Yehezkel Dror
Israeli Statecraft: National Security Challenges



Prepared by Michael Marien


September 2011
Israeli Statecraft: National Security Challenges and Responses. Yehezkel Dror (Prof of Pol Sci and Public Admin Emeritus, Hebrew U of Jerusalem).  London & NY: Routledge, July 2011, 246p., $109.76

On occasion, a few books offer much more than what is promised by the title. Dror is a former senior staff member of RAND Corporation and has published 15 books in ten languages, notably Crazy States (Heath, 1971) and The Capacity to Govern: A Report to the Club of Rome (Frank Cass, 2001, 264p), which describes our "age of radical transformations," and, accordingly, urges "radically redesigned" governance at all levels. Topics include 10 characteristics of global change such as multiplying complexity and intense frustrations (also see 10 Global Megatrends, below), increasing plutocracy, 10 facets of high-quality governance (learning, knowledge-intense, deep-thinking, holistic), fostering raison d’humanite as a moral imperative in decision-making, empowering people with "public affairs enlightenment," making global governance more resolute, and strengthening oversight at all levels of governance.

Dror writes in a uniquely crisp and compact style, with readable lists of clustered ideas (some of which are outlined below), backed up with voluminous documentation (the bibliography lists c.900 items). He is not shy about giving praise, but is mostly critical of scholars and politicians for a variety of shortcomings, while urging a higher rationality under the umbrella term of "statecraft," and making a large number of provocative—but well--informed--21st century forecasts and proposals from an Israeli vantage point. This is futures-thinking at its best: sophisticated, broad-ranging, and challenging. And a valuable non-European/American perspective on world affairs in general and the Middle East in particular.


"Contemporary statecraft in most countries, including Israel, clearly illustrates the power of dead ideas and the tyranny of the status quo." Many publications deal with strategy and can in part be applied to statecraft, but "most of the literature suffers from serious weaknesses":

  • uncertainty, which faces all statecraft, is inadequately and often wrongly handled; the core nature of statecraft, "fuzzy gambling" [an original concept from Dror] is ignored or mistreated);
  • statecraft attempts to impact on the future by intervening in historical processes; its quality thus depends on understanding such processes, but is often ignored;
  • the critical importance of creativity in improving the quality of statecraft is inadequately addressed;
  • systematic approaches to upgrading statecraft elites and institutions are underdeveloped.

"Statecraft conjectural thinking explores possible or likely impacts of alternative options on the future, with the help of various outlook approaches, while trying to avoid wrong learning from the past; but such thinking tends to be very error-prone and even at its best is inherently limited." This problem of errors is shared by statecraft everywhere, but is especially vexing for Israel because:

  • the Middle East is one of the most volatile geopolitical regions;
  • serious errors may cause much damage to Israel and even endanger its very existence (in Israel, idealism and trust in its destiny are exceptionally pronounced);
  • important parts of Israeli statecraft suffer from "intelligent simplicity" resulting in impressive successes which are inadequate for coping with ultra-change and hard uncertainty;
  • Israeli security problems are of paramount concern, and thus "experts in violence" have a lot to say in statecraft choices;Israel is a small state but is globally connected, often intensively so (largely due to the need for political support, and because of the distribution of Jewish communities in many countries);
  • Israel is not accepted as legitimate in Arab and Islamic cultures, and gaining this status "may take till the end of the 21st century, even with optimistic assumptions about a Greater Middle East peace"; but parts of the Arab statecraft elite are viewed as willing to reach an agreement with Israel and cooperate with it;
  • Israel’s expectation of a lot of violence puts it on a collision course with the statecraft of countries based on a different and rosier view of the future, such as in much of Europe.



The reality of 21st century statecraft involves the coexistence of ultra-dynamics and their interactions as a main cause of ruptures that are likely to come: four examples of profound importance that will bring out radical system instabilities:

  • The necessity for expensive, difficult, and controversial global action on climate issues, colliding with the built-in incapacity of states to agree on decisive and large-scale active and allocation of costs ("this, as well as other possible calamities such as a ‘limited’ nuclear war, is likely to result in a global system discontinuity, probably after some climate or other large-scale calamities, leading to a radically different global order");
  • Relative slow change of humanitarian values and legal norms, confronted by much more rapid change in violence modalities such as aggressive-fanatic non-state actors;
  • The ultra-change of the global power system with increased standing of Asian countries is likely to conflict with continuous dominance of Western value systems, resulting in new global ways of thinking and pluralism of dominant ideologies;
  • The increasing power of civilizations and faiths not based on the Bible, and for which the idea of a Jewish state and of Judaism lacks legitimacy.

"Ultra-dynamics, the occurrence of the highly improbable, many unknown unknowns, and the possibility of phase jumps makes the future dense with hard uncertainty." But there is one mega-invariance: the factors that made the 20th century the bloodiest in human history "are likely to continue and escalate." At the same time, the ability of a few superpowers to impose limitations on violence, and their readiness to pay the blood price for doing so, is likely to decrease. Other counter-violence factors, such as global governance and international law, "are unlikely to reach the critical mass necessary to significantly reduce violence during the first half of the 21st century, and probably beyond it." Additionally, "new forms of attack, demographic pressures, resource scarcity, ideological fanaticism, and ethnic hostilities are likely further to strengthen the factors making the 21st century another one of dispersed carnage."

