Realism and miracles

(To Gino Lanzara)
11/11/19

Ben Gurion extolled the Jewish spirit, made of pungent self-irony, when he said that "..in Israel, in order to be realistic you must believe in miracles"; an affirmation as fitting as it is regarding both the political and the geostrategic plan.

The 2019 electoral consultations delivered a Knesset without a qualified majority, thus unable to express a team capable of governing; the hypothesis of a further return to the polls led President Rivlin to take a clear position, reiterating the need to have a stable government, expression of the two major parties.

The political problem is linked to Netanyahu, an inescapable presence and that, despite the possible legal problems, has received for the umpteenth time the task of forming a new coalition executive that includes Likud, the Blue and White Party of the former general Gantz, with the interposition of former Foreign Minister Lieberman, once a trusted collaborator of Bibi, and now imponderable scale needle. That the question is relevant is testified by the fact that, in the face of an ordinary four-year term of the legislature, from 2013 Israel has been forced to call the citizens to the polls for well 4 times.

The Israeli political stalemate is the son of a proportional system that, generating a fragmentation of the general framework, precludes the most representative formations both the possibility of winning the majority, and of alternatively launching a government of national unity transversal to the sides, chaired alternately by the 2 leaders of the major teams, and directed to moderate a anti-Islamic sentiment that has strongly manifested itself in recent years, and which has prevented the integration of the Arab community into the Israeli context.

A broader coalition, in short, would take away from the smaller parties that negotiating capacity that cannot now be taken into account unless the executive of the moment is intended to lead to bankruptcy, in a context usually characterized by antithetical positions that they prevent us from making wide-ranging decisions: therefore, a political system with high institutional representativeness but of pathological instability; in short, never as in this moment would Israel fideistically need a miracle that combined, in a political oxymoron, the profanity of reality and the transcendence of an impalpable superior faith.

Deterrence and black swans

Israel is forbidden to set aside the international dynamics in which it is involved, dynamics always connected with its lively menage internal political.

The national security context presents a significant military, technological and economic force, which however does not preserve the country from possible military commitments on several fronts, with all the difficulties linked to the optimization of strategic possibilities; for Israel, there is always an asymmetry both in the aims and expectations of the war (for an enemy it is sufficient not to lose in order to say that he has won anyway), and in the rules of engagement.

There is in fact a basic deterrence so as to be renewed but still to be subjected to cost / benefit analysis with respect to adversaries who, trying to carve out functional spaces, have developed valid operational responses, a deterrent that advises the Israeli antagonists to conduct war actions on a large scale, staying below the threshold of war. This would contribute to one volatility which could stimulate a progressive breakdown of the overall situation, however mitigated by Israeli disinterest in a wider conflict.

In most of the areas considered to be fundamental for national security, except for the Iranian presence in Syria and the transfer of equipment to Hezbollah in Lebanon, Israel has opted for the maintenance of the status quo avoiding proactive approaches, an aspect that leads to facing a rationally non-optimal situation, and in any case to the detriment of future prospects; this line, if on the one hand it blocks the possibility of implementing a two-state solution in the Palestinian conflict, on the other it allows to give Israel a strategic role in a hypothetical conflict with Iran, thanks to the freedom of action granted so far , and now questioned by the outcome of the Syrian war and by the weakening of the Saudis, however not unfavorable to support Israel pragmatically even if politically burdened by the Kashoggi murder. The problem could therefore be substantiated in the assessment of the extent of the threat, both strategically privileging the assumptions of the Begin Doctrine, which excludes the possibility of possessing nuclear weapons for other competing countries, and in favor of preventive attacks.

Tsahal, capable of handling low intensity attacks on several fronts, favoring higher intensity clashes if carried out in sequence, has pointed to the northern area, both completing the underground and surface barrier, and rebuilding a vigorous deterrence towards Hamas, also because of Netanyahu's promise, hypothetically supported by the US, to increase Israeli control over the portion of the West Bank guarded by the Palestinians, thus safeguarding the country's security from threats from the East.

But what will be the American political stance, thanks to its resilience based on the energy capacities brought about by the shale oil revolution, and reluctant to take positions heavier than those substantiated by economic sanctions, given that it has clearly made it clear that it does not want to intervene on the Iranian presence in Syria, not intending to entangle itself in another extremely serious conflict? In the USA, after a broad consensus that lasted more than half a century, Israel became the object of a potentially bypassable political dispute if a bipartisan vision were reached, and above all if the gap between will know and American Jews, removed from incisive crises of national identity, on which information campaigns aimed at influencing the base of the Jewish community are grafted.

