The current ‘security threats’ which challenge Israel

Israeli forces seen in Hebron-Al-Khalil during the Jewish holiday of Sukkot (Mamoun Wazwaz - Anadolu Agency)

Adnan Abu Amer

Middle East Monitor  /  September 24, 2021

With the arrival of the Hebrew New Year, the Israeli security and military forums have been busy monitoring the main challenges facing the country, as it continues to suffer from the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate change crisis which is exacerbating its economic, social and political dilemmas.

The first security challenge facing Israel is the continuous American withdrawal from the Middle East, East Asia and the Indo-Pacific, in what Israel’s opponents may consider as a sign of America’s decline. Other urgent challenges that cannot be ignored include the bringing of the COVID-19 pandemic under control, security threats, continuation of crime within Arab communities and the escape of prisoners from Gilboa prison.

At the same time, the Israeli government is trying to revitalize its relations with the Biden administration and to calmly resolve their differences in order to reach an understanding on core issues, and to restore relations with American Jews and the Democratic Party, as well as revitalize dialogue with Europe. While restoring relations with Arab countries remains one of the most important external security challenges, Iran remains the most serious and complex threat to Israel, primarily due to Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons which Israel sees as an existential threat.

There seem to be cyber threats against Israel in all geographical arenas, in conjunction with the rise of Hezbollah’s arsenal of precision missiles that are self-produced in Lebanon.  These could allow for a wide range of precision weapons to strike Israel hard in time of war, despite the Israeli army’s defensive and offensive responses. Thus, preventive action against precision missile production capabilities will intensify, albeit at the expense of a potential war.

Drones have already been used against Israel from Iraq and Gaza and Hezbollah has many of these attack aircraft. Precision firearms are a serious strategic threat to Israel, which can be produced in Lebanon and launched from Syria, despite Israeli counter action in Lebanon which may lead to war.

It is true that the Israeli government is already preparing for the possibility of launching a war on the Lebanese front, or even in the northern arena but, at the same time, it is trying to avoid such a mistake because, in similar cases in the past—specifically in Gaza— Israel misinterpreted the intentions of the other side, Hamas, and thus got involved in the last war.

There are also the challenges of Molotov cocktails and the border protests with Gaza, including shootings and firing of rockets, to pressure Israel to comply with Hamas’ demands and conditions. This presents Israel with a mixture of external and internal challenges, lack of governance and national security risks.

When the government is asked to identify the necessary tasks required by the army to deter Hamas through undermining its military capabilities, it will be facing the same dilemmas that the political level in Israel has been facing since 2007.

In the West Bank, Israel will, once again, face the possibility of security incidents as Hamas is getting stronger while the Mahmoud Abbas regime is getting weaker, as a result of the Palestinian Authority suffering from declining legitimacy. The PA can be seen as a bitter political competitor by Israel and, at the same time, a security partner, which may prompt Israel to secure its future as a Jewish State, preserve strategic options and prevent its dangerous slide towards a bi-national state.

Monitoring these security threats comes at a time when Israeli military circles are expressing concern about what they call the ‘behaviour of fear’ that drives Tel Aviv, for which the Israelis will pay a heavy price. All of this looks very bad for the future of Israel.

It is true that the Israelis consider such a statement unpopular but, at the same time, they cannot seem to escape it. The Israelis appear weak, and the recent events that are surfacing right now are only one link in this chain.

Israeli circles claim that the prison conditions for Palestinian prisoners are caused by the fact that the Israeli Prison Authority is afraid of the prisoners. It fears that if it escalates its harassment against them, the rest of the prisons will intensify their protests and then prisoners would declare a hunger strike. One of them may be martyred, resulting in security chaos in the West Bank.

Although the Israeli Air Force has everything to carry out its aggressive attacks against the Palestinians and the neighbouring Arab countries—despite what is being said about attacks on training complexes, military sites or weapons storage facilities—all of these announcements cannot hide the fact that the Israelis are afraid.

Moreover, the Israeli army’s claims of repeated bombings of all abandoned Palestinian military bases in Gaza do not seem to deter anyone. For years, Palestinians have been burning settlers’ fields, whether during this administration or the one before it. Israelis are unable to initiate an attack, which means everything is reversed in Israel. Hamas, the small organization, is continuously resisting while Israel, the powerful country, only prays for calm every now and then.

Israelis see daily videos of their army vehicles being hit by stones and Molotov cocktails from zero distance in the West Bank. The army appears to be on the run—frightened, hesitant, confused and wishing to end the day quietly. Just like the tale of the frog in the boiling pot, they are accustomed to this reality, which means that their decline did not start in Gaza and will not end there.

Perhaps what happened inside Israel just a few months ago is another example of Israeli fear, when thousands of the ‘Palestinians of 1948’ staged violent protests, waving Palestinian flags in the streets of Israel. Israelis dealt with these events as if they were a problem between neighbours, not a national war waged against the occupation.

In conclusion, the continuation of events in this manner gives Palestinians the impression that Israel does not have the strength or the will to fight. This means that Israel, after 73 years of its founding, has entered a stage of slumber, a conviction that is becoming more firmly established among the Israelis, leading to important questions about whether Israel really wants to exist  in this part of the world which is full of security threats!

Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza