, Israel’s air technology is much better, but that would not prevent the enormous damage that Egypt can still cause because geography and land power is on Egypt’s side. Also, Israel is wholly contingent on the US more than others in the region since it is entirely artificial. Israel, due to its restrictions, has opted for more Qualtiavitve equipment to achieve a balance but only from air superiority. “Israel has focused on maintaining fewer but qualitatively more advanced platforms. If Egypt or Syria were to go through rearmament, they would bankrupt Israel”. So here, the author is trying to highlight that if Egypt and Syria were to reverse their condition and not be subservient to the US policies in the region, then Israel would be in trouble. More importantly, if Syria and Egypt unite or the whole region unites and become an indivisible entity- as they were for 1000 years as history portrays- Israel would be finished.

    3) Israel has been put by the US to create division and havoc in the region but also the neighbouring regimes allow Israel to exist, which psychologically affects the Arab Muslim populous where they think Israel is undefeatable. Placing the minority over the majority always results in instability and that instability is stability for the US. The Former US Defense Secretary Melvin Laird once explained that “America will no longer play the policeman of the world. Instead, we would expect other nations to provide cops on the beat in their own neighbourhood.” Israel, alongside other regimes in the regions are US policemen where the US uses them to safeguard US interests but also uses them to balance each other to some extent. Because the US would never allow Israeli or Arab to progress its simple as that, the strong will impose their will onto the weak and weak must suffer.

    It is essential to remember that the Arab regimes are different from their people. The people despise Israel, but the rulers are placed in power by the US through multiple coups which occurred over the few decades. Hence they support and also pressure Israel, whenever the US wants them to do such a thing.
    A recent example to show this would be under the Obama administration where the whole region turned against Israel, and the US toppled Hosni Mubarak on purpose to create fear in Israel’s hearts. So they could accept the peace solution on Obama terms since the Israeli’s were resisting it. The newspapers of Israel were blunt regarding the situation in Egypt wherein the daily Maariv an article was titled “A Bullet in the Back from Uncle Sam.” It accused Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton of pursuing a naive, smug, and insular diplomacy heedless of the risks. In early February 2011, in Haaretz, Ari Shavit said Obama had betrayed “a moderate Egyptian president who remained loyal to the United States, promoted stability and encouraged moderation.”
    This clearly shows that Egypt maintained Israeli security and continues to till this day. During that period, the US toppled their own man- Mubarak- to scare Israel and remind them that their fate rests in American hands.

    4) Emirates has accepted ties with Israel because it’s a fragile nation and to please the US and be on its good side, it opted for normalization. Also, yes you are correct that the population is a factor, but because UAE is so minuscule, it can control its population. This normalization is to help Trump win the election by maintaining the Jewish backing of the republican party AIPAC. To add, the Jewish lobby, however, is mainly evangelical Christian. And both Republican and Democrats have different styles to use towards Israel.
    But this issue gets more complicated since the whole of the Middle East doesn’t belong to the US where the UK, since its colonial days possesses influence within a few countries like Bahrain and Qatar and UAE. It is the UK that created them in 1971, and these sheikhdoms still have British political power upon them. So, America might be mighty, but its political influence has not penetrated these countries because the existing families and structure is British. So it would not be a surprise that the UK wanted to help Trump win by getting its sheikhs to normalize so Trump can stay in power and ruin America.

    Regardless, the US controls the major countries Syria, Egypt, Israel, Saudi, Sudan, and now it seems it would take over Libya. The British influence in the small weak Arab states create obstacles for the US, but after the Iraq war 2003, this influence has been low. As for Sudan, it can’t normalize until its government is in place in 2021. Egypt and Jordan have officially recognized Israel and Syria has maintained secret ties with Israel and consented to this existence. With Saudi, there is a factor of fear of the public, but that hasn’t stopped MBS from carrying other changes that have infuriated many in the region.

    This is a lengthy and complicated subject, which will be explained in the future on the site. Please read the Israeli series to get a better understanding.

    I hope this helps if you would like to know more, please contact us directly as it’s not viable to answer your long questions on the comment section. Thanks for understanding!!

    Reply

    • Avatar
      Abu Pikachu

      15th October 2020 at 11:16 am

      Thank you very much

      I’ll keep my short questions to the comments and the long ones when contacting you directly!

      Reply

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