(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The bad news is that Israel Beiteinu leader Avigdor Lieberman, who has little relevant experience and radically anti-democratic ideas, has been tapped as minister in charge of "strategic threats." The good news is that he has no decision-making power over the realm over which he has supposedly been put in charge.
The worst news, however, is that Lieberman's appointment is itself a measure of the disdain and lack of seriousness with which our government approaches the critical task of developing a national strategy toward real strategic threats.
One might think, given our casual approach to strategic planning, that we are a country untroubled by any particular threats. We have become so used to confronting threats in an ad-hoc and piecemeal way that this is considered normal. It is a form of "normality" that should be jettisoned.
A cursory survey reveals five major, interlocking threats facing us as a nation: Iran, the Arab world, the Palestinians, the global jihad against the West, and demographic trends within the Jewish people. The first four threats share a common denominator: they are founded in Muslim opposition to non-Muslim sovereignty and power, as manifest in a refusal to accept the existence of a Jewish state. The last threat feeds into the other four in that it weakens us as a people, thereby encouraging those who wish to destroy us.
Roughly speaking, Israel has pursued three strategies toward Muslim opposition to Jewish sovereignty: peace through strength (1948-1993), land for peace (1993-2003) and unilateralism (2003-?).
This taxonomy is not a hard and fast one - elements of each strategy were employed throughout our history. The peace with Egypt was built upon the withdrawal from Sinai, and Israel has always maintained relatively high defense spending and the belief that the IDF is the ultimate guarantor of our security. Even the line between the Oslo Accords period and Ariel Sharon's unilateral approach is not as sharp as it may seem, since the Israeli decision to ignore Palestinian non-implementation of the accords amounted to a form of unilateralism.
None of these approaches failed completely; we are here and much more firmly established than a few decades ago. But none has succeeded, either. Each generation has yearned that the next will not have to devote so much blood and treasure to sustain what most other countries take for granted. Each generation has been disappointed.
The creation of a new ministerial portfolio for strategic planning does not reduce by one iota the responsibilities of the prime, defense, and foreign ministers to develop a systematic response to national threats. We hope the new office can contribute to such a process - at the very least to highlight the need for one.
Rarely has there been such a combination of a heightened threat and a policy vacuum as exists at this moment. The unilateral withdrawal agenda that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert campaigned for during the most recent elections, and subsequently through Western capitals, is now off the table for the foreseeable future.
None of the three basic strategies that Israel has pursued in the past can alone be taken as a model for the future. In addition, none of them really reflects the post-9/11 world, in which the "Arab-Israeli" conflict has been subsumed within a wider conflict between radical Islamism and the West.
A good start would be for our government to begin to explain to the world that the usual model, of a "regional conflict" that can be simply resolved through the creation of a Palestinian state, ignores the root cause of the problem. Though most Israelis now believe that a Palestinian state should be part of the solution, the problem is not the absence of such a state, but the absence of an Arab acceptance of Israel that would allow such a state's creation.
Our leaders need to explain that what we face is just a more virulent and persistent form of what the entire West faces: a radical Islamist attempt to intimidate and subdue any nation that stands in the way of its totalitarian theocratic ideology. There could not have been a better illustration of this than the war we just fought against an axis of radical regimes and movements: Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas. A new strategy begins with recognizing this ourselves, and saying so to the world.