Strategic Assessment for Israel
The INSS 11th Annual International Conference
The 70th Year of the State of Israel
The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) will hold its 11th Annual International Conference as the State of Israel approaches the 70th anniversary of its founding. The conference will examine the sources of Israel’s strength and weaknesses, and ask whether Israel fulfills the vision outlined in its Declaration of Independence, and where it is headed in the coming decades.
In the test of time, Israel is a success story. This achievement is especially noteworthy in view of the instability characteristic of the regional environment over the past seven decades, and to an even greater extent in recent years. Looking ahead, however, the varied challenges facing Israel, originating in the internal and external environments, require a fresh look at the state’s national security goals and the way to advance them in order to preserve this achievement.
The conference will consider whether a change in the national security priorities is necessary, and the question whether priority should be given to internal problems. Looking inward at the social and political matrices in Israel, discussions will consider the reasons for the growing attacks against the gatekeepers of democracy – the legal system, the media, the police, and even the senior IDF command, along with the factors increasing social sectorization and intolerance, if not hatred, of “the other.” In addition, the ability to reduce socioeconomic inequality in Israel and promote social cohesion and cross-sector cooperation will be examined, with an emphasis on relations between Israel’s Jewish and Arab populations. In the military-security sphere, the question is whether Israel is making optimal use of its military and “soft” power assets in handling current challenges. Similarly, Israel must consider how it can guarantee that this balance will be maintained in face of future challenges.
The Palestinian question, as a core issue, has a strong influence on the identity of the State of Israel and its international standing. At the same time, it is difficult to point to a clear policy by the government of Israel on this issue, and determine in which direction the government is channeling the country’s power. We believe that adherence to the status quo and the postponement of critical decisions that will necessarily have historic significance narrow Israel’s future. We will therefore seek and propose directions for progress toward better containment of the conflict as well as its future solution. We will present competing concepts from a comparative perspective and a new framework for promoting Israeli interests in the Israeli-Palestinian arena.
Taking a broader perspective, the conference will mark the beginning of the second year of the Trump administration, and explore the ramifications for the international and regional status of the United States and relations between the United States and Israel. Among the questions to be considered is the significance of Trump’s policy for Israel with respect to the regional processes that have matured during the past year. Chief among these are the declaration of “victory” by the pro-Assad coalition in Syria, led by Russia and Iran; the defeat of the Islamic State by the US-led international coalition; the internal Palestinian reconciliation; the enhancement of Iranian influence throughout the Middle East; and the dramatic changes in the Saudi Arabian royal house.
Another element that will be discussed at the conference is a phenomenon typical of the period – the need to address the stark difference that frequently exists between illusion and reality. The social networks make it possible for people everywhere, at all times, to express an opinion and freely influence the creation of news – not infrequently through the manipulation of facts. If public moods are what determine policy, decisions that are taken are valid for a short time only. “Fake news” fits in well with the global trend in policy management, which tends to favor the image of victory over the concrete results that have a direct and long term strategic connection to national security.
Speakers of 2018
The list of speakers is not final, and is subject to change
Last update: 29/01/2018
Amb. Nathan A. Sales
Coordinator for Counterterrorism, U.S. Department of State
Amb. David M. Satterfield
Acting Assist. Secretary, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, Dept. of State
Leader of the Israeli Labor Party
Chairwoman of Meretz
Former Minister of Education
Senior Research Fellow, INSS
CEO and founder of Darkenu
Thomas L. Friedman
The New York Times
Amb. Zalmay Khalilzad
Head of political section, the Embassy of Russia in Israel
Head of the EU Liaison Office in Erbil, Kurdistan Region of Iraq
President of The Israel Institute, and Vice Chairman of the INSS Board of Directors
Senior Research Fellow, INSS
Distinguished Visiting Fellow, INSS
Founder & Director of center for Israel studies – Jordan
Senior Research Fellow, INSS
Pnina Sharvit Baruch
Senior Research Fellow, INSS
Director General of the Ministry of Intelligence
New Poster Exhibition: "The Negotiated Path: Critical Agreements in the History of the State of Israel”
David Gordon and Moshe Assulin
** Many thanks to the US Embassy in Israel for the support and assistance in the production of this exhibit.**
A “Jewish and Democratic State” and Issues of National Security
A strategic analysis of issues relating to national security requires a consideration of the internal disputes in Israeli society. It appears that many of the more fundamental conflicts are linked to matters that affect national security. In this panel we will focus on these conflicts among the Israeli Jewish public. We will examine the link between them and the different concepts of the values underlying the State, particularly over the meaning of its definition as a "Jewish and democratic" state and the place of liberal values, and we will try to determine how a balance can be found between competing values. We will end with a review of the significance and implications of the issues affecting national security, with recommendations for the future.
