Israel’s security threats in the course of time

Marcel Serr


The forms of Israel’s security threats range from invasions over terrorist attacks to economic boycott and international isolation. The following essay concentrates on the military threats in the historical context. First, the threats caused by conventionally armed states are reflected. Subsequently, the security threat coming from non-governmental and irregular actors is dealt with. Afterwards, the threat caused by weapons of mass destruction is analysed. Israel’s close relation to the USA is an essential component of Israel’s security, so this aspect is regarded separately. Concluding, the different forms of threat are phased and current trends are outlined. Israel’s security threats can be divided into three phases:
1. Struggle for existence and consolidation (1948-1967)
During its phase of foundation, Israel’s existence was at stake, especially in the initial phase of the War of Independence. Only after the IDF had repulsed the Arabian armies and had forced them into armistices did a phase of consolidation begin. The borders of Israel, however, were difficult to defend militarily. Additionally, the security situation remained tense.
2. Regional dominance (1967-1979)
In the Six Days‘ War Israel gained an extraordinary victory which deeply changed the geo-strategic situation and the balance of powers in the Near East. Israel became a regional superpower, and thus its existence as a state was secured. With its territorial conquests, Israel additionally established borders which were easier to defend, and strategic depth as well. The benefit of these became obvious when Egypt and Syria took Israel by surprise with their attack in 1973. In addition to that, the most dangerous adversary could be neutralised with the peace treaty with Egypt. Thus, Israel’s isolation in this region ceased.
3. Rise of non-governmental actors to become the primary threat (since the 1980ies)
After the peace treaty with Cairo the danger of state-run wars against Israel decreased continuously, because without the most powerful Arabian state the remaining bordering countries were incapable of attacking Israel successfully. Thus, in the 1980ies the threat by Palestinian terrorist organisations and the Hisbollah became the primary security threat.
The current situation follows the trend of the primary threat by irregular actors. The Assad-regime has been ruled out as a potential threat for the time being, Libanon as a state entity does not represent a serious security threat; Egypt is busy fighting against the IS-scions in Sinai at the moment. For this reason, a conventional cross-national war is unlikely at present. The debilitation of the Arabian states has created a vacuum which is being filled by non-governmental actors. This also leads to a strengthening of ethnic and religious identities. For Israel, the subsequent threat scenarios are confusing. There is, however, consensus that prospectively the Near East will change unpredictably, and will thus force Israel to be very flexible and assimilable.