The dangers and threats against Israel are mitigated by a regional understanding that the future of the Middle East is dependent on cooperation, President Isaac Herzog stated in reaction to the annual strategic assessment of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) that was presented to him on Monday by INSS Executive Director Prof. Manuel Trachtenberg.
It was the first time that Trachtenberg who last year succeeded Amos Yadlin who had served in the role for ten years, was presenting the report, and he was assisted by former Chief of Military Intelligence Analysis Brig. Gen (Ret) Dror Shalom, Deputy INSS Director Brig. Gen. (Ret) Udi Dekel, former deputy head of IDF Military Intelligence Dr. Meir Elran, former National Security Adviser Meir Ben Shabat, and senior researcher Shira Efron.
Also present were Sir Frank Lowy, Chairman of the INSS Board of Directors, and several researchers.
The assessment identified three main threats: a nuclear Iran, the ability to maintain economic, technological and scientific security; and the need to tighten internal security.
The assessment also dealt with the increasing polarization in Israeli society.
Herzog emphasized that the threat of a nuclear Iran induces the whole region to join forces with Israel's friends and allies, not just for Israel's sake, but for that of all the residents of the Middle East. "This is a matter of regional interest of the first order," he said, underscoring that Israel's national security is firmly linked with her national resilience and her ability to overcome the deeply diverse opinions among different sectors of the population without the compromise of beliefs, whether political or otherwise.
The ability to work together as one nation regardless of differences is possibly the t most important step in defending Israel's security and stability, said Herzog.
As in previous assessments, the INSS survey made the point that there is a crucial need for a long-range strategic concept in relation to national priorities that Israel has been consistently lacking.
An in-depth discussion on this issue will take place at the upcoming INSS conference in Tel Aviv on February 1 and 2.
The most crucial threat is a nuclear Iran coupled with Iran's quest for hegemony in the region. Iran's increased nuclear capability, its long-range surface to surface rockets and missiles, coupled with its growing influence in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Gaza, make for an extremely serious cause for concern.
The assessment warns that Israel must prepare itself for major changes, for instance in its relationship with the United States, which will continue to be of assistance, but at a reduced level due to America's internal problems. America will not be as attentive to Israel's interests as it was in the past, and in light of its hostility to China. Israel will have diplomatic complexities in its relations between the US and China.
There will also be significant economic crises and more extremes in climate change, in addition to which the pandemic will continue as a major game-changer in what used to be the norms of life in Israel.
Other areas that threaten Israel's security and stability include an attempt by a coalition of Arab states to denigrate Israel's image and status in the international community, especially in the International Court of Justice; intelligence gathering in cyberspace; and the erosion of liberal democracy.
Speakers at the presentation event pointed to huge gaps in Israel's military, political and economic strength and the proper use of these strengths.
They also spoke of the escalation of violence from Gaza, of riots within Israel, of the difference in foreign policy between former US President Donald Trump and that of present incumbent Joe Biden, and how this impacts on Israel, of the need for greater national solidarity, even though it is important to acknowledge that "unity in our midst is stronger than is generally realized."
In a bid to remedy the fact that Israel has no long-term all-encompassing strategic plan, the INSS has formed its own which it asked Herzog to study and to work towards greater national unity and regional cooperation.
"We have to take all our challenges in proportion and to remember that we are in a complicated situation that affects the whole of the Middle East," said Herzog, adding at the conclusion of the event that he has a close relationship with King Abdullah of Jordan.