INSS


Institute for National Securities Studies, INSS is an independent academic institute.

The Institute is non-partisan, independent, and autonomous in its fields of research and expressed opinions. As an external institute of Tel Aviv University, it maintains a strong association with the academic environment. In addition, it has a strong association with the political and military establishment.

Most Recent Articles by INSS:

The Palestinian Refugees: Facts, Figures, and Significance

Feb 19, 2018 — INSS

The Palestinian Refugees: Facts, Figures, and Significance
The Palestinian refugee issue has been seen for some seventy years as a principal obstacle to a resolution of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. However, the expanding numbers of refugees from the Middle East and Africa today challenge the uniqueness of the Palestinian situation. In fact, the issue of Palestinian refugees is perceived more as the reflection of an ongoing lapse by Arab countries, Israel, and the international community, which have been unable to separate the solution to this problem from the greater political arrangement between Israel and the Palestinians. Despite the ongoing distress of the refugees, the subject is still seen as the Palestinians’ main bargaining chip in peace negotiations with Israel. However, the value of this historical card appears to be ebbing with the growing numbers of refugees worldwide and the absence of a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After seven decades and many changes in the Middle East, perhaps this complex issue should be disconnected from the greater political settlement.


Trump Administration Policy and American Public Opinion: Implications for Israel

Feb 19, 2018 — INSS

Trump Administration Policy and American Public Opinion: Implications for Israel
United States policy underwent significant changes during the past year under President Trump, as the administration’s national security strategy documents indicated that the shift toward the “America first” strategy was not merely about rhetoric. Recent surveys by the Pew Research Center enable evaluating whether these policy changes correspond to trends in public opinion. If so, one would expect the positions among the public to be long term and continue even after the current administration ends. If, however, the changes are not in line with prevailing public opinion, then the next elections could prompt a return to the American agenda that preceded the current administration. This analysis is important to both Washington’s adversaries and its allies, as it enables them to comprehend the significance of the current change. For Israel, the analysis is especially important, in view of the dramatic change in the ties between the countries since President Trump entered the White House.


Israel’s Engagement in Syria: Causes and Significance

Feb 14, 2018 — INSS

Israel’s Engagement in Syria: Causes and Significance
The events on the northern border before dawn on February 10, 2018, beginning with the downing of an Iranian drone that penetrated Israeli airspace, illustrated the fragile dynamic between Iran and Israel in the Syrian arena. On the one hand is Iran’s increasing entrenchment in Syria, a trend evident over the seven years of the Syrian civil war; on the other hand, Israel has expressed its operational determination to prevent such entrenchment, particularly any Iranian construction of military infrastructure, and demanded a full withdrawal from Syria of Iranian elements, Shiite militias, and Hezbollah.

The Iranians determined the timing of these hostilities, although it is doubtful whether they correctly assessed their scope. The dispatch of a drone into Israeli airspace at this point in time is surprising, given the ongoing intensive fighting on multiple fronts and involving multiple rivals in Syria; strong public criticism in Iran of the investment in Syria-Lebanon instead of in Iranian civilian welfare; the efforts of European countries to preserve the nuclear treaty, inter alia by responding to the demands of the Trump administration in the context of opposition to Iran’s missile program and regional policy; and attempts by the Assad regime with Russian assistance to take control of large parts of the country and proceed to the stage of stabilization and reconstruction. These developments are part of the backdrop to the process of seeking a settlement in Syria, which is underway through a number of diplomatic channels and is the focus of attention of the international community, which in any case identifies the Islamic Republic as an element that threatens regional stability.


The PLO Central Council Convention: Impasse with Possible Opportunity

Feb 9, 2018 — INSS

The PLO Central Council Convention: Impasse with Possible Opportunity
The climax of the recent PLO Central Council convention, which began on January 14, 2018 in Ramallah, was the speech by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. On the following day, the Council passed several resolutions that in effect are recommendations to the PLO Executive Committee, the organization’s executive body. Most of the resolutions were in the spirit of Abbas’s recommendations in his speech and resonated of past resolutions.


Will the Protests in Iran Affect the Regime’s Priorities?

Jan 23, 2018 — INSS

Will the Protests in Iran Affect the Regime's Priorities?
During the recent waves of protests in Iran, much criticism was voiced against the country’s involvement in regional conflicts, particularly given the difficult economic situation within Iran itself. Demonstrators called for resources to be diverted from overseas to benefit the Iranian population. The large protests have since declined, but there are still some semblances of protest, indicating the resistance among portions of the public to continue sustaining the economic hardships. This article discusses the implications of the economic situation for the Iranian regime’s national priorities, including its support for elements engaged in undermining regional stability in the Middle East.


