9th Annual International Conference: Changing Rules of the Game?

Are the rules of the international game changing? Is it even worth seeking rules at this time, when it seems that so many familiar rules no longer exist? The INSS 9th Annual International Conference addressed a wide range of issues that are important for Israel’s security policy, with a focus on these and additional questions. Among the topics discussed: the implications of the nuclear deal with Iran; the effects of superpower involvement in the Middle East; the increasing Russian presence in the region, and much more.

Changing Rules of the Game?


The State of Israel has of late experienced much upheaval in its strategic environment, and the negative effects of these changes have spilled over into its territory.


It is difficult to predict future trends in this turbulent environment. The Middle East is experiencing ongoing shockwaves that undermine the traditional regional balance of power. Some states have lost their power monopoly, and new, non-state actors, driven by extreme ideologies, are emerging and steadily gaining power. The violence in the area is increasing, and red lines between nations are violated regularly by the new forces, which do not operate according to international norms and the accepted rules of the game. The negative implications of the shakeup in the Middle East extend beyond the region itself and constitute a backdrop for changes in the involvement of the international system in the region. This is primarily demonstrated by Russia's return to the region, as it attempts to capitalize on the growing United States tendency to distance itself and steer clear of entanglement in the area.


 Israel is at the front lines facing the regional shakeup, but feels it has not earned the requisite understanding and support by key parties in the international system. The international community has demonstrated powerlessness in its handling of the region's problems, but at the same time, it continues to ascribe responsibility to Israel for the ongoing freeze in the political process between Israel and the Palestinians. Against this backdrop, Israel is coping with the worsening challenge of delegitimization, which is reflected in part by the strengthening of the BDS campaigns waged against it. This has produced conflicts of interest and disputes between Israel and the United States, European nations, and Russia.


This dynamic constellation of challenges prompts the questions: Are the rules of the regional and international game changing? What must Israel do in order to cope with the emerging challenges and the changing strategic environment?


The INSS 9th Annual International Conference will deal with a wide variety of issues of significance for the security policy of Israel, with a focus on these questions. Researchers, decision makers, and shapers of public opinion from Israel and around the world will participate in these discussions.


Among the topics to be discussed: the implications of the nuclear deal with Iran; the effects of superpower involvement in the Middle East – the increasing Russian presence in the region and the growing tendency of the United States to distance itself from the arena; an analysis of the recently formulated IDF strategy; means of coping with Salafi jihadi Islam and extremist trends in the region; changes in the nature of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; civil-military relations; and the implications of the global migration and refugee phenomenon.

The INSS 9th International Conference in the Annual Series

“Security Challenges of the 21st Century”

Panel Discussions

The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Managing the Conflict or Changing the Game?

The violence and terrorism of the past few months in Jerusalem and the West Bank came as a surprise to none of the parties involved, as the writing in this respect has long been on the wall. However, the new reality has required both the Israeli and the Palestinian leaderships to consider alternatives for contending with the fundamental problems that have arisen. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas are currently dealing with weighty issues in the internal political arena as well as external challenges in their struggle against Israel in the international arena. For its part, Israel is contending with the decline of its international standing and prefers to react to specific events, protect itself from dramatic fluctuations, and refrain from initiating action for change in the status quo vis-à-vis the PA. At this juncture, a number of questions for discussion arise, most importantly, the feasibility of a practical political solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Is the principle of two states for two peoples still credible, viable, and desirable? Are there other alternatives? Moreover, in the event that negotiations do not resume, will a forceful diplomatic and popular struggle against Israel be waged in their stead? If so, what will be the attributes of this struggle and how will it impact on Israel in the international arena and elsewhere? What is the future role of the United States in this regard? And how does Gaza fit into the complex picture? This panel will discuss these and other such questions, in an effort to provide updated insights on the subject.

Israel’s Arab Sector: How Can Inclusiveness in Israeli Society be Achieved?

Recent years, particularly in the aftermath of Operation Protective Edge in 2014, have been characterized by a deep rift between large sections of Israel’s Jewish population and parts of the country’s Arab population. The delicate fabric of these relations has been tainted by intense feelings of distrust, alienation, and distance, which have posed a number of challenges, both old and new. This panel is conducted within the framework of the program for the study of Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel, and will involve the participation of five women from the Arab sector who play prominent leading roles in different professional and social realms. The participants will be asked to present their views on the question of how to go about wisely promoting coexistence between Arabs and Jews in Israel in the short and the long term, in a manner that achieves the maximum integration of Arab citizens into all parts of Israeli society, against the current background of mutual fear, violence, mounting racism, destabilized security, and the trends of radicalization that are currently spreading throughout the Arab world.

