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  • Author: Pnina Sharvit Baruch
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Amid the coalition negotiations underway in Israel there is a heated debate over various proposals regarding significant changes to the legal oversight of governmental and parliamentary work. Remarkable throughout the debate of these proposals is the lack of regard to their impact on the preservation and promotion of the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, and instead, there is a worrisome focus on political and personal motives. Against this background, it is possible to propose several recommendations. First, in the current debate, the Court is accused of "stealing democracy" and of being a political institution with a blatantly left wing agenda. This incorrect premise, which undermines the ability to conduct a public debate in constructive fashion and erodes the legitimacy of the Court and the public's faith in the Court, must be reversed. Second, there is room for discussion on appropriate constitutional changes. Democratic countries around the world have differing successful constitutional structures, and there is no "one right answer." Yet any future change must be carried out through a focused discussion that incorporates all relevant parties, including politicians, judges, and academics with expertise in the field. Finally, whatever the eventual constitutional changes, they must not undermine the basic principles of the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the power of the Court to practice effective oversight of the government. These are essential building blocks for proper democratic rule.
  • Topic: Governance, Democracy, Constitution, Secularism
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Itai Brun, Tehilla Shwartz Altschuler
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: On April 18, 2019, the US Department of Justice released a redacted version of the full report (448 pages) submitted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Russia’s interference in the 2016 US presidential elections. The report consists of two parts: the first presents the outcome of the investigation into Russia’s involvement in the election and draws conclusions regarding the presence or absence of a conspiracy or illegal coordination between the Russians and the Trump campaign; the second part deals with President Trump’s possible obstruction of justice regarding the FBI investigation into the Russian intervention and the investigation by the Special Counsel himself. This essay deals with the first part, i.e., the results of the investigation into the connection between the Russians and Trump for the purpose of influencing the election results. The report reflects accurately the US criminal law that deals with conspiracy and illegal coordination regarding elections. At the same time, it exposes a gap in the nation’s conceptual, organizational, legal, and technological preparedness to confront the possibilities that the digital space provides to undermine – internally and externally – the democratic process. Israel suffers from the same gap, and it is therefore imperative that the state confront it before the next Knesset election.
  • Topic: Crime, Elections, Election Interference , Investigations
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Middle East, Israel, North America
  • Author: Orna Mizrahi, Yoram Schweitzer
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Voices in the Arab media have recently suggested that war between Israel and Hezbollah may erupt this coming summer. This debate began even before the rise in tension between the United States and Iran in the Gulf, which once again brought to the fore the possibility of Iran using Hezbollah as a proxy against Israel. In recent speeches, however, Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah acted quickly to calm the waters, while delivering messages designed to deter Israel from taking measures against Hezbollah. Nasrallah asserted that Hezbollah was capable of striking strategic sites on the Israeli home front and conquering parts of the Galilee. These statements indicate that as far as Hezbollah is concerned, the current circumstances are not convenient for a conflict with Israel, due to Hezbollah's continuing involvement in the war in Syria and a wish to avoid undermining Hezbollah's recent achievements in the Lebanese political system. Also important is Hezbollah's deepening economic plight, resulting in part from American sanctions against the organization and its patron, Iran, although these economic difficulties have not yet affected Hezbollah's continued investment in its military buildup and deployment for a future war with Israel. Nevertheless, even if Hezbollah has no interest in a large scale conflict with Israel at this time, escalation as a result of particular measures by Israel in Lebanon and the organization's response, or from Hezbollah's own actions against Israel aimed at serving Iranian interests, cannot be ruled out. Israel must therefore prepare in advance for the possibility of a military campaign in the north.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Military Strategy, Hezbollah, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East, Israel, Persian Gulf
  • Author: Yoel Guzansky, Kobi Michael
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Qatar’s support for Hamas and its investment in the Gaza Strip, though based more on pragmatism than on ideological identification, suit its foreign policy, which supports political Islam and aims to increase Doha’s influence in the Middle East.