UNIFIL after Security Council Resolution 2373: Same Forces, More Reports

Jan 21, 2018 — INSS

UNIFIL after Security Council Resolution 2373: Same Forces, More Reports
On August 30, 2017, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2373, which extends Resolution 1701 (2006) and the mandate of the United Nation’s Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another year. The main changes in Resolution 2373 from earlier resolutions lie in the request “to look at ways to enhance UNIFIL’s efforts… including ways to increase UNIFIL’s visible presence…within its existing mandate” and “to continue to issue prompt and detailed reports on violations of Resolution 1701…on the restrictions to UNIFIL’s freedom of movement… on specific areas where UNIFIL does not access ... and to further develop a reporting mechanism in order to provide concrete and detailed information on the aforementioned issues.” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon described it as “a significant political victory that could change the situation in southern Lebanon and expose the terrorist enterprise that Hezbollah established on Israel’s border,” and added that “the resolution requires UNIFIL to open its eyes, and forces it to take action against Hezbollah’s military force buildup in the area.”


UNIFIL after Security Council Resolution 2373: Same Forces, More Reports

Jan 21, 2018 — INSS

On August 30, 2017, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 2373, which extends Resolution 1701 (2006) and the mandate of the United Nation’s Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) for another year. The main changes in Resolution 2373 from earlier resolutions lie in the request “to look at ways to enhance UNIFIL’s efforts… including ways to increase UNIFIL’s visible presence…within its existing mandate” and “to continue to issue prompt and detailed reports on violations of Resolution 1701…on the restrictions to UNIFIL’s freedom of movement… on specific areas where UNIFIL does not access ... and to further develop a reporting mechanism in order to provide concrete and detailed information on the aforementioned issues.” Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon described it as “a significant political victory that could change the situation in southern Lebanon and expose the terrorist enterprise that Hezbollah established on Israel’s border,” and added that “the resolution requires UNIFIL to open its eyes, and forces it to take action against Hezbollah’s military force buildup in the area.”


The UN Aftermath of President Trump’s Announcement on Jerusalem

Jan 15, 2018 — INSS

The UN Aftermath of President Trump's Announcement on Jerusalem
On December 6, 2017 President Trump announced that the United States recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. What followed this controversial announcement in the UN realm was a flurry of initiatives, including a draft resolution submitted to the Security Council by Egypt; a resolution submitted to the General Assembly by Yemen and Turkey; Israel’s withdrawal form UNESCO (UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), and President Trump’s threat to cut funding from UNRWA (UN Relief and Work Agency responsible for Palestinian refugees).

In the Security Council, the United States was forced to use its veto power to prevent a unanimous decision to support the draft resolution. This was the precise intention of the Palestinian delegation, which reportedly held a series of bilateral meetings with Council members to discuss the contours of a resolution that would be broadly acceptable to all members besides the United States. Indeed, widely consensual parameters in the draft – affirming that decisions vis-à-vis Jerusalem must comply with relevant resolutions of the Security Council, and calling for a reversal of trends imperiling the two-state solution – were skillfully balanced with references to “deep regret at recent decisions concerning the status of Jerusalem”; assertions that actions that alter the status of Jerusalem are “null and void,” and that all states should refrain from the establishment of diplomatic missions in Jerusalem. The art of compromise and dialogue with Security Council players thus enabled the Palestinians to achieve their objective and demonstrate poignantly the lack of international support for the American unilateral decision on Jerusalem.


How to Stop the Shooting from the Gaza Strip

Jan 9, 2018 — INSS

How to Stop the Shooting from the Gaza Strip
Conditions in the Gaza Strip today resemble those that prevailed before previous rounds of hostilities, above all Operation Protective Edge, and it thus appears that the road to a further round of fighting in Gaza – after over three years of relative quiet – is growing shorter. For over a month, there has been steady rocket and mortar fire from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. Israel’s response strategy currently appears ineffective, and Hamas too finds it hard to stop the shooting. If Israel wishes to avoid escalation, it must find ways to take immediate, forceful action to reduce the humanitarian and economic pressures on the Gaza Strip, without being perceived as relaxing its attitude toward terror, and while strengthening its deterrent power toward Hamas. It is also recommended that Israel enlist Egypt and give it a toolbox that includes significant infrastructure-related and economic rewards, designed to tempt Hamas to make a genuine effort to keep the area calm.


Report on Suicide Attacks in 2017: Fewer Attacks, More Women Bombers

Jan 7, 2018 — INSS

Report on Suicide Attacks in 2017: Fewer Attacks, More Women Bombers
Suicide attacks remain one of the most effective tools available to terrorist organizations to achieve their objectives. Suicide attacks are for the most part particularly lethal and create a profound feeling of helplessness among the affected public, given that there presumably is no way to deter a person who is prepared to kill him or herself in order to harm his/her enemies. Therefore, suicide attacks help the organizations and groups that deploy the suicide bombers build an image of power that is far greater than their actual power.