What could be the black swans1 to be considered by the contentious Israeli leadership? Not a few, or even so unlikely: the Iranian acquisition of nuclear weapons; a scenario that contemplates active and contemporary fronts in Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Gaza, the West Bank, Golan, according to modalities never faced since the days of the 6 War and which cannot be separated from secure alliances and efficient logistics of adherence ; a sudden deterioration of American politics; the confrontation with Russia, which in Syria could take anti-Israeli positions with a consequent expansion of the Syrian conflict in Lebanon or even in Iran; the risk of a third party intifada; the fall of the current Egyptian regime and the simultaneous creation of an axis with Turkey with a renewed rise of the Muslim Brotherhood; the fall of the Giordano regime, weakened by a persistent economic crisis, and the possible aims of a resurgent Islamic state; an increasingly harsh confrontation with Hezbollah, coordinated with the USA, which will cover offensive and defensive capabilities, fire and ground maneuvers, missile and air defense.

Towards the future and beyond

Both the US and the pragmatic Sunni context presumably expect Israel to adopt measures aimed at renewing its confidence in it, measures which are moreover in the interests of Jerusalem, which cannot ignore the definition of borders, security and international assurances about the recognition of its democratic nature, otherwise dangerously undermined by the stiffening of ahistorical positions, weakened by both Saudi and Iranian signals aimed at easing tensions in the area after the September attack on the main and vulnerable oil structures of Riyadh - ever incapable of hiring assertive positions and weakened by the possible openings of the UAE towards Iran - and by the American reluctance to take concrete actions against Tehran, which has however shown itself to be willing to take serious risks precisely by trusting in American ambitions; however, given the radical aversion between the two countries, and the fickleness of existing equilibria, according to the Latin assumption of yes vis pacem para bellum, an improvement in the operational readiness of Tsahal, aimed at reinforcing deterrence on all fronts with a strategic update aimed at addressing the capacities developed by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, the latter lacking relevant military options once deprived of cross-border rockets and tunnels, and at the center of Israeli operational plans that focus directly on its centers of gravity.

Even with the new Middle Eastern, Chinese and Russian actors, commercial and diplomatic relations based on open interlocutors should continue, but without ever losing the importance of the historical American ally; neither Russia nor China can provide similar support to the US, but what is important is both to balance risk management in the Dragon's investment policy in critical infrastructures within Israel (paying attention to the risks related to Chinese interests towards the Western technology), and to coordinate Russian interventions in Syria to reduce support for Iran and limit the supply of weapons systems to Syria itself and Hezbollah.

In the international arena, Israel must act in such a way as to end all attempts to de-legitimize it, one controversy too relevant for it to remain a mere tool in the hands of its domestic policy.

Conclusions

A new conflict involving Jerusalem is not at the moment desired by the parties: the Ayatollahs themselves, while raising the stakes in the Persian Gulf, still angrily recall the undisputed violation of their airspace in Basra in 2018 by F35 with the Star of David.

Elusive danger? It cannot be said with certainty, especially going back in time, and going to review the 2006 Lebanon War movie; the weakness of the balance of power in the area, combined with the western political shortcomings that do not facilitate the search for long-term solutions, if it is true that it pushes Israel to seek more mediated positions, on the other it cannot prevent Jerusalem from returning to arm itself by acting preventively to reduce risks and waiting times, for example by preventing dangerous Iranian occupations of the Golan, but triggering conflicts that could only be devastating, starting with Lebanon, where Hezbollah is now an integral part of the Lebanese institutional fabric, and is always more skilled in the asymmetrical arrangement of forces, as happened during the 34 War days and how it could happen again in northern Israel, with a difficult defense of critical infrastructures, not least those connected to the extraction of gas.

Never before has Israel, and the Mediterranean, needed one of those impossible miracles that we mentioned above; we should find who was really willing to believe it.

1 La black swan theory refers to unexpected events of great importance and consequences, and to their historical role; considered to be divergent with respect to the norm, they cover a much more relevant area than all the ordinary events

Photo: IDF / US Embassy Tel Aviv / US Air Force