Untangling synergies: Israel's order of battle

A serious and predictable threat posed by Palestine would involve the new state's virulent collaboration with Iran.

Hamas rally (photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini )
Hamas rally
(photo credit: REUTERS/Abed Omar Qusini )
Whatever else might divide them, all Palestinian factions readily come together on at least one common understanding. This narrow but significant point of coalescence is unhidden. In essence, it reveals a conspicuously ritualized hatred of Israel.
Lying latent underneath this relentless loathing lies a far older and more primal hatred of "The Jews."
Palestinian opposition to Israel has never really been about land. Certainly, it has never been about an "occupation." The PLO was founded in 1964, three years before there were any "Israel occupied territories." What exactly were the Palestinians trying to "liberate" during those years?
The answer is quickly ascertainable. Palestinian war against Israel and the Jews has always been about God, and about presumptively indispensable and derivative assurances of immortality.
Last year, the UN General Assembly easily elevated the Palestinian Authority (PA) to status of a "nonmember observer state." Soon, the PA and also Hamas, whether newly united or still fractionated, will urge international movement toward full Palestinian statehood. What should we then expect from a sovereign Palestine?
One could argue optimistically that this 23rd Arab state would share a condition of more-or-less mutual vulnerability with Israel, and that it could be expected to adhere closely to commendable policies of cooperation and coexistence. Alternatively, however, one might expect competing Palestinian factions to fashion crosscutting alignments with different states and terror groups in the Islamic world. Then, newly endowed with tangible geopolitical assets against a now further-diminished Israel, Palestine could launch substantially advanced rockets against the Jewish State.
In tandem, there would be renewed suicide attacks upon defenseless civilians - "heroic" Palestinian assaults on Israeli elementary schools, buses, restaurants, and hospitals.
For the Palestinians, whether Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or Fatah (Al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades), there will be irresistibly new opportunities to become a Shahid. What could possibly be better or more promising?
In response, Israel would need to rely even more upon its multi-layered active defenses. As long as the incoming rockets from Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon (Hezbollah) were to remain conventional, "leakage" from the Iron Dome and possibly David's Sling (aka Magic Wand), might still be "acceptable." But once these rockets were carefully fitted with chemical and/or biological materials, such leakage would quickly prove unacceptable.
A serious and predictable threat posed by Palestine would involve the new state's virulent collaboration with Iran. Although unrecognized and unacknowledged, the still-developing Iranian nuclear threat is strategically and tactically related to Palestinian statehood. In short order, after all, these two seemingly discrete threats could become intersecting, mutually reinforcing, and even "synergistic." In more narrowly military parlance, the Iranian hazard would then become a distinctive "force-multiplier."
Should Iran proceed to full nuclear military status, an outcome which now seems unstoppable (absolutely nothing meaningful was changed with the November P5+1 Interim Agreement), it could plan, in the future, to fire advanced nuclear ballistic missiles against Israeli cities. Operationally, such an attack could be launched in more-or-less managed coordination with certain non-nuclear rocket attacks, fired simultaneously, from Gaza, the West Bank, and/or southern Lebanon.
To meet vital security objectives, Israel's primary ballistic missile defense system, the Arrow, would require a literally 100% reliability of interception against incoming Iranian missiles.
Achieving such a level of perfect reliability, however, would be technically impossible.
The core security problem facing Israel is one of critical "synergies" or "force multipliers." Working together against the Jewish State, Palestine, Iran, and assorted other enemies could ultimately pose a cumulative hazard that is effectively larger than the sum of its parts. In odd anticipation of this formidable prospect, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu continues to speak approvingly of a Palestinian state that would somehow be "demilitarized." 
Any such expectation is at best naive. Whatever else it may have agreed to in its pre-state incarnation, any newly sovereign state is entitled to "self-defense." Under international law, moreover, this right is fundamental, immutable, and "inherent." To cite more fully authoritative terminology from the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties (1969), it is "peremptory."
Acknowledging the limits of its very best active defenses, Israel will need to update and refine its basic strategies of deterrence. Simultaneously, Israel's leaders will have to accept that certain of its existential enemies might not always conform to the criteria of rationality in world politics. In such improbable but still conceivable circumstances,  Jihadist adversaries in Palestine, Iran, and/or Lebanon might refuse to back away from any contemplated aggressions against Israel. These enemies could even exhibit such refusals in anticipation of a devastating Israeli reprisal.
What should be done? Israel must promptly take appropriate steps to assure that (1) it does not become the object of non-conventional aggressions, and (2) it can successfully avoid all forms of non-conventional conflict, both with adversary states and with sub-state foes. To accomplish this objective, it must strive to retain recognizably far-reaching conventional superiority in weapons and manpower, and complete sovereign control over the Jordan Valley.
Above all, Israel must avoid the irremediable mistake that was made earlier, in 2005, when the IDF pulled out of the Philadelphia Corridor. Then, Hamas was immediately able to exploit the resultant anarchy, between the southern end of Gaza, and the Sinai
Such retentions could reduce the overall likelihood of ever actually having to enter into a chemical, biological, or nuclear exchange. Correspondingly, Israel should begin to move incrementally beyond its longstanding and increasingly perilous posture of "deliberate nuclear ambiguity." By shifting toward selective and partial kinds of "nuclear disclosure" - by taking its "bomb" out of the "basement," in certain meticulously calibrated and visible phases - Israel could better ensure that its several cooperating adversaries would remain suitably subject to Israeli nuclear deterrence.
Israeli planners will soon have to understand that the efficacy or credibility of their country's nuclear deterrence posture could vary inversely with enemy views of Israeli nuclear destructiveness. However ironic or counter-intuitive, enemy perceptions of a too-large or too-destructive Israeli nuclear deterrent force, or of an Israeli force that is not sufficiently invulnerable to first-strike attacks, could undermine this deterrence posture. This would happen because the posture would have been rendered less convincing.
Also critical is that Israel's current and prospective strategic adversaries will see the Jewish state's nuclear retaliatory forces as "penetration capable." This means forces that seem assuredly capable of penetrating any Arab or Iranian aggressor's active defenses.
Israel should continue to strengthen its active defenses, but Jerusalem/Tel Aviv must also do everything possible to improve each critical and interpenetrating component of its nuanced deterrence posture. In this bewilderingly complex process of strategic dissuasion, the Israeli task may also need to include more explicit disclosures of nuclear targeting doctrine, and accordingly, a steadily expanding role for cyber-defense and cyber-war. Even before undertaking such important refinements, Israel will need to systematically differentiate between adversaries that are presumably rational, irrational, or "mad."
In essence, the overall success of Israeli national deterrence strategies will be contingent upon having an informed prior awareness of enemy preferences, and also of enemy hierarchies of preferences.
When all is said and done, Israel's success in dealing with dual and interconnected security threats from "Palestine" and Iran will depend mightily upon underlying intellectual power. Even in the ancient world, highest achievements in the art of war were always to be found in the triumph of mind over mind, and not in weapons or tactics themselves. It follows that to decipher and exploit pertinent connections between its primary adversaries should become Israel's most immediate and urgent "order of battle."--------------    Louis René Beres (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) is Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue. He is the author of ten major books, and several hundred journal articles, in the field. Professor Beres' shorter opinion articles appear in many leading US and Israeli newspapers and magazines. In Israel, he was Chair of Project Daniel (2003). Professor Beres was born in Zürich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.