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 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.


The Limits of Restraint: Hamas in Gaza and a Confrontation with Israel

Oct 30, 2017 — INSS

The Limits of Restraint: Hamas in Gaza and a Confrontation with Israel
The severe economic crisis and deplorable conditions in the Gaza Strip, which worsened over the past year with the significant reduction in the supply of electricity, have spurred Hamas’s leadership to turn to several regional states for help, particularly Egypt, Qatar, and Turkey. Hamas’s reliance on diplomatic contact with these states coincides with a lengthy period of military restraint, whereby the organization does not fire at Israel and imposes a state of security calm on the organizations that heed its authority. It seems that Hamas has determined that at present, a military conflict does not serve its interests, and on the contrary, would only worsen the living conditions of the Gaza population. Therefore, Hamas leaders prefer to seek diplomatic channels to resolve civilian problems. This regional diplomacy benefits Israel as well, because it is an alternative to an expanded military escalation in the Gaza sector.


Baghdad Regains Control of Kirkuk: Strategic Implications

Oct 24, 2017 — INSS

Baghdad Regains Control of Kirkuk: Strategic Implications
In a swift military action on October 16-17, 2017, the Iraqi government regained control of Kirkuk from the Kurds, who took over the area in 2014. The oil-rich Kirkuk district has been a source of conflict and the subject of negotiations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan Regional Government for many years. However, until now the central government in Baghdad refrained from military conflict over the area, since in recent years efforts were focused on joint activities against the Islamic State. In the background to the takeover are the results of the referendum in the Kurdish region held on September 25, 2017, in which 93 percent of voters confirmed the Kurdish desire for independence. Kurdish independence aspirations encountered sweeping opposition from the Baghdad government, Iran, and Turkey, as well as from the international community, particularly the United States.


The S-400 Deal: Russia Drives another Wedge between Turkey and its NATO Allies

Oct 19, 2017 — INSS

The recent statement by Turkish President Erdogan that Ankara had made an advance payment to Russia for the purchase of two S-400 air defense batteries, combined with Russia’s confirmation of this report, constitutes a significant development that adds to the question marks about Turkey’s future in NATO. This development also strengthens Russia’s standing in the Middle East, because it is another expression of the rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara. However, the Turkish-Russian rapprochement does not by itself reduce the leverage available to the West in its relations with Turkey, above all the defense relations in the context of NATO and the extensive trade between Turkey and the European Union. While many believe that Turkey will remain a NATO member for the foreseeable future, they note at the same time that Turkey is a problematic member of the alliance that is already suffering from quite a few internal tensions.


King Salman’s Visit to Moscow: Affirmation of Russian Influence in the Middle East

Oct 19, 2017 — INSS

The recent visit by Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz to Russia was described by Saudi Arabia as historic; Moscow likewise attributed much significance to the visit, because it regards Saudi Arabia as a key Middle East state, and because it saw in it Riyadh’s recognition of Russia’s influence in the region. Despite their differences on Syria and other issues, Riyadh and Moscow have a string of common interests, headed by the goal of stabilizing oil prices. Furthermore, Moscow realizes that not only will it be difficult to enhance its influence in the Middle East without improving its relations with Riyadh, but that Riyadh still has considerable influence on the forces opposing Assad, and therefore on the chances of a settlement in Syria, as well as influence on Islamic forces in Russia itself. As for Israel, Russia is keeping close track of the discourse about an Israeli-Saudi rapprochement as part of the formation of an anti-Iran regional front.


The Trump-Netanyahu Meeting: An Opportunity for Policy Coordination on Iran in Light of the North Ko

Sep 14, 2017 — INSS

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Donald Trump in New York in late September. With the events in the Korean peninsula in the background, the two leaders will almost certainly discuss this crisis and the lessons for preventing nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. Indeed, the parallel between the challenges to the United States posed by North Korea’s nuclear program and the Iranian nuclear program is clear. Both regimes regard the United States as a threatening ideological enemy, and both have systematically violated international norms, in part to develop military nuclear capabilities. However, the two cases are not identical, and it is important to understand the limitations of the parallel, particularly in order to focus on what can nevertheless be learned from the case of North Korea and applied to Iran.


