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Israel's Evolving Security Threat

This article examines the evolution of Israel's defense doctrine, its constants and variables, what constitutes Israel's security, and how Israel has dealt with the threats to its existence.

In 1974, a year after the Yom Kippur War, Israel gave Washington a list of requests for weapons to replace equipment lost or damaged in that war. It contained thousands of items, including airplanes, tanks, and armored personnel carriers. In response, the United States dispatched a senior Pentagon official to Israel. He met in Jerusalem with then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres.

The official asked why the Israeli list was so extensive, whether Israel had the means to maintain all of this equipment (including the necessary pilots and tank crews), and whether the entire country would become one huge maintenance base. Rabin became angry and retorted, "Look, this is what we think we need. If something goes wrong we pay the price and not you."[1] This factor has been accepted by U.S. as well as Israeli policymakers regarding arms sales.

IsraelFlagFrom the late 1960s to the present day, virtually every U.S. president has confirmed publicly his commitment to Israel's security, though none ever specified exactly what that meant. Since taking office in 2009, the Obama administration has agreed that Israel would be the one to determine its security needs.

Since Israel’s creation in 1948, the same core issues have characterized Israel-U.S. relations: What are Israel's security needs; what factors comprise Israel's security; and who determines them?

There is a well-known phrase in international relations: "When two countries see eye to eye on everything, one of them is in trouble." Since Israel and the United States do not see eye to eye on everything, Israeli statecraft has sought to reduce the differences that have often flared into open tensions and disputes. On occasion, the United States has responded to Israel's security needs either by denying Israel weapons (the 1975 Ford Administration Reassessment Policy following the initial failure of negotiations for an Israel-Egypt Interim Agreement) or promising weapons to Israel (the Nixon administration’s offer in June 1970 in order to persuade Israel to accept a ceasefire ending the War of Attrition; the Obama administration’s offer of weapons in order to convince Israel to extend the settlement freeze by 90 days in November 2010).[2]

Since 1948, Israel's defense doctrine has undergone many changes, but certain harsh realities remain. This article examines the evolution of Israel's defense doctrine, its constants and variables, what constitutes Israel's security, and how Israel has dealt with the threats to its existence. National security is defined as ensuring the nation's existence and ensuring its capability to defend its vital interests and to fulfill its national goals. In the case of Israel, this also means the defense of the country’s continued existence as a free, sovereign, independent Jewish democratic state, enhancing the country's ability to cope with all possible threats to its existence and national interests.[3] 


Many features of Israel's geostrategic situation have not changed much since 1948. First and foremost is the attempt to delegitimize its right to exist as a sovereign, independent Jewish state. This attitude applies not only to Israel’s immediate neighbors but also to around two-thirds of the 192 UN member states.

Few question the legitimacy of the Jordanian or the Lebanese states, overlooking the manner in which they became independent. Few ask how Bangladesh came into being. The idea that the Jewish people deserve a state of their own has not yet been accepted, even by non-Muslim nations, and lies at the core of the Arab refusal to come to terms with Israel. Israel is the only liberal heterogeneous democratic state in the Middle East. Israel’s leaders are also convinced that if it disappears, so will the Jewish people.

The second permanent feature of Israel is its geography--a long, narrow country devoid of any strategic depth and with a relatively small population that cannot absorb a vast number of losses. The entire country, including the coastal strip, where most of the population is concentrated and where its key infrastructure is located, is within artillery and rocket range of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and Lebanon.

The response to this situation was the doctrine calling for swift military action to prevent or preempt an immediate threat and to move the fighting onto enemy territory. The Arab countries will always have a vast margin of demographic superiority over Israel. If one were to include second-line Arab states as well, such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia, or Iran, the ratio would be 1:20. The same applies to the size of its territory.