An authoritative global oligarchy of states may impose constraints on violence, with or without a global governance umbrella, but this is unlikely without the shock effects of major killings hitting the superpowers, and will take quite some time to become effective.

This outlook is very likely. There will be significant differences between continents and regions, but no real "zones of peace." This view of 21st century security futures applies with vengeance to the Greater Middle East, due to fundamentalism becoming fanaticism, traditions of violence, social deprivation, demographic pressures, large-scale unemployment of the young, resource scarcities, failed states, and reckless rulers. "These problems are very unlikely to disappear in the first half of the 21st century and may well continue for all of it and beyond."



With the mega-invariance in mind, Chapter 5 discusses ten long-term “mega-trends of profound importance for Israel’s statecraft”:

  Intensified Faiths, Including Aggressive Fanaticism.  Faiths in all their variety are the deepest structure on which societies, self-understanding, and statecraft are based.  This is especially so with Israel.  There will be no end of ideologies, no continuous secularization, and no reduced impacts of faiths on geostrategy.  Even less is any hope that religions will be a main factor in bringing about peace, though dialogues can be of some help and do no harm.  “One can speculate on the more radical possibility that the Enlightenment in its 17th and 18th century versions is in decline.”
Rising Islam.  Closely related to the above is the near-certainty of more Muslims.  In 2009, they numbered 1.6 billion worldwide (23% of total world population), in contrast to Jews (0.2% of world population).  These numbers are increasing due to high birth rates and missionary activities.  Despite cleavages, especially between Shia and Sunni Muslims, there is some sense of solidarity.  Islam has a strong jihad component, and an expansionist belief system.  Thus “a rise in the power of Islam is very likely.”
  Continuous Crucial Importance of Leaders, Together with Unstable Succession Patterns.  Leaders are very important and can make quite a difference.  Top-level leaders are very powerful in most Arab countries, and also in democratic Israel, though less so.  The crucial importance in the Greater Middle East of a few strong leaders in influencing major events is likely to continue.
  Growing Significance of Nonstate Actors.  These actors are of rapidly growing importance, and a variety of local and global NGOs exert increasing influence.  But violent nonstate actors are the most important ones for Israel.  A different evolving danger is posed by “havoc start-ups”: small groups or individuals who initiate action against chosen targets out of anger and fanatic commitment.  Different but no less significant are various nonstate action groups that engage in “nonviolent violence” against Israel, e.g. cyber attacks, lawsuits, and ships breaking blockades.
  Radically Novel Science and Technology Impacts.  Sci/tech will increasingly enable fewer persons and smaller groups to kill greater numbers, and will also enable new forms of attack to which Israel as a high-tech country is vulnerable.
  Kill and Damage Capacity Intensification and Proliferation.  Hard-to-detect explosives, toxic materials, and mass-killing mutated viruses are likely to be developed, and cyber war opens new attack possibilities.  To this must be added proliferation in the Greater Middle East of a range of killing instruments, and the number of  “easy” targets enabled by the Western way of life.
  Harder Competition for Resources.  The Middle East and North Africa will suffer from reduced rainfall, increased drought, and Mediterranean flooding in low coastal areas.  Results include scarcities of fresh water, reduction in land use potentials, food shortages, migration pressures, social conflict, and state destabilization.  “Turmoil in Greater Middle East countries aggravated by resource scarcities may motivate leaders to seek enemies, with Israel being a prime target.”
  Diminishing US Hegemony.  Status of the US seems to be declining, though it will continue to be the strongest superpower until the middle of the 21st century, as long as it does not suffer a failure of will.  The two main systemic reasons for some decline are the rise of other states, notably China, and increasing US desire to move toward multilateralism.  The US economic crisis adds to these factors.
  Slowly Strengthening but Inadequate Global Governance, with a Possible Quantum Leap.  The very nature of the critical issues facing humanity is increasingly global, which exerts pressures toward strengthened global governance, though no development of a “global government” can be expected in the 21st century. However, obsolete notions of the equality of states and the dysfunctional structure of the UN and of other global institutions hinders development of an adequate global order system.  This creates a growing gap between the needs of raison d’humanitie and democratic political realities imposing on rulers the duty to first take care of their citizens.  For Israeli statecraft, global governance cannot be relied on to assure Israel’s security.
  More of “One World,” but Not a “Flat” One.  While some layers will become more “flat,” values, faiths, cultures, worldviews, living conditions, and much more will be quite different in various parts of the world.  These “limited layers” are important, but this trend is selective.  The pluralistic nature of the world is likely to become even more pronounced when non-Western Christian civilizations and states become increasingly influential.  There will be less of an accepted overall model of a “normal” state.  “This pluralism will make it easier for Israel to preserve and strengthen its unique features as a Jewish state and be fully legitimized as such, removing some obstacles to Israeli statecraft.”