  • Topic: International Relations
  • Political Geography: Israel
  • Author: Shimon Stein
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Recent events and statements by German figures indicate a change in Germany’s attitude to Israel. What for decades was a unique bilateral relationship – grounded in the memory of the Holocaust and the commitment that Germany consequently made to Israel’s existence and security – has been increasingly shaped by considerations of realpolitik that formerly played a secondary role.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Israel, Germany
  • Author: Amos Yadlin
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Following the "March of Return" events led by Hamas on two turbulent Fridays at the border fence between Israel and the Gaza Strip, both sides declared victory. And in the case of such a blatantly asymmetric conflict between parties with opposing aims, both sides can indeed claim victory, precisely because they are conducting parallel maneuvers. Israel operates largely on a physical dimension (protecting its sovereign territory), while Hamas works mainly on the cognitive-political level. In a world of images, intensive information campaigns, and mass media (including fake news), a sense of victory on both sides could intensify the hostilities on the Gaza border and perhaps even beyond in the coming weeks. Israel must stress that it is defending a recognized international border; clarify the legality and proportionality of its use of live fire; expand its visual documentation of the events; update Arab countries about the facts and balance the pro-Hamas messages delivered in the Arab media; and prepare for an escalation of the conflict. Finally, while focused on the immediate challenge of mass demonstrations on the Gaza border, Israel must continue to address the underlying issue: the growing distress in Gaza and the collapse of its infrastructures will make it hard for Israel to continue managing the situation with relatively low political, military, and financial costs. Mid-May will be followed by the month of Ramadan and another scorching summer. Temporary success in containing the new challenge posed by Hamas will not defuse the social-economic-military time bomb ticking in the Strip.
  • Topic: Terrorism, Infrastructure, Conflict, Hamas
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Yohanan Tzoreff
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The "March of Return" events have brought out the masses. It seems that since the first intifada the Palestinian arena has not witnessed such widespread mass participation as evident in the recent protests along the Gaza Strip border. At the same time, it is doubtful whether the crowds can deliver the same achievements they furnished in the first intifada. This is due to public suspicions regarding the intentions of both Fatah and Hamas, the absence of international and Arab support so far, and the deterrent element of Israel's response. A new chapter appears to have opened in the Israeli-Palestinian struggle, in which the Palestinian public is asked to decide which of the two paths proposed by the respective leaderships – in Ramallah and in Gaza – should be adopted. In the background are the echoes of failure of both paths – the path of negotiation and security coordination led by the Palestinian Authority, and the path of armed opposition led by Hamas. The main test now is for Hamas, as the ruler of the Strip. Will it succeed by means of the "March of Return," which it is leading but did not initiate, to extend the common denominator between the rival Palestinian camps, to heighten the motivation to maintain the tension along the border, until the planned climax on May 15? Or will it be satisfied with the attempt to place the blame for the failure of internal Palestinian reconciliation and the weakening internal reality on the Palestinian Authority leadership in Ramallah? Time will tell.