Every year the Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict research program at the Institute of National Securities Studies (INSS) compiles data on the suicide attacks that were carried out during the calendar year and the emerging trends related to this phenomenon. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult to monitor the data, particularly in areas of intense activity such as Iraq and Syria, where the Islamic State used suicide bombers in the ongoing fighting. For example, Islamic State spokesmen published data in their propaganda that quote a very high number of suicide bombers. For example, the official Islamic State’s media outlets proclaimed it was responsible for 771 suicide attacks in 2017 in Syria and Iraq alone. However, these figures were not verified by external sources, and therefore were not included in the summary that follows. Attacks counted here were verified by at least two different independent sources, and a coordinated suicide attack on multiple adjacent targets is counted as a single attack.


Internet Currencies and National Security

Dec 28, 2017 — INSS

Internet Currencies and National Security
Internet currencies do not claim to replace state currencies, but even if the phenomenon is realized only partially, it is hard to dismiss the idea that it could deprive states and financial establishments that control the global financial system of their exclusive hold over means of payment. In the long term, if this phenomenon spreads and is not regulated, it could also have implications for internal stability. At present, regulatory bodies such as central banks in the West as well as in Israel appear fairly indifferent to internet currencies and their impact on various fields of activity, because they are not a familiar official currency, security, or asset. Israel would do well to accelerate the process of defining its approach to internet currencies, with an integrated examination of the subject by all the regulatory bodies involved, including cyber teams, and in collaboration with other elements worldwide.


Shifting to the Right? President Rouhani Distances Himself from his Reformist Supporters

Dec 27, 2017 — INSS

Shifting to the Right? President Rouhani Distances Himself from his Reformist Supporters
Since his reelection, Iranian President Rouhani has pursued a policy that to a great extent disregards the demands of the reformists who supported him during the elections and reflects a shift toward the conservative camp. This trend is evident in the President’s political appointments, his reneging on promises of civil reforms, and the reduced tension, at least in public, vis-à-vis the Revolutionary Guards. Disappointment with the President is evident among the reformists, although the prevailing opinion is that they should continue supporting him and not risk letting the hardliners gain an upper hand. The President’s conduct reflects his identity as a fundamentally conservative politician, his priorities, the limits of his power versus the conservative establishment, and his long range political aspirations. His recognition of the limits of his power and his focus on improving the economic situation may indicate political insight, but his failure to respond to the public’s demands is liable over time to exacerbate the Iranians’ despair and pose a growing challenge to his regime.


Yemen after Saleh: Microcosm of a Regional Struggle

Dec 14, 2017 — INSS

Yemen after Saleh: Microcosm of a Regional Struggle
When embarking on the war in Yemen, Saudi Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman promised a rapid decisive victory over the Houthis and the Iranians (Operation Decisive Storm). So far, however, and was proven again with the assassination of former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, Saudi Arabia has encountered serious difficulties in defeating a determined enemy on its own doorstep. Even if the internal and external pressures on the Houthis grow stronger, their determination and that of their Iranian allies to continue the military campaign against the Saudis is clear. For its part, the Iranian regime apparently believes that the fighting in Yemen will have an impact on the greater narrative surrounding Iran’s ability to deflect Saudi-American cooperation and reduce their influence in other Middle East arenas, with the emphasis on Syria and Lebanon.


The Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel

Dec 13, 2017 — INSS

The Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel
In an historic announcement on December 6, 2017, the United States recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The first country to recognize Israel after its declaration of independence in 1948 was also the first to formally recognize Jerusalem as its capital. Throughout the world, and particularly in the Middle East, religious and nationalist movements have challenged the validity of states and borders defined in the past. Therefore, there is more than symbolism in this move by President Trump, who inter alia based the recognition on the ancient connection of the Jewish people to its capital.


The War on Terrorism in Sinai: A Watershed?

Nov 29, 2017 — INSS

The Rawda mosque, after a gun and bombing attack. November 25, 2017 -- Photo: STR / AFP
The November 24, 2017 attack on al-Rawda mosque in Bir al-Abed in the northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, apparently by Wilayat Sinai, a proxy of the Islamic State (ISIS) in Egypt, was the most deadly terrorist attack Egypt has ever known, killing more than 300 civilians and wounding over 100. Beyond the unusual scope of casualties, it was also unusual in its target: Salafi jihadist Sunnis massacring Sunni worshippers of the Sufi branch of Islam. Along with the profound shock felt in Egypt since the attack is the question whether Egypt’s overall policy on terrorism will now change, or if the Egyptian regime, which tends to view Sinai as the state’s backyard, will make do with a routine military response, i.e., aerial bombings, symbolic beefing up of forces, and a harsher stance toward the local population suspected of cooperation with Wilayat Sinai.