A number of rounds of negotiations have been conducted between Israel and the Palestinians over the past two decades aimed at achieving a permanent settlement that would include agreement on a solution to the core issues and end the claims by the parties against each other. All the efforts to reach agreement failed, among other things because of unbridgeable gaps on the core issues, lack of belief in the ability to implement a solution, and the clear asymmetric situation between the parties. In this session, we are hosting leaders of the negotiation teams over the years in order to clarify whether it is correct to continue striving towards a comprehensive agreement, or whether it is necessary to formulate a new paradigm; whether it is possible to put aside the mutual blame game, build trust, and bridge the gaps between the parties; whether there is an alternative to a two-state solution on the one hand and the idea of annexation on the other; and where the current trends are leading to.
INSS National Security and Public Opinion Poll: Latest Findings
Will be presented at the conference
Friend or Foe? Regional Perspectives on Israel
While many of the annual conference’s panels traditionally focus on how Israel views the Middle East, we have invited a distinguished group of speakers to discuss how the region views Israel. The participants will shed light on the complexities and nuances of the way that states and peoples of the Middle East see their Israeli neighbors. The discussion will focus on the catalysts and the expected outcomes of the growing security cooperation between Israel and the “pragmatic Sunni camp”, as well as the question of whether this represents long-term strategic re-alignment or a temporary marriage of convenience. The speakers will also address the question of how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affects perceptions of Israel in different countries in the Middle East and whether regional states’ interest in the subject is waning. Finally, the discussants will offer their insights as to if/how Israel could reach out to other countries in the Middle East - by which means and on what basis. Dr. Philip Gordon, who served in many senior USG posts including the coordinator for Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. National Security Council from 2013-2015, will moderate the discussion.
Whither the Middle East? Strategic meanings for Israel
The panel will discuss possible scenarios for the Middle East in the coming years. The scenarios include an examination of the following options: Rise of the Sunnis – the Sunni struggle against Saudi dominance; The Shiite Spring – improving the status of Iran in the Syrian arena increases its regional influence; The Post-ISIS Middle East – stagnation and instability, emergence of a new ISIS model; Arab Spring 2.0; New Regional Coalitions (the result of the "ultimate deal").
The IDF: Preparing for the Challenges of the Future
The panel will deal with the preparedness of the IDF for future conflicts. Rather than ask whether the IDF is prepared for the conflicts of the future? The focus is how should the IDF prepare in order to supply the optimal security response for Israel. The panel will focus on four axes that INSS experts believe are critical for the IDF in the future: victory; resources; innovation; and organizational structure.
Challenges of the Future Leadership
Challenges of the Future Leadership: What Should the Next Prime Minister Do?
Three of Israel’s leading politicians, Mr. Gideon Sa’ar - Former Minister of Education, Lt. Gen. (ret.) Moshe (Bogie) Ya’alon - Senior Research Fellow at the INSS, and Mr. Avi Gabay - Leader of the Israeli Labor Party, present their political and security views at the INSS 11th Annual International Conference.
Violence in the Arab Sector: Trends and Responses
The session will survey the social background and prominent trends behind violent crime in Arab society in Israel, which is double the rate of serious crime among the Jewish public. Relevant figures on this phenomenon will be presented, and the deployment by the Israel Police to tackle this challenge will be explored. Leading personalities from the Arab public will assess the reasons for this phenomenon, and what can be done to reduce it through processes within the Arab sector and activity by the state, the police, and other law enforcement agencies. The possible consequences and risks of crime for Israeli society as a whole will also be discussed.
The Regional Powers: Between Partnership and Rivalry
The panel will deal with relations between four regional powers: Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Israel.
In recent decades, we have seen dramatic changes in the relations between the four countries. The confrontation between Saudi Arabia and Iran has reached new heights. The two are currently engaged in conflict by proxy in Yemen, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as through internal subversion. Both Turkey and Iran have maintained close ties since Erdogan's rise to power, but have found themselves embroiled in a deep bilateral crisis following the civil war in Syria. This has changed over the past year, when Turkey joined Russia and Iran in the Astana talks, where it can play a role in a possible political arrangement in Syria. Relations between Saudi Arabia and Turkey were close for a time when both countries found common interests with regard to Iran, but a series of developments has cooled relations between the two sides. Israel traditionally maintained close relations with non-Arab states in the region. The Islamic Revolution in Iran led to conflict with Israel, and Erdogan’s rise to power in Turkey has also caused a steady deterioration in relations with Israel. On the other hand, both Egypt and Jordan have peace agreements with Israel and help facilitate the partial agreements with the Palestinians, as well as growing shared interests with Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states.