Russia in Syria: Between Iran and Israel

Sep 3, 2017 — INSS

The central issue discussed in the August 23, 2017 meeting between Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin was the growing Iranian involvement in Syria and the role that Russia is assigning to Iran in shaping the future political arrangement in the war-torn state. Israel’s struggle against Iran’s growing influence in Syria will be determined by the ability of both Iran and Israel to exercise effective levers of influence on Russia. Russia for its part will try to maneuver between Israeli demands and the need for cooperation with Iran, partly by making conflicting promises to each side. Therefore, Israel should treat Russia’s promises in this context with caution, and improve its readiness to use force wisely and with a low signature, against Iran’s objectives for establishing itself in Syria.

There are conflicting reports, mostly speculative, regarding the August 23, 2017 meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Vladimir Putin in Sochi. The central issue discussed was growing Iranian involvement in Syria and the role that Russia is assigning to Iran in shaping the future political arrangement in the war-torn state. Already before the meeting, Israel sent strong messages relaying that the continued Iranian presence in Syria constituted a concrete threat to it. At the same time, there was an Israeli effort to persuade the United States to refrain from completely abandoning the Syrian arena to Russia, and indirectly to Iran. Indeed, most areas controlled by the Islamic State that were freed by the United States have been seized by Iran and its proxies.


Seven Memorable “Guterres Moments” for Israel during the UN Secretary-General’s First Seven Mo

Aug 27, 2017 — INSS

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is scheduled to visit Israel for the first time in late August 2017, seven full months after assuming the prestigious post in January 2017. Upon his election, the Israeli establishment expressed hope that Guterres’ leadership would lead to a change in the UN’s bias against Israel. In considering seven milestones during the past seven months, Guterres’ actions, rhetoric, and statements on Israel-related issues create the impression that he is indeed committed to bettering the situation.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is scheduled to visit Israel for the first time in late August 2017, seven full months after assuming the prestigious post in January 2017. In ascending to the position of the world’s top diplomat, Guterres prevailed in an election process that was unprecedented in its accessibility to the world’s citizenry through social media and, consequently, in the public interest that the process generated.


The Crisis in the Gulf: A Case Study of the Effectiveness of Sanctions as a Tool for Conducting Poli

Aug 24, 2017 — INSS

The boycott of Qatar by its neighbors in the Gulf is expected to affect the rate of its growth, but if Qatar succeeds in easing the capital flight, it will not result in a severe, long-term recession. As most of the costs incurred in the retreat from integration among the countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council affect the longer term and will not create immediate pressure on the countries boycotting Qatar, it is reasonable to assume that the costs also will not play a central role in shaping their policies in the crisis. These assumptions do not contradict the assertion that continuation of the crisis could have structural effects on the region’s economy.


Egypt’s Challenging Shift from Counterterrorism to Counterinsurgency in the Sinai

Aug 24, 2017 — INSS

Since June 2017, Egypt has faced a notable rise in terrorist attacks from Salafi-jihadist groups in the Sinai Peninsula that are affiliated with the Islamic State (IS) and from Islamist organizations inside the Nile Valley. Due to increasing violence, Egypt declared a country-wide state of emergency in April, and extended it in June for another three months. Security has been stepped up around public areas and religious sites. On July 7, Sinai Province, the Egyptian affiliate of IS, employed suicide car bombs and gunmen to attack an Egyptian military outpost near Rafah, killing at least twenty-three soldiers. In response, Egypt launched the fourth phase of the operation “Martyr’s Right” against cells of the Sinai Province in North and Central Sinai, so far killing dozens of terrorists.


The Iranian Threat in Syria: As Bad as It Seems?