Planning for the Unknown: Possible Scenarios

This year’s conference includes a “concrete” component, in the form of a strategic simulation. The simulation will be conducted part of the first day of the conference, and the ensuing findings and insights will be presented to the audience on the second day. A number of small simulations will be conducted in parallel to one another in an effort to present possible scenarios that reflect the current regional challenges, among them: the frequent geopolitical changes in the Middle East; the entry of new and old actors into the arena; political, social, economic, and technological developments; and the emergence of different kinds of military confrontations. The simulation will be divided into four different events that can shed light on the formulation of new rules of the game, against the background of dangers and opportunities taking shape in the region: dramatic changes in the internal Palestinian arena resulting in the replacement of the current leadership and the current structure of government; a severe attack by the Islamic State in southern Syria; a substantial violation by Iran of the nuclear deal; and a widespread cyber attack against Israel. Grappling with these challenges in the framework of this simulation will provide valuable insights from regional and international strategic perspectives.

Is the IDF Preparing for the Future Challenges?

In August 2015, in an unprecedented move, IDF Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot published a document titled “IDF Strategy,” which sets the direction for IDF military force buildup and operation in the coming years. Analysis of the security challenges and the principles guiding the IDF are indicative of priorities in the ranking of threats, the construction of military responses, and the IDF’s level of readiness to meet them. Equally important, however, is the fact that the published document leaves a significant number of questions and issues unresolved. For example, have the relevant threats facing Israel at the current time and the future been mapped? Has the change in the strategic environment found expression in the definition of security challenges and the formulation of responses? Have the operational lessons from recent campaigns been derived and implemented? Has the division of efforts between routine security measures and preparations for war been calculated correctly? How have new approaches to the “war between wars” and the use of “smart power” been assimilated from a multi-disciplinary view? This panel will make an effort to answer these questions and gain a deeper understanding of the document’s meaning for the IDF and for the State of Israel.

A New Regional Order?

The Arab awakening has exacerbated the fragility of the state and pushed a number of states to the brink of collapse. However, although in past years we bore witness to a dramatic increase in the fragility of the state in the Middle East and North Africa, this phenomenon is not unique to the region, and overall raises many questions. What are the regional and domestic costs of state failure? What are the humanitarian effects of the phenomenon and what effects in the realm of human security stem from the weakening of the central government in certain countries? What alternative forms of government and sovereignty may emerge from the state vacuum? Will we bear witness to the establishment of new political entities, and if so, will the new entities stand on their own? What role is played by armed groups – criminal and military alike – in posing another challenge to the state? What new tools and policies should be employed by the international community to contend with a regional order that is not state focused? What are the priorities in the struggle against regional conflicts and instability? What will be the role of the international community on “the day after”? What should be the top priority of regional reform, and what representative groups should be included in the rehabilitation efforts? And overall, what will a new regional order look like?

The Future of the Islamic State

Following its establishment in 2014, the Islamic State succeeded in achieving significant international public and media attention after a series of successes, conquests, and multiple atrocities that earned broad media coverage. Today, the Islamic State is contending with the attacks of two coalitions: one led by the United States and its Western and Arab allies, and the other led by Russia, with the support of Iran and the cooperation of Hezbollah. These events have the potential for meaningful impact on the military status of the Islamic State, as well as its ability to survive in the years to come. This panel will address two central aspects of this subject through an examination of the phenomenon of the Islamic State, and an assessment of the effectiveness of the struggle underway against it. In this framework, the panel will pose a number of questions, among them: How have the characteristics and the status of the Islamic State changed in the course of 2015? What can we learn about its strategy of expansion thus far? How has the Islamic State been affected by Russia’s entry into the Syrian arena, and what can we expect in the future? How can we assess the accomplishments of the operations of the Western coalition, and how can they be improved? And, can we speak of turning points in the campaign against the Islamic State, as, for example, in the aftermath of the recent attacks in Paris?      

