Former Director of the Mossad
Member of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) Steering Committee
Liberal | 01.07.2019
In the Region
Israel has reached a momentous crossroad in its relations with the pragmatic Arab countries. These countries make no secret of their willingness to take steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, provided that progress on the Palestinian front offers them the political cover for doing so.
The pragmatic Arab countries’ realization that they and Israel are threatened by the same subversive entities, led by Iran, has added momentum to this trend. Good relations with these countries hold promise not only to Israel’s economy but primarily to its security. Coordination with Israel, which already takes place clandestinely and on a limited scale, could gradually evolve into operational coordination, potentially culminating in a regional security system that could become a new and important element in Israel’s security.
Annexation legislation will be interpreted in the region and beyond as a decision by Israel to slam the door on a future two-state solution. Not only will it prevent any progress in Israel’s relations in the region, but will very likely terminate the existing limited cooperation. Legislated annexation will exacerbate these countries’ fear that public awareness of their cooperation with Israel – in security or other matters – could arouse popular rage at home. Likewise, they fear that their enemies, headed by Iran, will utilize leaks of their cooperation with an annexationist Israel in campaigns designed to undermine regime legitimacy. These countries are consequently liable to sacrifice one security interest – cooperation with Israel, to preserve another – regime stability.
Annexation will undermine another important pillar of Israel’ security: the unprecedented degree of security cooperation with Egypt and Jordan. This cooperation is crucial to Israel in two critical ways: first, in its contribution to internal and regime stability in these two strategically valued neighbors. Second, security coordination has extends Israel’s strategic depth eastward, way beyond its border with Jordan and, as far as Egypt is concerned, security cooperation there does not stop at the international border either.
Stable relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the possibility of a two-state solution will make it easier for Jordan and Egypt to continue this cooperation, despite public hostility toward Israel in both countries. Any move towards annexation will inflame popular opinion, forcing both regimes to respond aggressively – even against their will – including by suspending relations, closing down of embassies, and probably curtailing security cooperation.
On the International Theater
The leading countries in the European Union are likely to respond harshly to annexation legislation, including taking concrete measures, such as political and economic sanctions. One case in point is Germany, Israel’s sole supplier of strategic naval platforms, which also helps pay for them. Germany is liable to change its stance in response to legislated annexation, thereby affecting Israel’s strategic capabilities. Russia and China – the non-Western permanent UN Security Council members – are also likely to adopt punitive measures and scale down their bilateral relations with Israel.
Even the response of the Trump administration should not be taken for granted, especially now that the Democratic Party has a majority in the House of Representatives. A hostile American attitude towards annexation might damage Israel’s most important security relationship.
As legislated annexation – however partial in scope — is likely to trigger an outbreak of violence, the collapse of the PA, and an Israeli takeover of all of the West Bank, the international community can thence be expected to adopt punitive measures against Israel.
The international consensus around the two-state solution will erode, with increasing pressure on Israel to grant equal rights to all of its citizens, millions of annexed Palestinians included. Israel will face the worst strategic dilemma in its history: it will have to choose between the status of an outcast country like South Africa of the 1990s and the loss of its Jewish character.
All who value a safe and democratic Israel with a solid Jewish majority must take action to thwart any move towards destructive annexation.