Furthermore, Israel was never part of any regional or international bloc, let alone defense pact. In the United Nations, it confronts an automatic majority whose core are the 56 members of the Islamic bloc. Israel's attempts to seek a formal or even semi-formal relationship with NATO failed, although there are joint exercises and intelligence-sharing. There is no Israel-U.S. defense pact in spite of various American military commitments to Israel. However, unlike a situation when an attack on any NATO member is seen as an attack on the United States, an attack on Israel is not in that category. Although Israel is an associate member of the European Economic Community, it is not a part of the European Union.

The time element is a permanent key feature in Israel's strategic thinking. In any armed conflict, Israel must seek a quick and--if possible--decisive military achievement before the international community will act against it by imposing economic sanctions, diplomatic pressure, or an arms embargo.

Israel knows it cannot win total victory and cannot fight a long war, because the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) is made up mainly of reserve soldiers whose prolonged absence could undermine Israel’s economy. Israel cannot afford to lose a war, whereas its enemies have the space, population, and time to absorb a series of defeats. Israelis always remember the chilling answer its founding father David Ben-Gurion gave when asked when Israel would fight its last war--"the one that we lose," he said. In other words, Israel has no "second chance."[4]

Israel is devoid of natural resources and must import raw materials, grains, and oil (although the discovery of gas offshore may change some of its energy dependence on foreign sources). Israel depends on freedom of navigation to ensure the import of raw materials that are reprocessed in Israel and then exported as finished goods abroad.

Another factor Israel has to consider is the type of weapons and tactics it can utilize in the wars it fights. Unlike some of the means employed by the United States in Iraq or Afghanistan, or by Russia in Chechnya, Israel is bound by certain standards of morality and cannot act as a superpower. International law, the Geneva Conventions, and other pacts seem to be applied to Israel much more than to other nations as was seen following Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in late 2008 and the Goldstone Report that followed. In both the First and Second Wars in Lebanon, in the summer of 1982 and 2006, Israel refrained from destroying civilian strategic infrastructure facilities in Beirut such as power and water plants, the port, and airport. 


Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, many factors have affected the country's security thinking and doctrine. First, was the changing make-up of the Arab coalition against Israel. In 1948, Israel was attacked by the regular armed forces of five Arab nations--Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria--in addition to irregular Palestinian elements. In 1956, Israel fought against Egypt, while the other Arab states stood by. In 1967, Israel fought against the armies of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. In the War of Attrition (1967-1970), Israel fought against Egyptian forces along the Suez Canal and against Jordanian forces in the Jordan Valley and Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) forces in the West Bank, Gaza, and even inside Israel itself. In 1982, Israel fought against the PLO and Syrian troops in Southern Lebanon.

It was attacked by Iraqi Scud missiles in the first Gulf War in 1991. It fought against Hizballah in 2006 and against Hamas in Gaza in late 2008. During that time, it was subjected to two uprisings (intifadas) carried out by the Palestinians from 1987 to 1993 and from 2000 to 2005. These mini wars were fought largely inside Israel, resulting in huge Israeli civilian and military casualties (over 1,400 dead in the second intifada alone, most of them civilians).

The second change took place in 1979, when Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty, and in 1994, when Jordan followed suit. As a result, Israel's strategic situation along its southern and eastern borders was radically altered. Nonetheless, Syria remained committed to state of war, although the May 1974 Separation of Forces Agreement formerly binds both countries not to attack each other. Lebanon signed an agreement in May 1983 to end the state of war, but it was never ratified by the Lebanese Parliament, and Lebanon considers the March 1949 Armistice Agreement as still binding.

Since the early 1960s, the Middle East began to slide into the development of non-conventional weapons. As part of its deterrent defense policy and despite claims that it would never be the first country to introduce nuclear weapons to the region, Israel took the first plunge. From the mid-1960s, its adversaries have been convinced that Israel possesses such weapons. They have thus intensified their diplomatic efforts to ensure international supervision of the Israeli activities or have begun to consider developing their own non-conventional weapons programs. Egypt was the first country to introduce gas warfare in its war against Saudi Arabia over Yemen between 1962 and 1968. Iraq used chemical weapons against its own population in the village of Halabja in the 1980s.[5]

Another transformation had to do not only with the development of rockets--mainly medium- and long-range missiles--but also the introduction of jet fighters, advanced missile-firing ships, submarines, modern tanks, artillery, unmanned aerial vehicles used for gathering intelligence and even launching attacks, and spy satellites. Israel developed unit 8200, which apparently excelled in these systems. This did not save Israel from a major intelligence failure on the eve of the 1973 Yom Kippur War or foreseeing the Scud missile attacks on Israel from January to February 1991.

A major change has been the end of the Cold War, which made the United States the world's sole superpower; the disappearance of the Soviet Union as a major player in the Middle East, but the return of the Russian Federation to the region; and the arrival of the People's Republic of China as a new factor in the region. The dissolution of the Soviet Union meant that for a while Syria, its chief client in the Middle East, would not embark on a war against Israel to recover the Golan Heights and that Israel’s concern about an eastern front receded. This was given an additional boost by the eight-year-long Iraq-Iran War (1980-1988), two Gulf Wars, and the ensuing American occupation and civil war in Iraq.

The rise of Iran as a major regional power since 1979 and in particular since it began to develop nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them divided the Middle East into two camps: the so-called moderate Arab countries terrified of Iran (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States) and the Iranian camp consisting of Syria, Hizballah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Gaza Strip, and Turkey as a new ally following its almost complete break with Israel since 2008.

Another change has taken place in Israel's access to modern weapons. In the 1948 War of Independence, Israel's only arms supplier was Czechoslovakia (with Soviet approval). The first supplier of jet fighters to the Israeli Air Force in 1952 was Britain. The British also sold the Israeli navy frigates and submarines and from 1958, the Centurion tank. It was followed by France, which was Israel's major supplier during the 1955 to 1967 period. The United States, which consistently refused to sell Israel offensive weapons, reversed its policy and became Israel's major arms suppler when it sold Israel over 200 Patton tanks in 1964, Skyhawks in 1966, and F-4 Phantoms in 1968.

Meanwhile, Israel developed its own arms industry, producing tanks (Merkava), drones, missiles, the Galil rifle, and missile boats. Israel is now the seventh or eighth arms producer and seller in the world. It is the number three arms supplier to India’s armed forces. It sells drones to Russia, Australia, Brazil, and other nations.

Israel's relations with the United States have also undergone major changes. The United States was the first nation to recognize Israel on the day it proclaimed its independence, but then it imposed an arms embargo on Israel and delivered an ultimatum to Israel to halt its advance into Sinai in January 1949. Relations during the 1950s were highly strained. In the 1956 Sinai war, the United States joined the Soviet Union in demanding an immediate cessation of hostilities. It came close to threatening Israel with economic sanctions if it did not withdraw from Sinai.

Relations improved after John F. Kennedy’s election in 1960. He called Israel a special ally, like Britain, and agreed to sell Israel ground-to-air missiles. His successor, Lyndon Johnson, turned America into Israel's main arms supplier. However, both Kennedy and Johnson pressed Israel to allow American inspection of its nuclear facility in Dimona. Prime Minister Golda Meir and President Richard Nixon reached a modus vivendi on Dimona in September 1969, an understanding that prevails to this day: Israel would not test nuclear weapons and would pursue a policy of opacity regarding its nuclear programs, while the United States would not press it to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty and would suspend its periodic inspections in Dimona.[6]

Nixon and Ford solidified America's commitment to Israel's security and to maintaining its qualitative military advantage. Relations soured under Jimmy Carter and Menachem Begin, but the United States was able to broker the 1978 Camp David agreement. The American commitment to Israel's security remains but is subjected to various interpretations. Today there are visible differences of opinions on the issue of settlements, Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, how to deal with Iran, Hamas, and Hizballah, and on whether the Palestinian Authority can be trusted to establish an independent Palestinian state that will not threaten Israel’s existence. In 2009 and 2010 tensions developed between the Obama and the Netanyahu administrations.