Israel and the Region after the Nuclear Agreement with Iran

The agreement signed with Iran on the nuclear issue has implications for the status and security of Israel. This panel will move beyond the agreement’s technical impact to explore its regional significance. Panel members will be asked to answer the question of whether the agreement does in fact establish new rules of play in the region and how Israel should prepare itself for the new regional reality ushered in by the agreement. They will address the challenges the agreement poses for Israel and consider whether it also presents Israel and the region with advantages. Other questions will include: How will the agreement impact on the resilience of the Iranian regime and its ability to intervene in different arenas in the Middle East? Does Iran have an interest in fulfilling its obligations under the agreement? And in the event of a violation of the agreement, will Israel be able to take action against Iran even without the consent of the international community? 

The Ever-Changing World Order

In 2015, the world continued to be confounded by the fragility of the world order and the rapid changes occurring within it. We entered 2015 with Syria's Assad, Russia's Putin, Iran's Supreme Leader, Hezbollah’s Nasrallah, and even Turkey's Erdogan on the list of "bad guys." They are now, in different degrees, respectable members of the international community, welcome in the international forum tasked with solving the Syrian conundrum. The world has also continued to watch the strange maneuvering and poor showing of US diplomacy. Iran was allowed to achieve a nuclear agreement that does not shut down its centrifuges entirely and does not end its production of enriched uranium. Russia is still in control of parts of Ukraine, and both Israel and the Palestinians effectively closed the doors on a political process. Russian fighter jets are now flying in Syria's airspace a few hundred meters away from American aircraft. While China and the US exchange sophisticated warning signals over the US flight and naval activity in areas that China claims to be part of its controlled airspace and waters, the Chinese President was greeted with the utmost cordiality in his visit to the US. Great Britain went even further, nearly pleading with China to become a huge shareholder in strategically sensitive nuclear power stations in the UK. We left 2015 with Europe mourning its victims of the Islamic State slaughter in Paris, devastated by the Greek financial crisis, and concerned by the British threat to pull out of the European Union. In addition, we are still pondering the implications of the low price of oil – less than $50 a barrel – for our economies. In this panel, experts from different countries in the world will consider what we should expect in 2016 regarding the ever-changing world order.

Please reload

In the presence of His Excellency, Mr. Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin, President of the State of Israel

His Excellency

President Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin

President of the State of Israel

INSS Executive Team 

 Frank Lowy AC

Chairman of the Board of Directors, INSS

Amos Yadlin

Director of INSS

Udi Dekel 

Managing Director of INSS

Keynote Speakers

 John R. Allen  

Co-Director of the Brookings Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence 

Naftali Bennett

Minister of Education

Abby Joseph Cohen

Senior investment strategist and Partner at Goldman Sachs, NY

Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot

IDF Chief of the General Staff

 Gilad Erdan

Minister of Public Security, Strategic Affairs and Public diplomacy

 Abraham H. Foxman   

National Director Emeritus, Anti-Defamation League 

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yoav Galant

Minister of Construction and Housing

 Amb. Dore Gold 

Director-General, Ministry of Foreign Affairs 

 Isaac Herzog

Member of the Kneset,

 Leader of the Opposition

Michael Herzog

International Fellow, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and a Senior Fellow, BICOM and the Jewish People Policy Institute

Tzipi Livni

Co-leader, Zionist Union Party

Yair Lapid 

Member of the Kneset

 Ayelet Shaked  

Minister of Justice 

Amb. Wendy R. Sherman

Senior Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, former US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Chief US Negotiator with Iran

 Daniel B. Shapiro   

United States Ambassador to Israel

Moshe Ya'alon

Minister of Defense

Suat Kiniklioglu

Executive Director, The Center for Strategic Communication (STRATIM)


 Moshe Arens

Chairman of the Board of Governors of Ariel University

 Yossi Beilin

Founder, Chairman of the Board, and President of Beilink International Affairs Ltd

Hon. Michèle Flournoy

Chief Executive Officer, CNAS

François Heisbourg

Special Advisor, FRS, Paris, Chairman, IISS, London

 Jane Harman

Director, President and CEO,Wilson Center 

 David Ignatius

Associate Editor and Columnist, The Washington Post

John Jenkins

Executive Director, IISS-Middle East

James Franklin Jeffrey

Philip Solondz Distinguished Fellow, Washington Institute



Jean-David Levitte

Distinguished Fellow, Brookings Institution

David Makovsky

Director, Project on the Middle East Peace Process, The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Shivshankar Menon

Chairman of the Advisory Board, Institute of Chinese Studies, New Delhi

 David Petraeus

Member & Chairman of the KKR Global Institute

Thierry de Montbrial

Executive Chairman, IFRI

Amb. Vyacheslav Ivanovich Trubnikov

Primakov Institute of World Economy and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences