January 2, 2022 | Israel Hayom

Time for PM Bennett and his cabinet to ratify, publish a national security strategy

The inherent political and economic complexities involved in crafting a defense doctrine in the coalition governance structure in Israel prevent the prime minister from simply committing such principles to paper, but it is imperative this mission is accomplished.
January 2, 2022 | Israel Hayom

Time for PM Bennett and his cabinet to ratify, publish a national security strategy

The inherent political and economic complexities involved in crafting a defense doctrine in the coalition governance structure in Israel prevent the prime minister from simply committing such principles to paper, but it is imperative this mission is accomplished.

The need to write and approve Israel’s national security strategy (NSS) was raised up many times, including a number of failed attempts to do it, but still, the only confirmed document is one presented in 1953 by then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.

In the United States, the new president is required to publish his NSS upon taking office, and usually, his newly appointed national security adviser is running it during the first three months of the presidential term.

In Israel, writing the NSS document by the PM personally is a very rare event, but it is probably the only way to do it. Even without formal approval, because of the inherent political and economic complexity in such a document that prevents approval in the coalition governance structure in Israel, it is very important to do it.

Former Prime Minister Netanyahu finished drafting the NSS in 2018, according to his ideology. The document was written by him personally, with assistance from his closest staff (military attaché, national security adviser) and a small number of external experts. It is, of course, a classified document, but some unclassified and very important parts have been approved for publication.

The complicated challenges Israel is facing now require PM Bennett, preferably in cooperation with Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz, to ratify (or change) the last updated version and publish it, to convey the main messages to Israel’s operative bodies, and mainly to Israel allies and adversaries.

In Vienna, the nuclear negotiations resumed. Alongside Israel’s northern borders the precision-guided munitions (PGM) threat is growing, and the potential of a deterioration in Gaza and the West Bank continues.

Bennett, Lapid, Gantz, and President Issac Herzog addressed the Iranian nuclear threat and presented a strong Israeli demand – and no less important, in “one voice” – not to allow Iran to continue setting the tone of the negotiations and dragging its feet, while continuing to develop its capabilities, coming closer to a status of a nuclear “threshold state.”

Israel would love to see a good and comprehensive agreement disabling and closing all Iran routes to nuclear capabilities for good, but that is not going to happen.

The American team in Vienna, led by the president’s special envoy Rob Mally, is aiming now towards an interim agreement, they used to call “less for less”, and recently referred to as “freezing for freezing.” It’s really a “more for less” or even “much more for a lot less” agreement. Giving the Iranians oil money, and lifting some sanctions, even if only partially, will inject billions of dollars into Iran’s crippled economy, enable its revival and allow Iran to continue sponsoring terrorism all over the world. It will also send a clear message to the markets that doing business with Iran is legitimate again and worthwhile.

Long ago, Israel defined three clear “red lines” with regard to its northern border, warning that breaching them would result in a response. The transfer of “tiebreaking” weapons from Iran through Syria to Hezbollah (mostly PGM’s and its production technologies); the continued Iranian entrenchment in Syria, including by militias, in any arrangement; and the formation of a terrorist infrastructure along the borders. Despite Israel’s intensive actions, which according to the foreign press have increased lately, the threat is intensifying.

Considering the American approach coming to Vienna, there is a great chance, despite world powers’ pessimism, that the negotiations will lead to a much worse interim agreement than the very bad one signed in 2015. Unfortunately, the real final decision is only in the hands of the Iranians, and when an interim agreement will be signed, it will become final.

Because Israel declared it will not allow Iran to advance its nuclear capabilities, or reach the status of a “threshold state”, and in view of the developments in the north, including Hezbollah’s inherent commitment to join an Israeli-Iranian conflict, the importance of highlighting and ratifying a number of key points in the NSS concepts, is growing.

The NSS guiding principles (some new and some old) formulated by Netanyahu are: The weak will not survive in the Middle east, so Israel must reinforce its strength and relative advantages, Israel must also deal with the inherent asymmetry against its enemies while strengthening its relationship with close friends, especially US. The strategy is based on four pillars of strength: military, economic, political, and social.

The military chapter includes an in-depth analysis of the anticipated and reference threats, the principles of using the force, and the principles of building military power.

Here are a few key points (mainly the new ones), from the NSS, approved for publication.

The anticipated and reference threats include a continuous and ongoing threat to the home front, the presence of precision-guided weapons, and the possibility (that must be prevented by all means) of nuclear weapons in enemy countries. The principles of using the force include the determination there will be no immunity to the attackers, but also to their senders, and there is a readiness to demolish national infrastructure, including dual assets, in the attacking or sending countries, in order to shorten the war length, alongside the readiness for an ongoing campaign between wars.

The principles of building the military power include, besides emphasizing the need to cultivate the IDF human resources and leaving the outstanding ones for long service, the continued disproportionate investment in intelligence and Air Force, while also building significant ground and naval forces. The protection of the population (passive and active) will continue as an ongoing process, including the completion of the various borders obstacles. Israel will also continue to develop a powerful cyber capability, in all dimensions.

The CBW is designed against the intensification of PGM’s and to combat Iran’s nuclear program. Nasrallah must understand that continuing the PGM project on Lebanon soil, will not Leave any options to Israel and it could deteriorate into a war that might lead to Lebanon’s collapse.

Lebanon’s delicate situation may cause Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to think twice before joining an Israeli-Iranian conflict if opened, even though the Iranians have invested in building Hezbollah’s power over the years only for this reason, but Israel must not rely on it and prepare accordingly.

The Iranian doctrine assumes that the US will not attack its nuclear program, in any case, while Israel, understanding US weakness, will not attack on its own, and its response to Hezbollah using PGM’S will not include Iran. The Iranian leadership is also confident its economy will withstand the current pressures, and there is no real credible threat to the regime, to Iran’s economy, to their lives, and to their personal property.

This doctrine led them to their absurd opening positions in Vienna, and the superpowers are unfortunately playing into their hands.

Ratifying and publishing the unclassified parts of Israel NSS is essential to make it clear to the Iranians that the times of dealing only with the “cat paws” are over, and in the next confrontation the “cat itself, including the cat head” will also be part of the game.

Dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat is still first priority, and should not be involved with any other problem, including the PGM’s. they are connected but should be dealt with separately.

Israel’s enemies and allies should know its NSS, its perceptions and intentions.  On those issues, there are no fundamental differences between the current and previous governments.

Brig. Gen. (Res.) Professor Jacob Nagel is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a visiting professor at the Technion Aerospace Engineering Faculty. He served as national security adviser to former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and as acting head of the National Security Council. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, non-partisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.


Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Lebanon Military and Political Power