Considering a New Strategic Course

This article focuses more on the problem than on the solution. Basicly it recognizes that sooner or later, ISIS will directly threaten Israel and it is in Israel’s interest to impede their progress. But the only suggestion the author makes is that Israel shouldn’t interfere with Assads efforts to do so. Big deal. Ted Belman

INSS Insight No. 616, October 15, 2014

Gabi Siboni

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New strategic insights should form on the basis of the possibility that the risk inherent in radical Sunni jihadist organizations will sooner or later be turned against Israel. Israel is liable to find itself having to cope with ISIS and allied factions just across the country’s borders, such as in the Sinai Peninsula, Jordan, and the Syrian Golan Heights. Early worrisome signs of the effect of ISIS’s militant message have already been detected in the West Bank and even within Israel proper. Therefore, Israel must update its conceptual, intelligence, military, and political thinking so as to map the threat and identify a suitable response to the developing regional reality.

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A key question concerns Israel’s policy toward Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Since the start of the Syrian civil war, and in light of the uncompromising cruelty shown by the regime in its fight for survival against the rebel factions, many in Israel’s security establishment thought Israel should help topple the regime in the war-torn country. Others claimed that Assad’s loss of control would lead to chaos in Syria and the entrenchment of jihadists on Israel’s border, liable to create a threat with the potential for military entanglement, a la the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula. However, even without Assad’s regime toppled and his army scattered, insurgent Jabhat al-Nusra forces are seizing control of parts of the Syrian Golan Heights near the Israeli border. Should this trend continue, Israel is liable to find itself under attack, directly or incrementally, by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra, and/or other armed factions entrenching themselves in the region and filling the vacuum created by the retreat of Assad’s army.

The downing of the Syrian airplane by Israel’s aerial defenses on September 23, 2014 demonstrated the need for a different type of thinking. The plane, which had accidentally penetrated the airspace over the Golan Heights, was on its way to attack Jabhat al-Nusra targets. The downing of the plane was certainly in keeping with instructions whose original rationale is self-evident. But given that fundamental changes in Syria’s power structure have occurred, and that it is equally obvious that the Syrian army has neither the inclination nor the ability to develop a military front against Israel, it is necessary to ask whether that rationale is still sweepingly valid requiring automatic operative continuity. In fact, downing the plan was self-detrimental to Israel’s best interests.

Refreshing one’s security concept is not a simple task, but Israel must undertake it, given the particularly complex regional changes. Israel must reassess its attitude toward sworn enemies. There is more than a little historical irony in the fact that Israel, a veteran of bitter ongoing conflict with the radical Shiite bloc, including Hizbollah, Iran, and the Alawite regime in Syria, now shares an interest with this radical bloc, also known as the axis of evil. As to stopping ISIS, Israel finds itself on the same side of the equation as some of the elements of that bloc, though not with the same degree of prominence or importance, and has common ground with the pragmatic Arab states fighting radical elements, whether Sunni or Shiite. Given this sensitive state of affairs, Israel must make the effort to wipe the slate of earlier preconceptions that have characterized its security policy for many years. Circumstances have changed and Israel’s thinking must change accordingly.

It may be possible to identify ways of covert, passive coordination with the Assad regime and even with Hizbollah in order to fight the Sunni jihad. The way to formulate understandings on active cooperation, such as intelligence sharing, needs to be considered. Hostility to Israel is too deeply ingrained in the thinking of the Syrian regime and Hizbollah; any cooperation with Israel liable to come to light is impossible from their perspective. But Israel could help the struggle against the radical Sunni force by not interfering.

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The dilemmas Israel faces after the changes of the last few years in the map of Middle East threats and struggles are far from simple. A common enemy does not suddenly make Israel and other hostile elements into friends. Nonetheless, one cannot ignore the fact that given shared challenges to Israel and its enemies, Israel is impelled to find common ground and ways to cooperate despite the ongoing hostility and conflict in order to decrease the risk that a threat currently posed to others will in the future be posed against it too. Automatic, inert thinking and action are liable to place Israel in a very tough security position on its borders and enhance the danger that conflicts in these areas will spill over onto Israeli soil. Downing the Syrian aircraft must be viewed as a warning sign: Israel can no longer afford to be a spectator on the sideline and react automatically and instinctively; rather, it must act on the basis of the idea that it must help – actively or by refraining from action – anyone fighting radical Sunni jihadists

October 15, 2014 | 1 Comment »

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  1. Whether it will be the Sunni, the Shi’a, or a combination of the two, it will become a choice between Islam and Israel/Judaism for the remainder of the world. It is not clear or certain that ‘reality politics’ will cause a choice to favor Islam. It is such a reprehensible faith to those outside its confines that when push comes to shove even the anti-Semites may vote nay if they value civilization of their own sort. On the other hand, no one predicts the future well. People have been pretty stupid up until now. Against their best interest, they may simply continue the decline until the end. The road to the bottom may be rocky, but it is constantly aided by gravity. Those about to die lack the strength to even raise their arms from their deathbed.