Aug 23, 2017 — INSS

The question of Syria’s future, especially the issue of Iran’s influence and presence in the country, was at the center of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting with President Putin. On the table are a range of possible scenarios of Iranian levels of intervention for which Israel is preparing, against an array of strategic considerations that will influence Iran’s policy. The Iranian threat from Syria does not pose an intolerable security challenge for Israel right now and probably will not in the future, especially if Israel wisely exploits the range of tools at its disposal to reduce Iran’s dominance and curb the Iranian threat in the Syrian arena.

When the Syrian civil war broke out, Iran sided with President Bashar al-Assad. As time has passed and the threat to the stability of the Assad regime has grown, Iran’s involvement in the fighting has become more pronounced. Shia militias made up of foreigners (from Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere) and Hezbollah—all under Iranian command—have been dispatched to the battlefield alongside units of the Revolutionary Guards and regular Iranian army troops. Iranian proxies are the mainstay ground forces of the pro-Assad coalition that has been led by Russia since the fall of 2015.


Europe’s Challenges Open the Market for Israel’s Arms Industry

Aug 21, 2017 — INSS

In the past few years, the European demand for arms has increased due to the significant security challenges that have developed throughout the continent. This trend has also resulted in a marked increase in Israeli defense exports to European countries, which is expected to continue in the years to come, especially to Eastern Europe. This development requires that Israel act cautiously—among other reasons—in order to avoid a direct diplomatic clash with Russia, which is the primary reason for the current European armament.

In 2015, Europe became the second largest destination for Israeli arms exports as the scope of European defense deals with Israel more than doubled—from $724 million in 2014 to $1.6 billion in 2015. This trend continued in 2016, as Israel’s defense exports to European countries reached $1.8 billion, far exceeding its transactions with the countries of North America ($1.265 billion), Latin America ($550 million), and Africa ($275 million) but still less than its defense exports to the countries of Asia ($2.6 billion).


North Korean ICBM Tests: No Surprises, No Good Answers

Aug 7, 2017 — INSS

While North Korea’s recent nuclear tests significantly raised the level of fear in the United States, they were not a surprise. North Korea, long a nuclear state, is a dangerous nuclear proliferator that has shirked international commitments. Pyongyang issues highly aggressive rhetoric toward the United States and its regional neighbors on a regular basis; it flaunts its nuclear capability and threatens to use it, and tends to share nonconventional know-how and technologies. And herein lies a link to Tehran: as Iran also remains motivated in the nuclear realm despite the JCPOA, the direct implications of North Korea’s activities for Iran’s nuclear program must be under constant scrutiny. The indirect implications for dealing with Iran’s nuclear motivation invoke the ability to rely on negotiations to stop a determined proliferator. The North Korean case of failed negotiations must be heeded when thinking about Iran.


Israel and American Jewry: Stepping Back from the Brink

Aug 1, 2017 — INSS

The controversies surrounding the Israeli government’s recent decisions concerning the Western Wall and a bill on conversion underscore key divides in Israeli-Diaspora relations. The ensuing crisis took many Israeli political leaders by surprise, which itself is evidence of a deep disconnect between Israeli leaders attuned to Israeli voters, and the attitudes of American Jewish leaders and activists. Anyone who spends time these days in American Jewish communities cannot fail to note the anger and feelings of personal betrayal. It is a raw moment, which requires careful handling by leaders on both sides to pull Israel and many of its key supporters back from the brink of a potentially irreparable split.

Jerusalem’s holy sites have a way of asserting strategic significance far beyond what their simple physical presence would suggest. Events in the aftermath of the shooting of two Israeli police officers on the Temple Mount highlight this truth.


From the Temple Mount to the Israeli Embassy in Jordan

Jul 31, 2017 — INSS

The tension on the Temple Mount and the crisis between Israel and Jordan following the attack on a security guard at the Israeli embassy in Amman need more than ad hoc solutions that leave the basic situation – the catalyst underlying these events – unresolved, and the strategic opportunities in efforts to reach an agreement untapped.