United States Policy in the Middle East: The Need for a Grand Strategy

Nov 28, 2017 — INSS

United States Policy in the Middle East: The Need for a Grand Strategy
The first year of the Trump administration has been characterized by the lack of clear policy guidelines vis-à-vis the Middle East. Although in the election campaign Trump spoke in favor of limiting United States intervention in various arenas, it appears that the US administration has no choice but to continue in the role of the “world’s policeman” to protect American interests. As to the Middle East, the United States cannot allow itself to disengage from the region. Accordingly, the administration must formulate its objectives in the area and draft a strategy that will enable it to deal with the extremist elements, while strengthening its allies in the region who can serve as force multipliers against these radical elements.

The first year of the Trump administration has been characterized by the lack of clear policy guidelines vis-à-vis the Middle East. The great hopes that many countries in the region hung on the change of administration and a new proactive president in the White House have slowly been eclipsed by a sense of confusion, given United States behavior that shows little consistency and no clear strategic objectives. At the end of President Trump’s first year, there is a need for a US grand strategy for the Middle East.


Israel’s Red Lines on Iran’s Foothold in Syria

Nov 22, 2017 — INSS

Israel’s Red Lines on Iran’s Foothold in Syria
The understandings reached recently between the United States and Russia regarding Syria accept the deployment of Iranian forces and Iranian-controlled militias (proxies) on the range from the Golan Heights border – a situation that is entirely unacceptable to Israel. It seems that the time is coming when Israel, if it wants to stop Iran’s influence and consolidation in Syria, will have to become actively engaged in the Syrian quagmire. Israel must demonstrate determination in its demand to remove Iranian forces and Iranian-controlled Shiite militias from the Golan Heights and prevent the establishment of Iranian military infrastructures in Syria that would provide military means to Assad, the Shiite militias, and Hezbollah. For Israel, this is an imperative, as otherwise there is far greater potential for escalation in the northern arena and on the Syrian front, as well as possible spillover to the Lebanese front.


Saudi Arabia in an Accelerated and Risky Process of Transformation

Nov 14, 2017 — INSS

Saudi Arabia in an Accelerated and Risky Process of Transformation
Saudi Arabia is challenged in nearly every dimension, on both domestic and external levels. Therefore, the recent turmoil in the kingdom, reflected in an unprecedented number of arrests of hundreds of officials, including key leaders of the economic, communications, and political sectors, may prove to be a development of historic magnitude. Will the political upheaval be perceived by Riyadh’s enemies as a window of opportunity to intensify pressure? Is the kingdom facing an era of instability? Strategists and analysts in countries affected by the standing of the Saudi kingdom, including Israel, should increase their monitoring of the kingdom’s stability and prepare emergency plans in the event of a crisis.


Destroying the Tunnel: Preserving Deterrence while Preventing Escalation

Nov 9, 2017 — INSS

Destroying the Tunnel: Preserving Deterrence while Preventing Escalation
Israel’s proven ability to locate and destroy tunnels undermines the rationale of the enemy system (including both Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad) whereby attack tunnels are a strategic and psychological tool par excellence. Despite the pressure to respond to Israel’s destruction of the Gaza tunnel because of the many casualties, it seems that Hamas does not want escalation at a time that it is focused on implementing the reconciliation agreement with Fatah. As a military escalation with Israel would hurt Hamas, the organization will therefore try to restrain the other organizations, and if there is a response it will likely be limited. For its part, Israel must both preserve its strong deterrence and prevent escalation. In this setting, Israel should assess the reconciliation process between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and consider its possible contribution to stability in the Gaza Strip. While the chances of success are slim, the very existence of such a process may serve Israel’s strategic interests and enable the shaping of a reality that is more convenient for both Israel and the Gaza Strip population.


The Hariri Resignation:  Lebanon in the Shadow of the Saudi-Iranian Conflict

Nov 6, 2017 — INSS

The Hariri Resignation
On November 4, 2017, during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri made a sudden surprise announcement that he was resigning from office. In explaining his decision, Hariri had scathing words for Iran and Hezbollah, saying that Tehran is forcibly trying to impose facts on Lebanon: “Iran bypasses the Lebanese regime in an attempt to impose a reality on the ground.” According to Hariri, “wherever Iran is, there are civil wars and destruction…Its hands in the region will be cut off.” Hariri did not spare Hezbollah from his ire: “The organization has managed to impose a reality by the force of weapons,” adding that “we oppose the existence of weapons outside the hands of Lebanon’s legitimate governing authorities.” Hariri accused Hezbollah of trying to assassinate him, the way it assassinated his father in February 2005.