The Third Threat

In recent years an additional threat has been developing. Its main thrust: attempts by pro-Arab organizations to destroy Israel's legitimacy as a political entity.

Gabriel Siboni
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Gabriel Siboni

Ever since its establishment, Israel has had to deal with the threat from the Arab states. At first the Arab countries put together a military force with the aim of conquering Israel. In the face of this physical threat, Israel developed a doctrine of building a force that allowed it to thwart the invasion attempts. When the enemy realized that their approach was not effective, the doctrine of "resistance" was constructed, combining activity by states and organizations.

This doctrine is backed by the developing of teams to send steep-trajectory weapons from civilian areas into population centers in Israel. Since this threat was identified, defense officials have been working to answer it. The Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead are part of the process of formulating that answer.

In recent years, however, an additional threat has been developing. Its main thrust: attempts by pro-Arab organizations to destroy Israel's legitimacy as a political entity. There are many examples of this such, as accusations of an apartheid policy, Holocaust denial and the claim that the state's establishment was an illegal act, as well as accusations that Israel has committed war crimes. These lead to boycotts of Israeli companies and products, academic and cultural boycotts and ultimately calls to destroy the Zionist entity.

This threat is different from the previous ones - its characteristics are not physical and the areas of action are the countries of the world and their citizens. But it combines with the physical threat in an attempt to delegitimize the Israeli response to the Hamas threat. The Goldstone report, which constitutes part of it, is creating an infrastructure that supports the filing of suits abroad against top officials in the army and defense establishment. In fact, it is possible to see the two elements of the threat, the physical and political, as two parts of a complete action against Israel.

The Defense Ministry has led the development of a response to the changing military threat to Israel. However, the threat of delegitimization is not getting the attention it needs; it is not clear who bears the overall responsibility for dealing with this and putting together a complete response doctrine. In fact, if we accept the argument that the two threats, the physical and political, are two parts of a single threat, no one out there is looking at the picture with an overall strategic vision.

The government's decision makers have to understand that the attacks on Israel's political legitimacy are not a mere drip but a flood. The danger that this attack will in the future influence decision makers in the international community must not be ignored. To take preventive action, we must set up a framework to examine the threat and develop a comprehensive response. It seems that in the structure of the regime here, the most suitable place is the National Security Council, which can get help from the defense establishment, the Foreign Ministry, the authorities responsible for public relations, world Jewry and pro-Israel organizations.

During its existence, Israel has been able to create a suitable response to the changing military threat. However, a response to the delegitimization of Israel also depends on the development of a strategic outlook with respect to another important factor: the faith of the country's citizens in our national existence in this land, regardless of political disagreements. Various pro-Arab bodies in the world are trying, with some success, to confuse some of the people of this country and damage their basic belief in the Jews' right to a national home in Israel. Deepening the belief in the justice of our national existence here is one of the main tools for thwarting this plot.

The writer is head of the military research program at the Institute for National Security Studies.



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