Turkey and Israel Ties at Low Ebb, But Could Recover
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has a rocky relationship with Israel and bilateral relations have currently reached a nadir.  But Erdoğan pursues a transactional foreign policy in general and, if interests re-align, he could once again restore robust relations with Israel.    A long-time supporter of Hamas, Erdoğan bitterly criticized Israel’s 2008 incursion into Gaza that […]
The Empathy Gap
One of the most striking characteristics of the war in Gaza is a severe deficit of empathy. Israelis and Palestinians indicate that they have no emotion left for the other side. The stress would be too unbearable. In addition, each side tends to dehumanize the other, deny the other’s suffering and promise vengeance and violence […]
How Israel’s Weakest Foe Became its Worst Enemy
Israel’s version of the Pentagon is a twin-towered office complex in HaKirya, the Compound, bordering what used to be the eastern outskirts of Tel Aviv, until 1948 when the city started expanding and flourishing. On the 14th floor of the complex is a corridor connecting the office suites of the two highest ranking officials. These […]
How Israel Wins the Postwar
Israel must finish the job of crushing Hamas in Gaza both as a military force and as a government. That’s the legitimate response to the surprise attack of October 7. This war aim also includes return of the hostages and minimizing Gazan civilian casualties to the extent possible. The Israel Defense Forces are in the […]
The Moscow Attack Should Alarm the Whole World
The March 22 terrorist attack in Moscow left 133 dead, more than 130 injured, and many urgent questions about the return of ISIS, a Syria-based terror group long thought to be vanquished.  Days before the bloodshed, the US secretly warned the Kremlin about a potential ISIS attack, giving actionable intelligence under its longstanding “duty to warn” […]
America-Israel Disagreement over Gaza at a Critical Junction
Rarely in the American special relationship with Israel has there been such a dramatic display of discord between leaders. What began as a remarkable show of American support and solidarity with Israel, in the wake of Hamas’s assault in October, came by February and March to be increasingly marred by acrimony. The White House statement […]
The Danger of Failed States Surrounding Israel
Four months into the war in Gaza and the cafés in Tel Aviv are full. It’s nearly impossible to find a spot in trendy restaurants on weekends. Yet no one should be mistaken. Israel is not back to normal.  A radio or television plays in the background of nearly every café and shop, and when […]
Self-Deterrence Will Not Stop the Houthis or Their Iranian Suppliers
Self-deterrence is a defense concept that a state may be restrained from using its military power not by the fear of a counter strike but rather owing to reputational concerns arising from moral, legal or other considerations. This concept may partly explain US reluctance to escalate the current level of military conflict with Iran, though […]
Even Before the Guns Fall Silent: Israel's Political Debates Reawaken
As 2024 began, the Israeli war effort in the Gaza Strip changed in nature (see Israel Shifts Tactics in Gaza), with the focus shifting to the battles in the central and southern areas and to special forces operations against Hamas’ immense tunnel system. But the hostage situation remained unresolved, with 136 still held according to […]
Let Israel Finish the Job
Did you know that Saddam Hussein won the First Gulf War of 1991? That is the version I heard in Iraq in 2003, after noticing the same Arabic inscription decorating chandeliers in Saddam’s palaces all over the country. ‘How sweet is victory with God’s aid,’ the inscription proclaimed. “What victory was Saddam referring to?” I […]
Israel’s Best Friend Ever
President Joe Biden’s poll numbers are in freefall. A December 14 Pew poll found that only one-third of respondents approve of his job performance, the lowest such result since he took office. Moreover, his approval ratings even among Democrats plunged twelve percentage points since October 2022.  >> Window on Washington: Read more from Dov S. Zakheim […]
Why is Israel unable to explain the war in Gaza to the world?
The scope of the massacres committed by Hamas terrorists and Gazan civilians in southern Israel on October 7 deeply shocked Israeli society. In the aftermath of October 7 Israel was shocked a second time – by multiple denials of the massacre, the indifference to Israeli women who were raped and Israeli children who were kidnapped, […]
The Hostages Held in Gaza –
And Israel's Contradictory Impulses
There is nothing rational, let alone normative, about a situation where a terror group and its affiliates took 240 people hostage – toddlers and elderly people, children and women, young revelers abused and then abducted from a desert rave, as well as soldiers (both women and men) surprised in their bases. The numbers keep changing […]
At Dawn They Slept
The best defense is a good offense. Or is it, really? October 7, 2023, the costliest day in Israel’s history, provides a stark lesson. Sometimes going on the offensive is better, and a surer way to victory, than waiting for the enemy to land the first blow. But not always, and as a state of […]
Biden's Decision and the American Military Deployment
The profound strategic implications of the American support for Israel in the war against Hamas – including a significant US military deployment to the region (two Carrier Strike Forces and an Ohio-class nuclear submarine, as well as air assets), albeit for the purpose of deterrence rather than participation in the fighting – will fully manifest […]
The primary victims of Hamas are Palestinian
On the night of January 25, 2006, after Hamas won a majority of the seats in elections for the Palestinian Legislative Council, its political leader Ismail Haniya told the press he had requested a meeting with Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to discuss the future of the Palestinian government. “Hamas will cooperate with everybody for […]
A Positive Exit Strategy From Gaza
“The real victory comes not from defeating our enemy but from achieving a better place for Israel and our Palestinian neighbors.”  Yair Lapid, Knesset Speech, October 16, 2023 The ground campaign in Gaza has yet to start as I write on October 16. Much of the world’s focus is rightly on supporting Israel’s stated objectives: […]
A Decision Not to Decide:
Israel’s View of Hamas Before October 7
In the aftermath of the Hamas attack on October 7, Israeli government and military chiefs have repeatedly promised the Israeli public that soon HAMAS will not rule over Gaza, politically or militarily. Hamas has been in power in Gaza for 16 years. Let’s review Israel’s recent history with Hamas, to show how inaction and postponing decision-making […]
Letter to my Friends:
Unite Behind the Israeli Government
Life in Jerusalem, as I imagine elsewhere, consists these days of gluing ourselves to the hourly news, updating friends and family and listening to them. One theme I get a lot directs anger at Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli government for responsibility for the mass murders that took place on Saturday. I would like […]
In the Name of God, Go
It was late in the day on Tuesday May 7, 1940, when Leo Amery, a middle-aged former minister and Conservative Party backbencher, rose in his seat to address the House of Common in the aftermath of Britain’s disastrous Norway campaign. His party leader, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, had offered a weak defense of the Norway […]
How Could This Happen?
Israelis woke up on 7 October 2023 to a day of grief, outrage, and ultimately, incomprehension.  It was not the missiles which mattered. Israelis have grown accustomed to missile attacks from Gaza. The horrors which gradually unfolded resulted from an overland breach of the Gaza border defenses. At various points in time on October 7, 14 […]
The Split within Israel’s Government over Policy towards the Palestinians: What does it Mean for Israeli-Saudi Normalization?
When Prime Minister Netanyahu convened a cabinet meeting on September 12, one week before heading to New York to address the UN General Assembly and meet President Biden and other world leaders, a contentious issue emerged: Should the families of Palestinian security prisoners (those convicted on terrorism charges) be allowed to visit once a month, […]
How Israel’s Supreme Court Can Strengthen Democracy Without Overruling the Knesset
On September 12, Israel’s Supreme Court will convene in an atmosphere of heightened political tension to listen to petitions asking it to strike down a recently-passed Knesset law. No decision from the Court is expected imminently as Israel enters a month of High Holy Days. But political compromise proposals by the Prime Minister and others […]
Was Groupthink Responsible for Israel’s Surprise in the 1973 War, Or Is That Just Another Faulty Assumption?
With the approach of the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, it’s time to revisit one of its ongoing scandals in Israel, the claim that the government’s surprise at the start of the war was caused by a set of assumptions, based on intelligence assessments, called in Hebrew the “konzepzia.” >> Inside […]
Is Israel's Military Fraying?
Worries over the Reservists’ Protest and Its Implications.
The Shrinking US Defense Budget: Its Washington Politics and Outlook for the Coming Year
Congress has never had an easy time passing defense budgets. Despite partisan bickering, however, the Congress has successfully passed 62 consecutive defense authorization acts, including for the current year.     The upcoming year’s budget appears to be a troubling exception. Sadly, the best-case scenario is for a defense budget that will be reduced for a time […]
Israel's Agenda with China
On June 27, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told a visiting American congressional group that he plans to visit Beijing later this year, adding that the US administration had been informed of this intention. No date has been set nor has the Chinese government confirmed an invitation to Netanyahu.  >>  Insight from Israel: Read more from Eran […]
The Four Tribes of Modern Israel
A high school teacher has a rebellious student in his civics class and asks her to write an essay about some issue that concerns her. She writes about the harassment that she and some other Jewish girls face at the neighborhood public swimming pool by youth from a nearby Israeli Arab village, concluding that they […]
Assessing Israel's ongoing campaign against Iran in Syria
Since 2013  – and more intensely since 2017 – Israel has been conducting an active military and intelligence campaign against Iran’s presence in Syria, in addition to the ongoing operations against Iran’s nuclear effort. Doubts have been raised as to the long-term ability of this strategy to prevent Iran from sustaining and extending its grip […]
Erdoğan and the US Congress
No one can truly predict what the next five years of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will mean for Turkey, the Middle East, the NATO alliance and Russia. The recent JST articles by Turkey experts indicate a wide range of views.  >> Window on Washington: Read more from Dov S. Zakheim Although his electoral victory in May […]
Israel's Divided Government, the Palestinians, and the US
The November 2022 elections in Israel gave the present coalition a clear majority of 64 out of 120 members of the Knesset. The coalition intended to produce a government with a firm rightwing ideological orientation. At long last, Likud party loyalists cheered, we don’t need to compromise with centrist or left-leaning partners.  >>  Insight from […]
Mike McCaul’s Hard Line on the Afghanistan Papers
Everyone recognizes that America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021 was a chaotic mess. Even the Biden administration, in a National Security Council document released on April 6, acknowledges the civilian evacuation from Kabul should have been carried out sooner. House Foreign Affairs Chairman Mike McCaul (Republican of Texas) has been adamant that the administration come […]
The Roots of Israel’s Judicial Reform Proposal
A bitter debate has now engulfed Israeli society over the proper role of the judiciary. The new government, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, began its term in January by introducing far-reaching reforms to the judiciary, which I have already described in detail. The continuing strong reaction to these proposals, well described by my JST […]
The Leaderless Protest Movement in Israel
Since December 2022, every Saturday evening after Shabbat, tens of thousands of Israelis have demonstrated against the judicial reform proposals of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government. Former generals and judges, economists, journalists, hi-tech professionals, medical workers, shopkeepers, young students and their grandparents who fought in the War of Independence, native-born Israelis and recent immigrants, and Arab […]
Netanyahu Is Playing With American Fire
As Israel’s finance minister from 2003–2005 and later as prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was the father of Israel’s economic miracle that transformed a stagnant socialist economy into a thriving “start-up nation.” Today, however, Netanyahu is on a path toward wrecking what was one of his crowning achievements. His government’s proposed judicial reforms have begun to […]
The Largest Ever US–Israel Military Exercise
In the last week of January, the US and Israel conducted the largest joint military exercise between the two countries, codenamed “Juniper Oak,” marking a milestone in the evolving cooperation between Israel and the US Central Command (CENTCOM). To those familiar with the bureaucratic handling of US–Israel military cooperation, this all seems incredible. When the […]
The Good Fight of Adina Bar-Shalom
No Woman No Cry Recently, in the ongoing nightly saga of Israel’s domestic politics, the Israeli Supreme Court disqualified Aryeh Deri, the leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas political party, from holding ministerial office. Suddenly some of his supporters suggested an unusual idea. Perhaps his wife, Yaffa, could be appointed instead. At that dramatic moment, if […]
The Battle Over Israel’s Judicial Reforms
The debate in Israel is generating a lot of heat on partisan lines, but little light. Opponents of the new government’s proposals see them stripping the judiciary of its independence and thus striking a blow to the country’s democracy. Proponents see these proposals as long overdue reforms to restrain judicial activism and bring Israel’s judiciary […]
An Israeli Perspective on Qatar’s World Cup
Few events in history have been watched live by more people around the world than the final match of the World Cup soccer tournament in Qatar on December 18, 2022. After a riveting game, it was the legendary leader of the Argentinian team—Lionel Messi—who lifted the golden trophy. Right then, as hundreds of millions were […]
Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich: Israel’s Power Couple
General Aviv Kochavi, the outgoing chief of the general staff, probably never thought that he would need to call the incoming prime minister over a political matter in his last month of service. But in December, Kochavi’s concerns over Bezalel Smotrich’s proposal to create a new position in the Defense Ministry went public. The new […]
A Revisionist View of the Intelligence Failure of the Yom Kippur War
As Israel heads into the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, one issue from that momentous war is still debated in Israel. Who was to blame for Israel’s failure to anticipate the Egyptian and Syrian surprise attack: the military intelligence officials (and by extension the organization and mentality of the intelligence establishment) […]
The 2022 Congressional Elections: The Red Wave that Wasn’t
The 2022 Congressional elections surprised virtually everyone. Until late September, the Republicans expected to take the House with a sizable majority. Perhaps it would not be the 60-plus advantage they anticipated earlier in the year, but still one in excess of twenty seats. Instead, when the 118th Congress convenes on January 3, the Republicans will […]
Why Has Netanyahu’s Coalition-Making Been so Difficult?
A magical moment is recalled in a well known Israeli song (sung by Yehudit Ravitz in 1979): “You took my hand in yours and told me, let’s go down to the garden—the things you see from there are not what you see from here.” A generation later, in 2005, the refrain “what you see from […]
Will Marwan Barghouti be the Next Palestinian President?
The first thing one sees after crossing the Qalandiya checkpoint from Jerusalem en route to Ramallah is a huge mural of Marwan Barghouti, the imprisoned Fatah leader who is seen by many Palestinians as the successor to Mahmoud Abbas. Next to Barghouti’s portrait is that of the late Yasser Arafat. Placing these two figures together […]
Not Much Left
Israeli election results of the past 30 years illustrate the dramatic decline of Israel’s formerly ruling left. In the 1992 elections, under the leadership of the late Yitzhak Rabin, the Labor Party won 44 seats (out of 120) in the Knesset, and his Meretz partner (led by its late leader, the sharp and acerbic Yossi […]
When Nation Building Works
Nation building is a US policy for transforming post-conflict countries, a policy discredited among a broad swath of Washington because of Iraq and Afghanistan. But I question this consensus and recommend rehabilitating the policy in time to help reconstruct postwar Ukraine. >> Diplomatic Dispatches: Read more from Robert Silverman Didn’t the US role in postwar Japan […]
Defense Minister Gantz Goes to Ankara
The ongoing rapprochement between Israel and Turkey was reinforced recently on October 27 by the visit to Ankara of Israel’s Defense Minister Gantz, following the groundbreaking and highly symbolic official visit of President Yitzhak Herzog in March. Gantz met with his counterpart, Hulusi Akar, considered to be one of the mainstays of the AKP government, […]
The Middle East in the New US National Security Strategy
Outlining his foreign policy objectives in 2020 in the magazine Foreign Affairs, then presidential candidate Joe Biden asserted that “it is past time to end the forever wars.” Indeed, as president, he withdrew all troops in a frenzied retreat from Afghanistan and reduced troop levels in Iraq by more than half. Ending the “forever wars” […]
The Debate Inside Israel over the Maritime Boundary Arrangement with Lebanon