A key change has been the growth of a new type of warfare--terror. It is asymmetric in the sense that the armed forces of a country are fighting civilian combatants sheltered by a civilian population in Gaza or southern Lebanon, who do not have to account to international law and conventions for their actions against civilians inside Israel, and who openly proclaim their goal of annihilating Israel. In recent decades, the international community has also changed its views regarding the use of certain types of weapons such as flame-throwers, phosphorous bombs, or delayed-action bombs and the strict application of international law and conventions to countries that are seen as violating these strictures.

It is almost impossible to deport large populations of conflict areas or to destroy civilian infrastructures. In addition to the International Court of Justice, there is now an International Criminal Court for war crimes, and the UN Human Rights Commission is actively engaged in condemning countries it sees as violating certain rules of warfare. Israel is the most convenient target of this inherently anti-Israeli body.

With the growing industrialization of Israel and the development of its technological, scientific and industrial infrastructure, in addition to its growing computerization, the country has become far more vulnerable to attacks on its major population centers, airfields, power stations, ports, and key highways. If in previous wars the home front was spared, since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hizballah has fired some 4,000 Katyusha and other rockets into Israel from south Lebanon. Hundreds of rockets have also been fired by Hamas from the Gaza Strip.

Until 1973, the threats to Israel were mainly conventional weapons attacks by Israel’s neighbors. Since then, however, the threats have increasingly come from Iran and its clients, Hizballah, Hamas, and Syria. Some Israelis view the attitudes of the growing Israeli-Arab minority (23 percent of the population of Israel) as a threat; the group has become increasingly alienated from the state, which could become a factor in a possible future armed conflict.

There is also uncertainty regarding the future of the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan. It was no secret, even before the fall of the Mubarak regime, that the treaties had not been accepted by the Egyptian and Jordanian populaces. There is still vast resentment in both countries, which expected to see far greater economic benefits resulting from the treaties and the resolution of the Palestinian issue and have been disappointed that none of this occurred. If radical fundamentalists such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt come to power, it is unlikely that they will continue to abide by the treaty. A similar situation could come about in Jordan if the monarchy were to collapse.

There has also been a major change in Israel's attitude toward the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. For years Israeli leaders regarded such a possibility as a mortal threat to Israel's very existence. Even the late Yitzhak Rabin did not foresee a Palestinian state living side by side with Israel in peace and security. At best, he was prepared to consider long-term Palestinian autonomy as envisaged by Menachem Begin in the 1978 Camp David Framework Agreement. Yet Begin was the first Israeli leader to acknowledge "the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people and their just requirements." He also set two precedents in the peace process: land for peace and the removal of Israeli settlements as part of a peace arrangement.[7]

During his first term in office (1996-1999) Netanyahu saw a Palestinian state as an existential threat. Early on in his second term, which began in 2009, he was prepared to accept the two-state principle, albeit subject to certain conditions: that it would be demilitarized, would recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and there would be an end to the conflict.[8]

Israel's relations with three countries on the periphery of the Middle East, including Turkey, Iran, and Ethiopia, have also changed. Israel engineered close strategic relations with these three nations after the Sinai war, arguing that “my immediate neighbors are my enemies, but their neighbors could be my friends.” Ben-Gurion worked tirelessly and successfully on what he called the diplomacy of the periphery with very positive results. The close ties with Ethiopia, however, ended in the early 1970s with the fall of the monarchy. Similarly, ties with Iran were broken by the Islamist regime after the downfall of the Shah in 1979. Close relations with Turkey on many levels came close to being terminated by the Turkish government in the course of 2009 and worsened in 2010.


Israel's security doctrine was formulated in the early 1950s in the aftermath of the 1948 War of Independence and the ensuing Armistice Agreements. It was clear to the country's leaders, headed by Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ben-Gurion, that Israel’s growth and survival would depend on its having a people's army comprised mainly of reserve soldiers to be called up in case of emergency and also maintaining a qualitative edge in both conventional and non-conventional weapons.

