The two years that have passed since the historic Abraham Accords were signed, the war in Ukraine, the tightening alliance between the Russians and Iran, the understanding of many countries in the world that the new world order as it is taking shape requires military and deterrence forces, the tightening of alliances and operative cooperation – all of these constitute an extraordinary strategic, political and economic opportunity for Israel on all levels.
The defense system and the defense industries, as well as the special ties with the USA, are the main assets of the State of Israel, also in the diplomatic field and in foreign relations. The recent war in Europe is actually changing the world. Many countries understand that in times of emergency they must first rely on themselves, and significantly increase their defense budgets For example, economic powers such as Germany and Japan are in the process of arming themselves, unprecedented since World War II, which will turn them into military powers as well.
The security establishment sees this trend as an opportunity that should not be missed in order to strengthen Israel’s position in the world, a trend that in part also affects the campaign being waged against Iran. Faced with the opportunity, the deterioration in the Palestinian arena and the world’s attitude towards the new government’s steps and decisions regarding Judea and Samaria are marked as a weak point that could sabotage the positive trends.
In contrast to the economic and high-tech sector in Israel, some of which additionally warn of practical and economic consequences of the legal revolution on Israel’s position in the world and possible damage to the economy, the security establishment does not give these concerns public expression. But between the lines this issue is also discussed: a legal revolution will be perceived by our friends in the world and especially by the Americans as an injury to Israeli democracy.
The last two years have been wonderful for the military-security diplomacy of the State of Israel. The volumes of trade in weapons, air defense systems, knowledge, technology and intelligence capabilities have skyrocketed. If in the summary of the year 2021 the record figure was 11 billion dollars, compared to 8.5 billion the year before, the summary of the year 2022, which will be held soon, is expected to indicate another significant increase due to the change in the global security architecture.
Iran, Russia, China, North Korea. In every neighborhood on the globe there is the neighborhood thug, and the war in Europe serves as a wake-up call for many countries in the world, who have neglected their military capabilities for many years. Within this global event, Israel finds itself as a highly courted global actor, which in various places even functions as a kind of subcontractor of the Americans, under common interests.
Attorney and Lt. Col. (resp.) Avi Kalo did most of his service in the IDF in the Intelligence Division. He currently manages the security consulting in the Middle East for the international strategic consulting company Frost & Sullivan. “The Israeli defense industries are experiencing an unprecedented momentum,” he says. “This is manifested on several levels. Demands are increasing from the industries in Israel in many arenas due to the war in Ukraine and the potential escalation against China, and this in many areas of content worlds such as advanced weapons, armaments, air defense, technologies, artificial intelligence and more.
“In addition, the Ministry of Defense conducts a unique defense diplomacy of its kind that allows the penetration of the defense industries into previously unknown markets, along with establishment in known markets. All of this creates the potential for operational and instructional cooperation with the IDF, which also lays the foundation for intelligence and operational cooperation.”
In his last sentence, he summarizes parts of the strategic-security concept of the State of Israel. The defense export, beyond its economic return, is another key tool in Israeli diplomacy and a means of achieving security interests, even when it comes to the campaign against Iran.
In the current reality, the Israeli defense establishment and the defense industries are, as mentioned above, sought after by many countries seeking to purchase Israeli technologies and to learn from the operational and intelligence experience of the IDF in the campaign it has been conducting against Iran in recent years. It is enough to follow the number of flights of senior members of the defense establishment abroad and the variety of destinations on the entire globe In the last two years to try to understand the extent of the trend.
The transfer of Iranian weapons to Russia is making the USA boil, and there have already been more than American insinuations regarding a willingness to strike at arms transfers from Iran to Russia. In this context, Israel has a great deal to contribute to the Americans in terms of intelligence and operational experience gained in recent years, according to publications, mainly on Syrian soil .
In the security system, on the other hand, in the recent successful collaborations, they are required not to spill over into entanglement with the Russians, and of course to monitor the weapons and knowledge that goes out of Israel to Arab countries, when there is a change of government or king, their relationship to Israel may change.