Not since the Oslo Accords of 1993–1995 has an aspect of Israel’s relations with an Arab neighbor aroused such vehement argument in the Israeli public. Unlike the Oslo Accords, however, this is not a bilateral agreement signed in each other’s presence as Lebanon refuses to deal with Israel directly, in any manner that would imply […]
The Paradox of Netanyahu
Israel is once again going to the election polls on November 1, for the fifth time in less than four years with only one real issue on the agenda: “Bibi or not Bibi.” Who is this man and why did he, from among all Israeli politicians, define and shape Israel for the past generation? Today, […]
Holiday Tensions, the Iranian Factor, and Israel’s Palestinian Dilemmas
As Jews all around the world observed the three-week period of the High Holy Days, tensions kept rising in the West Bank and Jerusalem: two Israeli soldiers, one of them a young woman, were killed and several wounded in recurrent shooting attacks, and riots broke out in several areas of Jerusalem. This is not unprecedented: […]
Ukraine: The Supreme Foreign Policy Issue of the Biden Administration
Putin’s threats intensify the dilemma that has haunted the Biden administration and has influenced the degree of its support for Ukraine, almost from the outset of the war.
The Debate over Military Rules of Engagement
Shireen Abu Akleh, a Palestinian-American journalist for Al Jazeera, was killed on May 11 during a firefight between Israeli soldiers and armed Palestinians in the streets of the West Bank city of Jenin. This led to a firestorm of claims: pro-Palestinian accusations of a premeditated murder and pro-Israeli arguments of a killing by Palestinian fire. […]
Stopping the Development of Weapons of Mass Destruction: A Mossad Operation that Foreshadowed the Iran Nuclear Threat
Recent revelations, going back 60 years, shed new light on the intensity of Israel’s commitment to prevent enemy states from procuring means of mass destruction. For the last 41 years, this commitment has been public record. Following the destruction of the Iraqi nuclear facility in July 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin announced what became known […]
Biden, the Congressional Elections in November and the Nuclear Deal With Iran
Labor Day marks the end of summer holidays for most Americans. This year it’s also the beginning of the run-up to the November elections. Political opinion surveys over the past two months indicate a shift of momentum. The Republicans were initially anticipated to benefit from a “red wave” retaking the Senate and obtaining as much […]
Israel Engages Washington on Iran: What Does Lapid Hope to Achieve?
In mid-August 2022, reports began to spread in Israel’s political class about Iran’s willingness to compromise in the ongoing negotiations over a revived Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This has led to a fear that the Biden administration may finally be within reach of a deal, which would put billions in Iran’s coffers and […]
Will the Eizenkot Effect Make a Difference?
Lieutenant General Gadi Eizenkot, Israel’s former chief of staff of the Israel Defense Forces, joined Benny Gantz’s party. Gantz’s former military colleagues vanished from the political scene. Will the same now happen to Eizenkot?
Yair Lapid—Will He Take Down Netanyahu?
I am the man of tomorrow who also lives the past. In my lineage are Moses, Jesus, Rambam, Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Albert Einstein, Woody Allen, Bobby Fischer, Bob Dylan, Franz Kafka, Herzl and Ben Gurion. I am part of a tiny and persecuted minority, who influenced the world more than any other people. While […]
Turkey, Israel, and the Road to Capitol Hill
On August 17, 2022 when the governments of Turkey and Israel announced their agreement to restore full diplomatic relations, Washington voiced its approval and support. But it was not the Biden administration that promoted the reconciliation between the two states.
The Significance of the I2U2 Summit–The New Quad
President Joe Biden’s July 2022 Middle East trip received mixed reviews. The White House apparently had hoped that the president’s visit would prompt the Saudi Kingdom to take some steps toward normalizing relations with Israel, given the tremendous success of the Abraham Accords. Riyadh would go no further than to open its airspace to all […]
“From Khan Younis to Tehran”
Israel’s Latest Message of Deterrence
Restoring Public Trust: A Challenge for the Next Israeli Chief of Staff
This coming January, Israel’s Chief of Staff will end his four-year term of duty. One of the main challenges facing the new chief of staff will be restoring the public trust in Israel’s military.
