The Israeli Crisis
by George Friedman, CEO of STRATFOR
Reviewed by James L. Abrahamson, contributing editor
Dr. Friedman, a child of Holocaust survivors who fled Hungary for America, holds a PhD in government from Cornell. He taught at Dickinson College, designed war games, wrote, and briefed senior military commanders for two decades before founding STRATFOR in 1996. In this article he maintains that Iran’s nuclear threat to Israel is but part of a larger, “long-term crisis” concerning Israel’s “strategic reality,” in regard to which it is struggling to develop a “strategy and foreign policy” that will preserve its military superiority.
Since 1978, Israel has enjoyed relative perimeter security: The Sinai Peninsula separated Israel from Egypt, whose government had no desire to break the peace. Syria was hostile and for a time controlled Lebanon but could not take on Israel alone. Nor could Jordan alone hope to defeat Israel. That security began to collapse when the Muslim Brotherhood elected Egypt’s president, who—for reasons not yet clear—fired the nation’s five senior military leaders. In addition, paramilitaries hostile to Israel will now operate more freely in the former Sinai buffer, unless countered by sending the Egyptian army in the peninsula—a possibly threatening development.
Israel’s former “working relationship” with Syria may not outlast the present civil conflict, which might destabilize Lebanon as well. Whatever develops, Iran is sure to be active in efforts to control whatever governments emerge in both countries—reduced, as seems likely, to “highly fragmented” states “divided along religious and ethnic lines at war with [themselves.]”
From a U.S. point of view such an outcome might be regarded as a “strategic triumph” that would limit the extension of Iran’s power over its two former puppets. For Israel, however, the new situation represents a loss of its already limited ability to “influence events on its borders” and, for the time being, having no possibility of serious negotiations with the divided Palestinian community. Nor are Israelis united and confident about what must be done.
In sum, Israel has lost its strategic initiative and the utility of its military power, except possibly against the Iranian nuclear program. Israel’s “crisis,” Friedman claimed, is “not a sudden, life-threatening problem but instead an unraveling of regional strategies.” Israel must hope this outcome does not end in its “political paralysis.”