  • Topic: Refugees, Conflict, Hamas, Palestinian Authority
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Gaza
  • Author: Assaf Orion, Amos Yadlin
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: At the strategic level, the convergence in time and space of the events following the chemical weapons attack in Duma by the Syrian regime portend a dramatic development with substantial potential impact for Israel’s security environment. The attack on the T4 airbase, attributed to Israel, falls within the context of the last red line that Israel drew, whereby it cannot accept Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. The attack in Duma reflects the Syrian regime’s considerable self-confidence at this time. As for Trump, the attack provides him with another opportunity to demonstrate his insistence on the red lines that he drew and take a determined stance opposite Putin. Thus, Israel’s enforcement of its red line and the United States’ enforcement of its red line have met, while Russia finds itself exerting efforts to deter both countries from taking further action that could undermine its achievements in Syria and its positioning as the dominant world power in the theater. However, the strategic convergence does not stop at Syria’s borders, and is unfolding against the backdrop of the crisis emerging around the Trump administration’s demands to improve the JCPOA, or run the risk of the re-imposition of sanctions and the US exiting the agreement. Indeed, the context is even wider, with preparations for Trump’s meeting with North Korean President Kim on the nuclear issue in the far background. Therefore, the clash between Israel and Iran in Syria on the eve of deliberations on the nuclear deal could potentially lead to a change from separate approaches to distinct issues to a broader and more comprehensive framework with interfaces and linkages between the issues.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Asia, North Korea, Syria, North America
  • Author: Udi Dekel, Carmit Valensi
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Besides the operational success, the attack in Syria earned the United States a clear political achievement, with the enforcement of American red lines by way of a coalition with Britain and France. However, this ad hoc coalition is focused solely on preventing the use of chemical weapons in Syria, and as Trump administration spokesmen clarified, there is no change in the US policy toward Syria. As such, the United States is threatening neither the Assad regime, nor the growing Iranian presence or Russian dominance in Syria. This attack was also not enough to address definitively the violations of the rules of war and the wide-scale attacks on civilians by Assad forces, including the use of conventional weapons, such as massive bombings from the air and barrel bomb attacks from helicopters. The United States and its partners did not present a plan to guarantee that the targeted attacks against civilians – and not just chemical attacks – on the part of Assad and the coalition that supports him will not continue. However, after seven years of war, in which more than a half a million people have been killed and millions have been displaced or have become refugees, the Syrian civilian population deserves more committed international support. For its part, Israel remains alone in the campaign against the consolidation by Iran and its proxies in war-torn Syria.
  • Topic: International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Hezbollah, Chemical Weapons
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, Syria, North America
  • Author: Meir Elran, Carmit Padan
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: "Solid Stand," the annual nation-wide exercise conducted by the Home Front Command, was held in the framework of the large IDF general staff exercise. Since the home front participation was part of a classified military exercise, the involvement of civilian parties and the general public became less relevant. As a result, the ability of the civilian organs, which play a key role in the management of any emergency, to take part in the drill was limited. This article presents a number of primary gaps in the realm of state and military readiness that must be addressed in order to improve the civilian population's preparedness for what is believed to be a high risk scenario in the next conflict.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Shmuel Even
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: In March 2018, with the approval of the military censor, Israel officially assumed responsibility for destroying the Syrian nuclear reactor on September 6, 2007, in an operation against what was considered an emerging existential threat. Before the public announcement, senior Israeli officials confirmed that for several years, the IDF has attacked strategic weapons in Syria meant for Hezbollah that were considered as posing an intolerable danger to Israel. These official statements have put an end to Israel’s long-standing policy of ambiguity about a series of aerial strikes on Syrian territory.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Weapons , Hezbollah, Air Force, Armed Conflict
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Syria
  • Author: Ephraim Asculai, Emily Landau, Daniel Shapiro, Moshe Ya'alon
