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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Israel's National Security Strategy

Gidi Grinstein wrote a part of the article that I wanted to write. He got the title right for sure:
For Israel, time to give substance to a national security strategy , but then he missed part of the problem. He starts off fairly well:
Some of its key principles are obvious to anyone who observes Israel -- for example, maintaining military superiority over Israel's neighbors, nurturing the country's special relationship with the United States and preserving a state that is predominantly Jewish demographically.

In fact, the main points of the strategy are mostly shared by Israeli leaders on the left and the right and serve as an anchor for their policies, hence generating relative consistency in national politics. 
But there, he has not offered his solution yet, and he has made some errors already. If a problem has been intractable for a long time, it pays to reexamine the assumptions that have been used in the previous attempts at solutions.  If "nurturing the country's special relationship with the United States" means becoming totally dependent on the US for diplomatic support and special armament supplies, then it doesn't seem to be a good way to build security. We all agree on maintaining military superiority, but there is no sign that anyone is doing it. Amir Peretz is too busy trying to work his binoculars.
It also pays to define the concepts correctly. While just about everything can be defined as security, demography is not a security issue. It is an issue of national identity.
Grinstein wrote:
The Winograd Commission may lead to structural reforms of profound significance.
It may or it may not. It may or may not lead to establishment of an Israeli military academy like West Point. It may or may not lead to a reform in reserve service so that everyone serves in an equitable way. It may or may not lead to a change in defense procurement, so that we are no longer so dependent on the United States. It may or may not lead to the conclusion that Israel is better off without the annual U.S. aid grants or loans. US military equipment may be superior, but if we can only get that equipment by following U.S. policy dictates, it might not be worth the price.
Gidi Grinstein's security solution is summed up as follows
...The combination of the Second Lebanon War, the disappointment in Gaza and the cancellation of the "Convergence Plan" is more than a red light. No commission has been established to look at the substance of our national security strategy and to question the basic allocation of resources between military and diplomacy, and within them. Such a reassessment could lead to the conclusion that instead of another infantry battalion, we need 100 new diplomats and experts in international law.

If most of the public debate in coming months focuses on personal findings, conclusions and recommendations, Israel may miss the point. Our national security strategy must be revisited. Our 60th year should be one of substance.
What does "the basic allocation of resources between military and diplomacy" mean? Let's say, that as Gidi Grinstein recommends, Israel were to have 100 new diplomats and experts in international law. Let's see how that could help. Are the experts in international law going to be defending Israel's case in the Hague court, or explaining to IDF why some of the things they do might be in violation of international law? Are the diplomats going to be pursuing an Israeli peace initiative, or explaining why we can't accept the Arab peace initiative?
Gidi Grinstein forgot that allocating resources is only one aspect of policy. If you buy tanks, you have to decide if, where, and when they must be used. If you hire experts, they are instruments of a policy presumably. If you do not have a policy, there is no point in having experts to carry out the non-policy.
Israel certainly need diplomats and international law experts. A small state cannot survive without wise policy and powerful allies and gifted people to help implement that policy and make and strengthen alliances. But what is the policy?
Ami Isseroff  

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