From the early 1960s, Israel succeeded in creating the image of a nuclear power. Ben-Gurion also sought to ensure that Israel would be supported by at least one major power (France from 1954-1967 and the United States thereafter). Israel must strive to achieve the highest levels of technology, science, and industry, a growing economy; it must seek social cohesion and unity based on shared values, morality, and motivation, and be led by visionary leaders.

Above all, Israel had to develop a deterrent power to drive home to its enemies the point that they would pay an unacceptably high price for attacking Israel. This worked in one case, leading Sadat to Jerusalem a scant four years after the impressive IDF military achievement in the Yom Kippur War.

From the early 1950s, Israel announced its "red lines," which would elicit an immediate Israeli military response if crossed:

  1. The concentration of large offensive forces along its borders that would require calling up reservists: This happened in May 1967, when Egypt moved over 100,000 troops and 800 tanks into Sinai, in violation of an understanding dating back to March 1957 that this peninsula would effectively be demilitarized.

  2. If a naval blockade were imposed on strategic waterways such as the Straits of Tiran and even the Straits of Gibraltar: The blockade on access to Eilat was a casus belli in 1956 and 1967. Thus on September 1, 1975, in the Israel-America Memorandum of Understanding, the United States agreed that the following waterways must be open for shipping to and from Israeli ports: the Suez Canal, Straits of Tiran, Straits of Bab al-Mandab (the southern entrance to the Red Sea), and even the Straits of Gibraltar.

  3. Jordan becoming part of a hostile military pact with another Arab country and the entry of foreign forces into the country, or the placing of Jordanian forces under foreign command (in May 1967 King Hussein placed his army under Egyptian command): In 1990, on the eve of the first Gulf War at a secret meeting in London, King Hussein assured Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir that no Iraqi soldier would be allowed to cross into Jordan.

  4. Any threat to West Jerusalem or to Israel's narrow waistline--the 10 miles between the West Bank town of Tulkarm and the city of Netanya on the Mediterranean Sea--or a threat to shell Israel's heartland that includes the greater Tel Aviv area, power stations, ports, IDF headquarters, or the country's only international airport, to mention few strategic targets.

  5. Intelligence revealing a planned attack on either Israeli air bases or the nuclear plant in Dimona: Two weeks before the outbreak of the Six Day War, Egyptian jets flew over Dimona.

  6. Any attack on or interference with Israel's waterworks, specifically the sources of the Jordan River and since 1964, the National Water Carrier.

  7. When shelling, sabotage, and acts of terror reach such a level that conventional-passive defense cannot stem them, Israel will launch a major preventive response as it did in Operation Cast Lead in late 2008.

  8. When a neighboring Arab country allows a terrorist group to set up a "mini-state" along the borders with Israel: The growing PLO mini state in southern Lebanon was most likely the major cause for the First Lebanon War in 1982.[9]

After he came to power in May 1977, Prime Minister Menachem Begin added another "red line": The development and construction of nuclear facilities by a hostile country would bring an Israeli response. In June 1981, Israeli jets destroyed an Iraqi nuclear plant near Baghdad, and according to foreign sources, Israeli planes once again destroyed a nuclear plant in northern Syria in the summer of 2007.[10]

In the early 1960s, Ben-Gurion sought to enter a defense pact with the United States. He suggested this to President Kennedy in March 1963, but was rebuffed. Since then there has been an ongoing debate at the highest levels of the Israeli government and the military regarding the benefits and pitfalls of such a treaty. Those who favored it felt it would be the best deterrent, ensuring Israel would not be attacked by a superpower or a middle-level power such as Iran. The IDF has traditionally opposed such a treaty, which it sees as impeding its ability to retaliate for terrorism emanating from Arab states, especially since major military actions would have to be approved beforehand by the United States.

The closest the United States came to giving Israel cast-iron assurances was the September 1, 1975 Memorandum of Understanding accompanying the Israel-Egypt Interim Agreement. In this far-ranging agreement, the United States made a commitment to be fully responsive--on an ongoing and long-term basis--to Israel's need for military equipment and other defense requirements. This included the supply of F-16s and even Pershing ground-to-ground missiles. It promised to supply Israel with oil in case of an emergency and if need be to bring the oil on board American vessels.

