As tensions heat up between Iran, the US and Israel following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani last week, the absence of a stable government will harm Jerusalem’s ability to achieve its broader national security and foreign affairs goals, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) said in its annual report on Monday.
This lack of stability could be highly problematic, according to the report, if Iran and the US slip into a broader war that could engulf the region.
The report was delivered by INSS executive director Amos Yadlin to President Reuven Rivlin on Monday. Researchers worked to add an additional, special section ahead of the presentation that covers the implications of the assassination of Soleimani, Iran’s IRGC Quds Force leader.
According to the report, a vast array of challenges, leading with Iran, are confronting the country “against the backdrop of a continuing political crisis in Israel that will make it difficult to developed updated strategies.The report explained some of what the institute believes will be Israel's major challenges in the near future, including that "Iran’s increased daring and determination in the nuclear arena," as well as its attempts to establish a presence in Syria and other areas, could provide it with "new abilities to act against Israel."
The report also noted that “Hezbollah’s attempts to obtain a large number of precision weapons and the efforts of Hamas to reduce the pressure on Gaza and to impact the terms of an understanding with Israel,” are major challenges.
Seeking to negotiate a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority is mentioned in the report, but has less prominence than other issues. For example, INSS advocates for the Trump administration to publish its peace plan, but no top Israeli politicians running for prime minister are pushing for this – and there are no signs that it will be made public before mid-spring, if at all.
Regarding Iran, the report said that it is too early to know the full repercussions of the US strike on Soleimani and on Iranian-affiliated militias last week.
The report flags the question of whether these actions could lead to escalated US military aggressiveness toward Iran, or whether the Trump administration was merely hoping to act decisively in order to deter Tehran from attacking US assets and to achieve greater quiet.
Whatever Washington's original intent was, INSS said that the situation is currently so explosive that Israel must be ready to suddenly and fundamentally shift its strategies in each and every national security arena in order to maintain its security in the face of warping challenges.
The report said that Iran would most likely retaliate against US assets for the assassination of its leader, but that American allies, like Israel and Sunni moderate Arab states, could also find themselves under fire.
Moving to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear weapons program, the institute says there are two possible scenarios.
The more likely scenario is that Tehran continues a slow but steady path toward a nuclear weapon.
Following the US assassination of Soleimani, INSS views the likelihood of a new Trump-Iran deal as much less likely, although still not impossible at some later point.
Overall, the institute summarized the Iranian nuclear threat as less serious than some other short-term threats in 2020, but as presenting the greatest existential danger to Israel long-term.
INSS warns that if Israel fails to reach even a medium-term extended ceasefire with Hamas, that the chances of a re-run of the intense 2014 Gaza War are very high, and could happen as soon as this year.
While advocating reaching a ceasefire with Hamas, the report said that if there was a new war with Gaza, then Israel must act more assertively and with greater surprise against Hamas’s military assets than in the past. It said that, in the event of war, the IDF should not reconquer Gaza, but should also look to reach a result in which Hamas no longer is the sole ruler of coastal enclave.
In addition, the report contains sections regarding diplomacy with the US, China, Russia and other important issues.
The institute said that Israel must invest in re-establishing itself as a bi-partisan issue, since the American presidential race could lead to certain Democratic candidates winning the presidency who are less personally committed to Israel than Trump or past presidents.
In the same vein, the report advocates altering religion and state policies, often dictated by Israel’s haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties, which have harmed Israeli relations with the mostly non-orthodox Jewish Diaspora.