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Against the backdrop of the visit to Washington by President Macron and the scheduled visit by Chancellor Merkel in an effort to persuade US President Trump not to leave the JCPOA, this article zeros in on the key issues that need to be addressed by the allies. Guided by what is not only necessary but feasible at this late stage, the topics addressed include missiles, inspections, lack of transparency, sanctions, and the sunset provisions. Everything turns on political will – if it exists, agreeing to the proposed steps should not entail a lengthy process, and implementation can realistically begin in relatively short order. Significant results will mean the international community emerges with reinforced solidarity and a strengthened JCPOA. If negotiations progress seriously on this basis, it would make sense for the Trump administration to allow additional time beyond May 12 to complete them.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, North America
  • Author: Shimon Arad
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: In January 2018, the United States and Egypt signed a bilateral communications security agreement known as the Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), which protects and regulates the use of sensitive American avionics and communications systems. This development now allows, for the first time, the acquisition by Egypt of US-made high precision GPS-based air-to-ground weapon systems and components, as well as advanced air-to-air missiles. Over the years, Israel’s concerns over the sale of large quantities of US weapon systems to Egypt were moderated by the quality cap dictated by the absence of a CISMOA agreement. Israel thus needs to raise this issue with Washington, within the context of the Qualitative Military Edge (QME) discussions. Given the unreliability of enduring stability in the Middle East, as exemplified by the events in Egypt since 2011, Israel should not disregard possible future scenarios in which its QME versus Egypt may matter. Based on the current convergence of security interests between Israel and Egypt, raising this issue with the US, though likely to upset Cairo, is not expected to undermine the practical manifestations of this relationship.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, Military Affairs
  • Political Geography: United States, Middle East, Israel, North America, Egypt
  • Author: Gal Perl Finkel, Gilead Sher
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The Knesset has recently amended the “Basic Law: The Government,” with respect to "authority to declare war or conduct a significant military operation." Under the previous legislation, this authority was given to the government, but the new law grants the authority to the Ministerial Committee for National Security (the Security Cabinet). However, the final version of the new law goes even further, and concludes: "Under extreme circumstances and for reasons that will be noted…the prime minister and the minister of defense are authorized to make the decision in a more restricted legal quorum." Such a law has almost no equivalent in Western democracies. It lacks the checks and balances essential to a democratic regime and is bound to undermine the principle that war is an act requiring maximum domestic and international legitimacy. Yet in view of the new legislation, the Security Cabinet's work should be improved so that it will be fully familiar with the strategic matters on the agenda. In addition, both for the sake of checks and balances and the prevention of an overconcentration of authority in the hands of individuals and so that more than two elected representatives of the people bear responsibility for cardinal policy measure such as war and peace, at least the entire Security Cabinet should participate in the decision. The tactical decisions can and should be made in restricted forums, but it is best for such a momentous decision as a declaration of war to be taken in a broad forum that bears the burden of the responsibility.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Military Affairs, Democracy, Conflict, Civil-Military Relations
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel
  • Author: Ofir Winter, Khander Sawaed
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: As expected, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi was reelected Egyptian president in late March 2018, this time, with 97.08 percent of the vote. More than affording an electoral mandate, the recent elections highlighted the incumbent president's challenge of legitimacy, which is reflected in two spheres. The first is the exacerbation of the internal splits within the ruling military establishment. The second is growing alienation between the ruling establishment and the general Egyptian public and civilian elements. The precarious state of the regime's legitimacy is a cause for regional and international concern. It may detract from the regime's ability to carry out the next stages of the economic reform sponsored by the International Monetary Fund, and will complicate efforts to obtain the cooperation in the war against terrorism by the local civilian population in the Sinai Peninsula. In the medium and long terms, the enhanced internal friction in the military and tension between the ruling establishment and civilian forces may jeopardize the country's stability. The legitimacy challenge also affects Egypt's relations with Israel. The regime needs broad public legitimacy in order to incur political risks, such as controversial decisions in favor of bilateral or regional cooperation with Israel. In addition, a regime with unsteady legitimacy might be tempted to adopt a populist anti-Israel line in order to strengthen its public standing. At the same time, the political situation in Egypt also provides an opportunity for increasing bilateral cooperation with Israel in areas contributing to the regime's legitimacy: the economy, security, energy, water, agriculture, and tourism.