Israel Wins a Round in the Proxy War With Iran
Why did the IDF launch an attack on the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, knowing full well that this would lead to rocket attacks and counterstrikes?
Reflections on Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri
Reflections on Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri and the Role of the Muslim Brotherhood in his Radicalization
The Lost Opportunity of Mahmoud Abbas
Throughout a lengthy political career, president of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas experienced endless ups and downs.
The American Way of Belt and Roads Projects
The story of the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline.
Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and the Re-Pharaonization of Egypt
El-Sisi is increasingly acting to put Egypt’s unique claims to fame as the oldest civilization.
It’s All About Resilience
The Role of Public Opinion in the War in Ukraine
Alternative Views in Intelligence Analysis
Placement of quality personnel who are immune to ideological kinship and ulterior motives will get better results than exercises in re-organization.
The David of Ukraine
How did the successful comedian become president of Ukraine?
The Great Washington Divide Over the Defense Budget
The U.S. government was unable to agree on a budget for five months after the beginning of the fiscal year. Continuing resolutions have become a congressional addiction.
Hassan Nasrallah, Master of Lebanon
What comes next for the most powerful man in one of the Middle East’s weakest countries?
The Role of the IDF in Israel’s COVID-19 Crisis
Do the advantages of utilizing the IDF in responding to a the Covid-19 crisis outweigh the disadvantages?
Is Diplomacy A Profession?
Ambassadorial positions should be filled with diplomats who meet the highest standards of the profession together with occasional non-professionals who bring a fresh perspective. But that is not how US diplomacy is generally staffed these days.
How Israel Became a Pro-American Democracy
Ben-Gurion’s Grand Strategy and the Role of American Jewry
Time for AI Assessment
War is a human endeavor, and the assessment of warlike trends is too important to be left to machines
America’s Political Troubles
Washington is suffering from a severe case of political gridlock. Are internal divisions sapping American leadership?
Bad News—in Time: Secret Talks with Amos Gilead
Literature review: Shimon Shiffer's "Warning Lights, Secret Talks with Amos Gilead"
Same Mistakes for Israel in Lebanon, US in Afghanistan
Israel’s Lebanon Syndrome, the US’ Afghanistan Syndrome: Different military stories, similar conclusions
The Lost Battle of Ahmad Jibril
This man had dedicated his life to Israel’s extermination. What remains of his legacy of violence?
Afghanistan: The Ten Big Mistakes
America’s chaotic exit was merely the culmination of a series of major errors, going back to 2001
Know Thy Partner
Why “knowing the enemy” and “knowing thyself” is not enough
A Diplomatic Look Before We Leap
What Congress can do to improve the executive branch’s decision-making process
What Makes Israel “Iran’s Arch-Enemy”
How the Sunni–Shiite divide became a revolutionary mission, affecting the entire Middle East
A Promised Land
Literature review: The Obama memoir, like his presidency, over-promises and under-delivers
The Surfacing Submarine Submerging (Again)
The Mossad used to be a stealthy submarine. Under its new chief, it will revert to being a silent service
The IDF’s Concept of Information Campaigns
The IDF should draw some conclusions from recent conflicts on how to revise its information campaigns
With Twitter and Email, Do We Still Need Cables?
Neither email nor Twitter replaces the carefully drafted diplomatic dispatch
Ideology, Asymmetric Warfare, and Deterrence
For some, the higher the cost, the stronger the claim to be the true representatives of values worth dying for
When America Creates a Vacuum, Others Fill It
America’s adversaries are not the only ones to respond to Washington’s changing regional priorities
Vladimir Putin, a Tsar Without an Empire
Can Putin lead not only with power, but with solidarity, diplomacy, cooperation, and trust?
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