Geopolitical uncertainty has intensified in the last year, with implications for Israel and the Jewish people. The Russian invasion of Ukraine posed a dilemma for the Israeli government: how to safeguard Israeli interests vis-à-vis Moscow (ensuring freedom of movement in Syrian airspace and ensuring the safety of Russian Jews), while also standing with the United States in demonstrating commitment to the values of the free world. The consequences of the protracted crisis for the global system are not yet clear. In any case, a world order characterized by escalating great-power competition would make it difficult for Israel to navigate its relations with them.
Uncertainty also surrounds the fate of the Iranian nuclear issue. Teheran is closer than ever to having a nuclear bomb at its disposal. If an international agreement with Iran is signed, it is expected to be defective from Israel’s perspective. Should the attempt to reach an agreement fail, Iran may be expected to step up its efforts to develop nuclear weapons. Intensified counterefforts on Israel’s part may also be anticipated, along with an escalation of the conflict.
In Israel’s relations with the Arab world, several encouraging developments stood out: ties with Egypt were strengthened; the Negev Summit was held with the participation of four Arab foreign ministers, high-level visits were made, and the Abraham Accords were maintained (along with a thaw in Israel’s relations with Turkey). At the same time, the deterrence achieved by Operation Guardian of the Walls seems to be eroding. While Abu Mazen has weakened and his exit from the world stage is imminent, Hamas is positioning itself as the defender of Jerusalem and is trying to inflame Judea and Samaria and to draw Arab Israelis into hostile action against Israel, so far with limited success.
This past year the threats to Israel remained the same, with no turning point on the horizon that would offer hope of a solution to the country’s fundamental strategic problems. The situation could potentially devolve into violent confrontation on all fronts. Israel’s relations with the United States are marked by issues that could emerge as hotbeds of controversy (Iran, the Palestinians, Ukraine, relations with Russia and China). The Israeli government’s diplomatic maneuvering ability is limited politically. The constant danger to the coalition’s stability is not conducive to strengthening Israel’s strategic resilience. The geopolitical situation is dynamic. However, because the past year’s developments are both negative and positive in effect, we are leaving the needle of the geopolitics gauge where it was last year, in the “troubled” range.
Trends and Recommendations
Dialogue with Jews who support Democratic Party must be deepened in order to harness their support and assistance in advancing Israel’s positions on the Iran nuclear issue.2
Explanation: About two-thirds of U.S. Jews support the Democratic Party, and a similar share have expressed and continue to express support for the policies of Presidents Obama and Biden on the Iran nuclear issue.2
This public’s loyalty to the president is clear (63% support among Jews, much higher than among the general American public), meaning that Israel could benefit from efforts vis-à-vis the administration and Congress to advance policy elements where, in their view, Israeli and American interests overlap. Should a nuclear agreement be signed with Iran, Israel would fear Iran’s continued covert progress, camouflaged by the agreement, toward the manufacture of a nuclear weapon, as well as its continued regional subversion – all while utilizing the resources it would be able to amass once the sanctions were removed. At the same time, Israel could face American pressure not to act against Iran, so as not to endanger the agreement. In such a situation, Israel should try to mobilize Israel-supporting Jewish Democrats to promote measures that would ensure strict enforcement of the agreement while bolstering Israel’s military capabilities. Should an agreement not be signed, one could try to enlist these Jews for political efforts to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons and curb its regional subversion. A serious dialogue with the Jewish Democratic public is also needed to rekindle American Jewry’s interest in the challenges facing Israel.
Measures that would ignite Palestinian unrest should be avoided as much as possible, and efforts should be made toward constructive dialogue with the Palestinian Authority
Explanation: In early August Israel launched Operation Breaking Dawn targeting the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip. Terrorist attacks throughout Israel and violence on the Temple Mount attest to uncertainty in the Palestinian arena. Overall, Hamas is maintaining the ceasefire on the Gaza border, while building power under the ceasefire’s auspices. The erosion of Palestinian Authority President Abu Mazen’s status, and the battle over who will succeed him, add to the instability. The Biden administration has made clear that it is not going to push for the resumption of permanent-status negotiations, which could spark a major crisis with the Israeli government. At the same time, due both to a low probability of success and to political disagreements, the policy of the Israeli government is not to initiate any diplomatic process with the Palestinians (a situation that plays into the hands of elements that want to blame Israel for perpetuating the conflict). Accordingly, Israel should avoid creating unnecessary crises, with an emphasis on measures that the Biden administration could perceive as attempts to thwart the possibility of a future political solution.
Expanding and deepening cooperation in the framework of the Abraham Accords is a government task for which world Jewry should also be mobilized
Explanation: The Abraham Accords have changed the face of the Middle East. They have tightened the “alliance of moderates” – nations seeking regional stability; they have opened up opportunities for economic, technological, scientific, and cultural collaboration; and above all, they have strengthened Israel’s public legitimacy in the Arab world.
The Accords are also important for the Jewish People, not just in terms of strengthening Israel, but also in terms of fostering an open, friendly, and vigorous Jewish-Muslim dialogue. Alongside the measures taken by the Israeli government to further reinforce the Accords and their significance – as well as the constant striving to expand the circle of signatories, especially in conjunction with Saudi Arabia – it would be appropriate for Jewish communities around the world to take steps aimed at strengthening the Accords. These steps could include political lobbying in various countries (particularly the United States), to communicate the importance of the Accords and generate support for them, and also in direct dialogue with the countries that have joined the circle of signatories.