  • Topic: Elections, Democracy, Legitimacy, IMF
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East, Israel, Egypt
  • Author: Eldad Shavit
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: In the May 6, 2018 elections in Lebanon, the Shia bloc led by Hezbollah succeeded in increasing its power in the parliament at the expense of Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri’s party. Nevertheless, due to the country’s electoral system, the political status quo achieved in December 2016 will likely be maintained. The process of forming the government will once again reignite the power battle between Hezbollah and Iran on the one hand and al-Hariri and his supporters in Saudi Arabia and in the international community, mainly France and the United States, on the other hand. The election results will encourage Hezbollah to continue to consolidate its power and its ability to wield influence in the Lebanese political arena. The drive to promote this objective may also act as a restraining factor in the organization’s conduct vis-à-vis Israel. Therefore, at the present time, Hezbollah will presumably opt to continue to use Syria as its preferred theater for action against Israel.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Military Strategy, Elections, Hezbollah
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon
  • Author: Assaf Orion, Amos Yadlin
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: Despite the two blows Iran sustained last week, Israel cannot afford to be complacent or overly satisfied. It will need to follow meticulously the updated policies adopted by each of the theater’s involved actors. Thus far, Israel has held separate policies regarding Iran’s nuclear program and the Iranian proxy war and malevolent influence. Now, it must develop an integrative long term policy and strive for coordinated efforts and meaningful cooperation with the United States, European countries, and the countries of the region. Operational and strategic coordination with Russia remains essential. Contending with the Iranian nuclear challenge will require the establishment of a joint “strategic early warning enterprise,” with the United States and other allies, aimed at preventing critical surprises.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, International Cooperation, Military Strategy, JCPOA
  • Political Geography: United States, Iran, Middle East, Israel, Syria, North America
  • Author: Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: In comparison to previous years, the 2018 Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) was somewhat smaller in scope, and calmer in the level of energies it generated among both protagonists and antagonists. Still, it would be unwise to dismiss the IAW phenomenon as insignificant. In addition to the repercussions of the cumulative effect of efforts to delegitimize Israel in general, and efforts to equate Israel with apartheid during IAW in particular, the growing number of Jewish students who support and even instigate passionate campaigning against Israel is troubling. While the Israeli government's controversial policies vis-à-vis the Israeli-Palestinian conflict fuel some of the events, IAW, similar to the BDS campaign, should not be mistaken for a pro-peace, pro-two-state, or pro-dialogue endeavor. Thus, both the State of Israel and Israel supporters should be minded toward engaging in a long term effort; strive to develop quantifying and measurement indices capable of obliterating the "noise" generated by IAW; monitor new trends in the phenomenon; and enable free and secure flow of knowledge between all relevant players in their efforts to counter IAW events. Findings also emphasize the state's important role in working systematically and strategically to bridge between the Jewish communities in Israel and in the Diaspora.
  • Topic: Apartheid, Diaspora, Protests, Peace
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Zipi Israeli, Udi Dekel
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The waves of terror in Jerusalem in recent years have disproved two false assumptions that have long guided Israeli governments. The first is that it is possible to maintain the status quo in the city, including on the Temple Mount. The second false assumption is that Jerusalem is a united city. This line of thinking is at odds with the reality in the east of the city, especially the neighborhoods and villages where for 51 years, neglect has reigned supreme and few Israeli Jews ever enter. Even now, Israeli control there is limited, especially in areas on the outer side of the security barrier. A clear majority of Israelis agree that today, in practice, Jerusalem is divided into a Jewish city and an Arab city. Consequently, a string of urgent actions is needed, first and foremost improvements to municipal services, infrastructures, and quality of life in East Jerusalem, as well as incentives to involve the Arab population in the Jerusalem municipal authority. Most of the Israeli Jewish public feels that the current reality in Jerusalem is highly problematic and difficult to sustain forever. Therefore, at present there is growing openness to new and creative ideas, and the steps proposed to improve living conditions support a range of future options for East Jerusalem.
  • Topic: Public Opinion, Refugee Crisis, Borders, Public Policy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Amos Yadlin, Gilead Sher
  • Publication Date: 08-2017
  • Content Type: Commentary and Analysis
  • Institution: Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
  • Abstract: The perspective of twelve years since Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the northern West Bank confirms that this significant political and security-related event was a correct strategic decision. Regarding the West Bank, it appears that unilateral disengagement as a stand-alone event will not repeat itself. However, a political and security independent process with similar attributes could enable Israel to continue striving for a reality of two states for two peoples, based on a gradual, secure, and responsible end to Israel’s control over the Palestinian people. Efforts should be made to reach agreement with the Palestinians regarding interim measures throughout transitional stages. However, if it becomes clear that an agreement cannot be reached, measures should be implemented independently (regardless of Palestinian consent) aimed at improving Israel’s situation without impairing its security. These measures will need to be carried out in close coordination with the United States and in accordance with US-Israel understandings.
  • Topic: Civil War, International Security
  • Political Geography: Israel, Gaza