The United States promised Israel to act against Egyptian violations of the Interim Agreement. It also promised Israel not to expand the number of participants in a future peace conference without prior consultation with Israel and vowed it would not spring any political surprises on Israel. Moreover, it would veto any attempt to amend UN Resolutions 242 and 338. It promised long-term economic assistance and ensuring freedom of navigation through international waterways. There was no reference to Israel's nuclear activities, but these were normally handled under the heading of maintaining Israel's technological-qualitative advantage.[11]

Since then, Israel has attempted to receive in writing an American commitment to its security and defense needs. Since his reelection as prime minister in 2009, Netanyahu has attempted to secure a long-term commitment (preferably until 2030) from the United States that would meet Israel's defense needs in view of the changing threats. The discussions started during the presidency of George W. Bush and the premierships of Ariel Sharon followed by Ehud Olmert.

For decades, the American assumption has been that an assured and secure Israel would be far more willing to make territorial and other concessions for peace. Discussions at the level of the Pentagon and Israel's National Security Council continued even when the relationship President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu became strained. The intensity of intelligence-sharing and the scale of the prepositioning of American weapons in Israel grew. The United States also approved the sale of F-35 stealth jets to Israel.

Yet the key difficulty in reaching a broad understanding with the United States remains Israel's understandable reluctance to compromise on such issues as its future borders with a Palestinian state, the future of Jerusalem, the resolution of the Arab refugee issue, and the fate of settlements in the West Bank. The two sides also have difficulty agreeing on how to approach the issue of a nuclear Iran apart from stating that a nuclear Iran poses an existential threat to Israel.

It is unlikely that the United States will provide Israel written guarantees, similar to the September 1, 1975 Memorandum of Understanding, on such issues of continued Israeli military presence along the Jordan River, construction in settlements and in East Jerusalem, a positive response to Israel's new military needs in the area of anti-missile missiles, modern early warning systems, and armor- or bunker-piercing shells and bombs. This would also include a U.S. commitment to veto any anti-Israel resolution in the Security Council and blocking any attempt to have the UN Security Council proclaim an independent Palestinian state with the pre-1967 borders.[12]


Two major issues have been hotly debated in the highest echelons of the Israeli government. The first has to do with what action Israel should take regarding a nuclear Iran. The policy of Prime Ministers Sharon, Olmert, and Netanyahu was to coordinate Israel’s efforts with those of the Western nations led by the United States. The alternative in some quarters has been to launch a preemptive attack on Iran’s facilities. On a number of occasions, Israel was warned by Defense Secretary Robert Gates not to act on its own.

The case against attacking Iran has been cogently made by Professor Barry Rubin.[13] Those who feel Israel must do it alone argue that the international community cannot be relied upon to act swiftly and resolutely. They point out the time it took the powers to reach an agreement on sanctions against Iran. Since the days of the Holocaust, Israel's War of Independence, the three weeks preceding the Six Day War when Israel stood virtually alone, and the delay in activating the American airlift during the 1973 Yom Kippur War, there has been a feeling in Israel that it must look out for its own defense irrespective of what the international community says or does.

The second debate focuses on whether Israel should end its policy of nuclear opacity, stating publicly that it possesses nuclear capability and that it will use it as a means of last resort to prevent its own destruction. Israel's nuclear option has been called the "bomb in the cellar" or the "doomsday weapon." One of the fathers of Israel’s nuclear option, President Shimon Peres, has often referred to it as Israel's insurance policy.[14]

A major proponent of this radical change of policy is Professor Avner Cohen who has written extensively about Israel's nuclear efforts, chiefly in his book Israel and the Bomb. Cohen feels that following an understanding with the United States and advance notice to Israel's Arab neighbors, notably Egypt, Israel can safely state what many countries have suspected and thus avoid being branded an outlaw that refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty and to place its facilities under the supervision of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Cohen states that Israel has no less right to possess nuclear weapons than India or Pakistan. Since 1969, however, when Israel was still viewed as a small righteous victim of its Arab neighbors, the regional and international reality has changed, and above all Israel's image has undergone a major transformation. The attempts to delegitimize Israel have intensified and so have the calls to disarm it of its reported nuclear arsenal.[15]