The big exercise
It seems that the democratic American administration wants to convey a message that they will determine their attitude to the government in Israel based on the actions that will be taken on the ground and not because of the composition of the government, even when they do not hide that it is less to their liking. Meanwhile, the joint exercise between Israel and the US taking place this week in Israel and at sea clearly expresses the step up in military cooperation in the campaign against Iran.
After the Abraham Accords, Israel’s transition to the auspices of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) further deepened the military cooperation between Israel and the US, but no less important, provides Israel with a special status which it receives on behalf of the US as a leading partner in the processes between the other countries under Responsibility of the American Central Command in the Middle East.
The IDF’s move to the American Central Command area continues to create changes and break glass ceilings both in Kirya in Tel Aviv and in the Pentagon, and through the latter it permeates the White House. This is very important news for Israel, which crosses not only security interests.
The threats from Iran capture many of the countries in the region, with the Abraham Accords signed during Benjamin Netanyahu’s previous term of office exceeding the expectations of senior security officials. The Prime Minister and Defense Minister Yoav Galant understand very well their importance and the need to deepen them, as well as the deepening of operational military cooperation with the US, as was reflected in the last exercise that took place this week in Israel and in the heart of the sea.
The American army periodically conducts joint exercises with its Israeli counterpart, and at the end of the exercise is content with a concise message to the media. In the current exercise, named “Basalt Oaks”, it was important for the American spokesmen to give the exercise as much publicity as possible from its first day.
In Israel, they want to see the message that comes out of the exercise as mainly aimed at Iran, but for the Americans it is also an opportunity to demonstrate strength and power against the Russians. Even though in recent years the Middle East has not been a priority for the Americans, which was mainly aimed at China, Russian aggression in Europe is leading to a change in American policy in our region as well.
Beyond press releases, this week’s exercise represents a dramatic leap forward in the characteristics of cooperation between the IDF and the US military in the Iranian context. On issues that were not discussed jointly in the past, this time the exercise brought to light an unprecedented depth of common discourse in the target worlds in Iran.
This is a discourse that opens the door to planning possible targets for a joint attack on the nuclear sites in Iran. Former Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi explained in his retirement interview to “Maariv” that when it comes to military cooperation and threats from Iran, the American and Israeli military are on the exact same page.
Even when the Americans are very far from deciding on the use of military force against Iran and would prefer in the future a return to the nuclear agreement, the very exercise and its leverage convey to the Iranians a clear message that the military option is also on the table. The nature of the exercise and of course also what is not visible in it express in an unusual way the depth of the military intimacy, perhaps unprecedented between Israel and the USA at this time.
The cooperation is also fueled by the hard-line Iranians. Tehran’s unwillingness to reach agreements, the continued progress in the nuclear program, the lack of supervision of the nuclear sites, the serious violation of human rights, the killing of the protesters in the hijab riots and the tightening of arms with Russia have led the Americans to toughen their policy towards the Iranians.
From a situation of deep debate between the American and Israeli administrations on the eve of the signing of a new nuclear agreement that Israel opposed, we have reached an era in which the security establishment believes that even more than during the administration of former President Trump, the security cooperation between Israel and the United States is at its best in recent years. It is doubtful that this It would have been possible without the war in Europe and the tightening alliance between the Russians and the Ayatollah regime, but given that this is the case, Israel is also taking advantage of this to realize security interests vis-à-vis the Americans, which were not achieved before.
Trouble at home
The interpretation that many of the JTA countries give to Israel’s intimate alliance with the US is that listening to their interests vis-à-vis the Americans goes through the deepening of ties with Israel. With regard to the countries of the Abraham Accords in the Gulf and beyond, Israel, as mentioned, functions as a type of subcontractor for American interests in the region.
The dramatic change in the moderate policy that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has shown in the last two years towards Israel can be explained in addition to his domestic problems in the American context. The steps taken by the Turkish president recently, in pushing the Hamas headquarters out of Turkey and the moderation he shows towards Israel, even when the last year marked an escalation in the Palestinian arena, would have been seen as imaginary until a few years ago.