The panel will seek to broaden the understanding of the roots of the contradictions between the regional powers and the common interests that may connect them today or in the future.
American Jewry and Israel’s National Security
The United States and Israel are currently home to the two largest Jewish communities, but it appears that in recent years these communities have become increasingly removed from one another in values and world views, narratives and identities, and interests and agendas. This trend reflects natural generational evolution, but the events of this past year – including the Israeli government’s warm embrace of the Trump government, a controversial President who was opposed by most US Jews, the rise in anti-Semitism in the United States, and Israel’s reneging on the Western Wall agreement and the religious conversion bill – have heightened the challenges to the relationship between Israel and the US Jewish community.
This session will examine the relations between the communities from the perspective of national security. How important are Israel’s relations with American Jewry to Israel’s national security? What elements affect this evolving relationship? What is the significance of the State of Israel’s status as the national homeland of the Jewish people within this context? What are the long range implications of this relationship, and how might the leaderships, communities, organizations, and publics in Israel and the United States work together to cultivate these relations?
This past year, INSS, in conjunction with the Ruderman Family Foundation, has conducted a research project that studies the American Jewish community as a component of Israel’s national security.
Conversation among Commanders
In recent decades, a number of seminal events have thrust the Israeli security establishment, especially the IDF, to the center of public discourse, and have affected the nature of the security establishment’s conduct and operational concept, as well as the discourse between the security establishment and the political leadership. Chief among these events were the need to control a Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria for an extended period, while defeating terrorism; the unilateral withdrawal from the security zone in Southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip, and Judea and Samaria, while evacuating the communities in the framework of the disengagement; the military campaigns in the Gaza Strip, which yielded no clear political benefit; and growing internal challenges – willingness to serve, sharing the burden, integrating the ultra-Orthodox, the dispute on religion in the army, the absence of intimacy in the security and political discourse, and cases that put the army at the center of the political storm and threatened to undermine its place in the Israeli consensus, such as the Elor Azariya incident. In this session, four former senior defense establishment officials – including three who served as regional commanders, deputy chiefs of staff, and a regional head in the Israel Security Agency – will discuss the elements that shape the defense establishment, how the current political and security situation affects the performance of the army and the security service, and what the political leadership should to in order to strengthen Israel’s security in the long term.
Trump – Entering the Second Year
During his election campaign, Donald Trump promised to put "American first." However, after one year in office, his administration has yet to formulate a coherent or consistent policy direction for advancing U.S. interests. In dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat, President Trump has not certified the JCPOA nor has he withdrawn from it. In the Syrian civil war, Washington fired cruise missiles at a regime airfield in response to Assad's use of chemical weapons only to leave the future of Syria in the hands of Assad's Russian and Syrian backers. As for Israel, the U.S. President announced U.S. recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital though he has not yet ordered to move the U.S. embassy there. In his showdown with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, President Trump threatened to destroy North Korea rather than allow it to gain the capabilities to launch a nuclear strike on the U.S. homeland, but he has yet to produce a real strategy for halting the hermit kingdom's nuclear program and ballistic missiles tests. This panel will focus on the Trump administration's repositioning of the U.S. within the context of global politics and its implications for the Middle East. The discussion will map out U.S. and Israeli interests, and the participants will discuss the challenges and opportunities in formulating coordinated policy to cope with the strategic threats the two allies face.
In 2018 Israel will mark the 70th anniversary of its independence (without all of its borders delineated and recognized) and over 50 years of control over Judea and Samaria. Over these decades, there has been much heated political discourse concerning the future of the “1967 territories” between two political factions: the left, which sought to relinquish Israeli control over the territories and the Palestinian population, and take action to establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel; and the right, which sought to consolidate Israel’s grip on the territories of the Land of Israel between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, and expand Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria. This session will look at how these positions are reflected among Knesset members today, and consider whether these elected representatives propose coherent political plans; how they interpret Israel’s current political situation; and how they envision Israel’s future – a perpetuation of the existing situation, two states, or one state.
The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Political Options
Videos from the conference
Opening event - 29.01.18
Senate Day - 30.01.18
Assembly Day - 30.01.18