Those opposed claim that abandonment of the existing policy would only intensify pressure on Israel to sign the NPT, putting the United States in an embarrassing position as sanctioning the spread of nuclear weapons. If Israel can have the bomb, why not Iran and other Arab states that may follow in its footsteps? They feel that the policy agreed upon between Israel and the United States in 1969 is still valid and see no reason to abandon it. Yet they do not hesitate from telling Israel's potential enemies that the price for striking Israel with non-conventional weapons could invite an Israeli second strike to be delivered either from land or by sea.

In recent years, it has become fashionable in certain academic circles and in the media in the West to claim that the establishment of the State of Israel was a "historic error," which should be corrected by the establishment of one state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. In this context, these people understand that demographic factors would eventually ensure an Arab majority thus bringing an end to the dream of a Jewish state.

To them and to others, Israeli leaders should repeat what Golda Meir once said: “Israel is prepared to negotiate all issues with their Arab neighbors, save one: The state of Israel is not an item to be negotiated.” This holds true to this very day.

 *Prof. Meron Medzini is a visiting professor of political science at the Rothberg International School of the Hebrew

MERIA Journal Staff: Publisher and Editor: Prof. Barry Rubin
Assistant Editor: Yeru Aharoni.
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[1] The writer's personal recollection.

[2] For the Nixon and Ford policies, see Henry Kissinger, Years of Upheaval (Boston: Little Brown, 1982). For more recent books on Israeli-U.S. relations, see Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace (New York: Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 2004); Aaron David Miller, The Much Too Promised Land (New York: Random House, 2008); Daniel C. Kurtzer and Scott B. Lazensky (eds.), Negotiating Arab-Israeli Peace (Washington D.C.: U.S. Institute of Peace, 2008).

[3] For a cogent discussion, see Yaacov Amidror (ed.), An Introduction to National Security (Tel Aviv: University of the Air, Ministry of Defense, 2002) [Hebrew]. For various definitions of national security, see Israel Tal, National Security: The Few vs. the Many (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1996) [Hebrew]; and Yehoshfat Harkabi, War and Strategy (Tel Aviv: Maarachot, 1980) [Hebrew].

[4] David Ben Gurion, Yichud Veyeud [Uniqueness and Purpose]: Speeches on Israel's Security, (Tel Aviv, Maarachot, 1980) [Hebrew].

[5] For a discussion of Israel's nuclear efforts, see Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb (New York: Columbia University Press, 1998).

[6] Ibid.

[7] For the Camp David Framework Agreements, see Meron Medzini (ed.), Israel's Foreign Relations: Selected Documents, Vol. IV (Jerusalem: Ministry for Foreign Affairs, 1981), pp. 514-24.

[8] Benjamin Netanyahu, A Place Under the Sun (New York: Random House, 1996).

[9] Yigal Allon, Kelim Shluvim, Connected Vessels, (Tel Aviv: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 1980), [Hebrew].

[10] Avi Shilon, Begin 1913-1992 (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2007), pp. 335-46.

[11] For the text of the Memorandum of Understanding, see Meron Medzini (ed.), Israel's Foreign Relations, Vol. III (Jerusalem: Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 1982), pp. 287-90.

[12] See Alex Fishman, "No Free Gifts," Yedioth Ahronot, November 26, 2010.

[13] Barry Rubin, "Why Israel Shouldn't Attack Iranian Nuclear Installations—Unless It Has to Do So," Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center, July 14, 2010,

[14] Michael Bar Zohar, Phoenix: Shimon Peres a Political Biography (Tel Aviv: Yedioth Ahronot, 2006), pp. 343-50.

[15] Interview with Avner Cohen, Haaretz, August 26, 2010.

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