It is true that the Americans have clear interests in relations with Israel, and it is true that Israel is not a protectorate, but the close relations between Israel and the US are not immune to damage, and the potential for worsening relations with the administration due to the political situation in Israel is tangible and real.
In this context, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Galant understand very well that the American administration expects them to have a responsible policy in Judea and Samaria towards the Palestinians, and to avoid unilateral measures that would crush the Palestinian Authority. The escalation in Judea and Samaria could significantly harm Israel’s interests vis-à-vis the Americans and as a result will harm the campaign against Iran. Therefore, this week’s operation in the Jenin sector, which led to clashes and instability, certainly did not add peace of mind to the Americans and our friends in the Middle East.
Netanyahu’s visit this week to King Abdullah of Jordan, less than a month since the government was formed, clearly clarifies the importance the prime minister sees in maintaining stability on the Temple Mount and in the Palestinian arena. Netanyahu’s main problem, beyond the intensifying escalation in the Palestinian arena and towards the tense Ramadan days that will begin in less than two months, lies between the ideological and political poles within his own government.
The Torah uproar in the debate between Defense Minister Galant and Minister Smotrich regarding the evacuation of the illegal outpost established in memory of the late Rabbi Haim Druckman, is not just an expression of a debate about powers, the boundaries of authority between ministers and matters of ego, after signing a coalition agreement that has no chance real to realize it in the reality test in the field.
It is likely that in the coming days we will hear messages according to which the understandings have been reached and Netanyahu intends to abide by the agreements he signed, and that the right formula can be found that will allow the two ministers to work together. But the truth is that the establishment of the Or Haim outpost this past weekend, when American National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is still in Israel, is a hint of things to come, as a precursor to the next crises.
Gallant is not expected to give up the unity of command in the army and its powers, and he backs the senior IDF officials who are opposed to the changes. Netanyahu, even if he declares otherwise, cannot really allow the ministers of religious Zionism and Otzma Yehudit to penetrate the borders of the minister of defense and take over his agenda by constantly dealing with the issue The Temple Mount and governance in Judea and Samaria On the other hand, Smotrich himself signaled this week that he is not about to give up a single comma of what Netanyahu promised him, even at the cost of an acute crisis in the government.
As mentioned, these are not matters of honors and egos, but fundamental differences in worldviews and strategy within the right-wing government itself. Between the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense, who place at the center the campaign against Iran, the preservation of relations with the Americans, the tightening of alliances with the countries of the Abrahamic Agreements and perhaps even a breakthrough for an agreement with the Saudis, and the ministers of religious Zionism, who seek to fundamentally change the world order in Judea and Samaria.
Beyond the serious problems within the security system in the issues of command, control, responsibility and justice that the implementation of the coalition agreement as such may cause, Netanyahu should understand very well that he is seeking to manage an equation that cannot be balanced. On the one hand, global interests are essential. On the other hand, there are parts of his government that seek to take advantage of a historic opportunity for changes in the characteristics of the administration and law enforcement in Israel. These changes may also be interpreted by the American government as a form of creeping annexation, contrary to the promises that Netanyahu himself makes in their ears.
In a normal state of affairs, Netanyahu, as an experienced prime minister, would surely have well understood that he is at a crossroads where he must make decisions and outline a clear policy for his ministers, placing the threat from Iran at the top of the government’s priorities, and with the understanding that constant preoccupation with the Palestinian arena and further escalation harm the security and other political interests of the state Israel.
But when the legal revolution is also in the background, the priorities are no longer so clear. Unlike previous governments, Ben Gabir and Smotrich easily take over the public and media agenda. The prime minister, this time challenged from the right, issues a statement out of political pressure in which he seeks to leverage as an achievement the routine demolition of 37 Palestinian buildings since he took his new-old seat.
Without a decision, when in practice there is no change on the ground and the security system has no idea how the coalition agreement will be implemented, the next crisis is only a matter of time. Even if on the way to it they will explain to us that the prime minister managed to regulate the relationships and work procedures between his government ministers, at least for now from Netanyahu’s point of view, it is precisely the security angle that may undermine the stability of the right-wing government sooner than expected.