2016 Annual Assessment

Annual Assessment 2016

Dr. Shlomo Fischer

Avinoam Bar-Yosef, Susanne Cohen-Weisz, Rémi Daniel, Chaya Ekstein, Dan Feferman, Avi Gil, Inbal Hakman, Michael Herzog, Simon Luxemburg, David Landes, Dov Maimon, Steven Popper, Uzi Rebhun, Shmuel Rosner, John Ruskay, Noah Slepkov, Shalom Solomon Wald, Einat Wilf

Barry Geltman
Rami Tal

2016 Annual Assessment

A series of developments in the past year contributed to an improvement in the geopolitical situation of Israel, even if only in the short term of the next few years. Together with this, gathering clouds are on the horizon that could point the geopolitical gauge in a negative direction in the mid to long range.

Among the positive developments in the face of worrying security and political challenges, we find:

  • Israel is not facing any conventional military threats, as in the past.
  • Iran’s march to nuclear weapons is blocked and has even been set back for the coming years.
  • Hezbollah is exhausting itself in Syria in order to preserve the Assad regime, while Hamas is isolated and weak.
  • Security cooperation with Jordan and Egypt is deepening and Egypt is diligently working to stop arms smuggling into Gaza.
  • The upcoming change of U.S. administrations affords an opportunity to turn over a new page in relations between the two countries.
  • Deepening relations with the Sunni world, which is increasingly open to Israel given the threats from Iran and radical terror groups.
  • Increasing momentum in developing economic and strategic relations with Asia’s rising powers, especially China and India.
  • Leveraging gas reserves for regional relations and influence (Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, and the Palestinians) as well as with countries further away (Russia, China, and India).

Key challenges:

  • The nuclear agreement with Iran was characterized by Israel’s prime minster as “a mistake of historic proportions.” The deal grants legitimacy to Iran as a threshold state and does not prevent it from achieving nuclear weapons in the long-run.
  • Together with this, one cannot ignore the negative factors that threaten Israel’s strategic balance and that may eventually become actualized into direct threats. These include.
  • The nuclear deal raises the possibility that Iran will escalate its regional subversion, and gain greater political, economic, and military power.
  • The danger of security deterioration – On the northern front (Hezbollah and Syria) and on the southern front (Hamas and terror groups in Sinai).
  • Palestinian terror – The “lone-wolf intifada continues and further violence could erupt at any time and take different and more virulent forms.
  • Continued tensions with the U.S. threaten the triangular relationship: Jerusalem – Washington – U.S. Jewry, and Israel is increasingly a partisan issue in America.
  • The erosion of U.S. interest in playing a central role in the Middle East, as others with whom Israel is less comfortable fill the void. • Continued weakening of the Palestinian Authority until it ceases to function at all, harming security cooperation with Israel, and further complicating an already chaotic succession struggle as Abu Mazen exits the stage.
  • The push to alter the diplomatic process between Israel and the Palestinians from bilateral negotiations to multi-lateral ones, or an enforced solution under UN auspices.
  • Attempts to degrade Israel’s international standing through BDS and de-legitimization campaigns.