The Institute for National Security Studies’ Strategic Survey for Israel, 2016–2017 features a number of notable themes including Iran’s nuclear program, the Trump administration’s regional policies, and opportunities for Israel to forge relations with the Arab Gulf states. It also proposes new approaches to the conflict with the Palestinians centered on unilateral action by Israel, including the enactment of a provisional border to safeguard the narrowing prospects for a two-state solution. Prescriptions concerning Hezbollah, particularly the ominous imperative to target Lebanon’s national infrastructure, conjure another round of death and destruction. The document’s utility is limited by its failure to deconstruct the nature of the challenges or opportunities facing Israel, as well as the general unwillingness to examine the motivations of Israel’s adversaries.
This special document is an original English translation of a 2015, thirty-three page (in Hebrew), Israel Defense Forces (IDF) strategy paper, marking the first time that the IDF has published an official account of its fundamental driving principles. An introductory essay by Ahmad Samih Khalidi, “On the Limitations of Military Doctrine,” places the strategy document in the context of Israel's failures in the 2006 Lebanon war. The document, itself headed by a short letter from Israeli chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, encompasses a broad spectrum of grand strategy analysis, prediction, and recommendation, against a complex matrix of operational, tactical, and logistical measures. It comprises three main parts: first, a succinct “Strategy Document” that describes Israel's strategic and operational environment and that delineates the basic principles guiding its military actions (chapters 1–3); second, a description of the IDF's command structure and procedures (chapter 4); and third, the prescription of a series of follow-up steps (chapter 5). In brief bullet points, the strategy document covers national goals, threat perceptions, the domestic, regional, and international contexts, technical and technological challenges, the main functions and roles of the IDF, the different conditions (or “operating statuses”) for the use of force, the importance of cyberwarfare, intelligence, questions of legitimacy, issues of command and control, resource utilization, defense capabilities, special operations, and the priorities for five years. Israel's traditional concerns with the threat from Arab states are downgraded in favor of the threat posed by sub- or non- state actors (Hamas and Hezbollah), and “distant” players (Iran).
Israel's relatively recent demand for recognition as a "Jewish state" or "homeland for the Jewish people" has important implications for the Palestinians (whether refugees, citizens of Israel, or residents of the occupied territories) with regard to their history, identity, rights, and future. This essay explores the moral and practical reasons why they cannot accede to this demand, or even accept Israel's self-definition as a matter of exclusive Israeli concern.