  Arab Spring.  Long-term effects of regime upheavals in Tunisia, Egypt, and elsewhere, starting in Feb 2011, while unpredictable, “are unlikely to reduce anti-Israeli attitudes and may well augment them, posing serious security challenges; at the same time, “the global strategic significance of Israel as a democratic and powerful stable state in the whirlpools of the Greater Middle East may be strengthened.”
  Concrete Contingencies that May Confront Israel in the Next 10-20 Years.  Brief scenarios resulting from destabilization of Arab states (due to severe and protracted economic crises and record-low oil prices), a comprehensive peace agreement, large-scale non-violent aggression, coordinated waves of long-range missile attacks, mega-terror attacks using chemical or biological substances, Jordan destabilization following establishment of a Palestinian state, a paralyzing cyber attack, a multidimensional legal onslaught charging Israel with crimes against humanity, weakened US support, disrupted oil supplies, NATO membership, and a UN-enforced “solution” to the Palestinian problem.  Each contingency is followed by a briefly-stated “optimistic” outcome and a “pessimistic” outcome, required preparedness, and actual Israeli statecraft.
  Confronting Iran.  Israeli choices on action or inaction in respect to Iran are “fuzzy gambles” for very high stakes.  Iran poses the most difficult and risky statecraft challenge to Israel, and is not adequately understood.  Several scenarios follow: information on Iranian intent to attack with nuclear weapons, Iran willing to put its nuclear facilities under international supervision if Israel does so, international pressure on Iran, an Israeli military operation hits Iran’s nuclear capability hard, Iran develops nuclear weapons, etc.
  Arab-Israeli Conflict Morphology.  On the intricate facts of the conflict so as to “understand it holistically as a dynamic system.”  Elements include state-founding ontology, geopolitics, Jewish-Islamic history, Islamic actors, Palestinians, Jewish People, main powers, and the many layers of global governance (which are not likely to become a major factor, although some facets may gain more influence).
 Conflict System Dynamics Proto-Model.  Sums up seven “systems laws” and conjectures on the main system dynamics (e.g., ultra-dynamic with much invariance, significant interaction with global actors, violence and threats as the main system driver).
  Heroic Achievements and Dismal Failures.  Major Israeli achievements largely due to high-quality statecraft and good military planning include the War of Independence, the Six Day War, successful cooperation with periphery states, gaining support from major powers, the overall success of the ambiguous and opaque nuclear image, etc.  In contrast, main Israeli statecraft failures include bad handling of humanitarian issues and investigations, great difficulties with the UN, inadequate integration of the Arab minority into Israeli society, and—above all others—a “radically incorrect statecraft paradigm on the occupied territories.”
  Serious Weaknesses of Israeli Statecraft.  Lack of foresight and delay of deliberations until many good options are no longer open, bad management of the national security decision process, inadequate critical examination of military plans, too little uncertainty sophistication, inadequate consideration of bad contingencies, weak learning, etc.
  Statecraft Error-Causing Factors.  Lists 20 factors, including overload, ideological fundamentalism, hot thinking, hubris, existential anxieties, now-time dominance, too much unsystematic “informalism,” dysfunctional statecraft structures, “do-ism” to cut short discourse on statecraft issues before their depth is exposed, anti-intellectualism of the very intelligent (poor reading habits, simplistic thinking relying on so-called “common sense,” inadequate knowledge, etc), scarcity of outstanding leaders who can cut through blockages, etc.
  A Realistic Vision for Israeli National Security by 2050.  Most Arab states develop at least some cooperation with Israel, agreements with a Palestinian state and with Syria, Greater Middle East modernization, Israel continues military superiority including an opaque image of nuclear capacities
  A Realistic Nightmare for Israeli National Security by 2050.  Widespread Middle East turmoil with Israel as a main target, peace agreements destabilized, mass-killing weapons proliferate, a very charismatic Arab leader emerges who promises to unite the Islamic world and get rid of the Jewish state, moderate Arab states become radical, poor global standing of Israel, etc.
  “Israeli Embassy in Riyadh” Peace Paradigm.  A main paradigm change in Israeli statecraft would be advancing a comprehensive Greater Middle East peace in an all-Muslim context, symbolized by an Israeli embassy in key Arab and Islamic countries.  Islamic actors will be more of a global power in the 21st century, so waiting for the “right time” to move seriously toward peace probably means more bloodshed and escalation.  The status quo of conflict management is unsustainable.
  “Dwelling in the World” Global Paradigm.  “The most important required statecraft paradigm shift is from quite a lot of thinking and action in terms of ‘dwelling apart’ to ‘dwelling in the world.’”  The Jewish people are different from other people, but this view should not imply that Israel does not identify with humanity as a whole or share fundamental human values.  The sense of being a people apart is in many ways realistic, but the world is Israel’s arena and Israel is closely tied to globalization.  “Dwelling in the world” statecraft principles include upgraded relations with main powers, improved relations with global governance and civil society, a shared Israel-Diaspora “mending the world” endeavor, etc.  “Mending the world is an important commandment in Jewish civilization, tradition, and religion, but is also of profound realpolitik importance.”

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