Military Strategy Magazine  /  Volume 4, Issue 2  /  

Updating the ‘Security Concept’

Updating the ‘Security Concept’ Updating the ‘Security Concept’
To cite this article: Shabtai, Shay, “Updating the ‘Security Concept’,” Infinity Journal, Volume 4, Issue 2, fall 2014, pages 4-11.

© Lucidwaters | – IDF – Israel Infantry Corps Photo

“The most dangerous enemy to Israel’s security is the intellectual inertia of those who are responsible for security”

– David Ben Gurion[i]

From “security concept” to security strategy, security doctrine and security policy

National security is the preoccupation with safeguarding the existence of the state, defending its citizens and vital interests, and promoting national goals. Three fundamental levels of national discourse and documents addressing the issue are recognized worldwide – National Strategy or National Security White Paper;[ii] National Security Doctrine or National Security Guidance;[iii] and National Security Policy or National Security Review.[iv]

The State of Israel has no formal classification of security documents, as can be found in other leading nations of the world. In Israel, the term “national security concept” was formulated in reference to a partial discourse at the different levels. As a result, no organized, formal discourse has been held in Israel on the national security level, and no key general principles and concepts, regarding security doctrine, have been outlined (deterrence, decision, etc.). Thus, there is a clear need for a formal articulation of the national security concept, which might also be called the National Security Policy.

A crucial point in the definition of Israel’s security strategy is the supreme objective (policy). For the purpose of the present discussion, I will define this as preserving Israel as a safe, advanced, highly developed, Jewish Democratic State with a superior status among nations.[v]

Existing Strategic Principles

Israel’s strategic security principles were formulated in the first two decades of the State under the leadership of David Ben Gurion as “the supreme objectives of the security concept”. Ben Gurion understood that Israel must engage in a lengthy struggle, until the region recognizes the right of its existence. In light of its clear geo-strategic inferiority by comparison with Arab states (in terms of territorial size, numerical population and resources), the country had to establish five fundamental principles:[vi]

a. Conventional quality advantage – the State of Israel strove for the IDF to have a clear advantage in terms of quality over its rivals at that time[vii] – the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and other nations. This principle led to the preventive war of 1956, intended to curb Egypt’s dangerously rising power, and to the preventive strike of 1967.

b. Broad deterrence – David Ben Gurion aimed to create and maintain significant military deterrence based on Israel’s qualitative edge.[viii]

c. Special relationship with a superpower – David Ben Gurion laid down two principles that form the basis of Israel’s security to the present day. One was a strategic decision to form a strong connection with the United States (US) as opposed to the Soviet Union; the other was the need for superpower backing. This principle was expressed through the formulation of ties with Great Britain and France in the Sinai Campaign and further strong military ties with the French. During the 1960s, relations with France cooled and Israel grew ever closer to the US. Thus, Ben Gurion’s dual decision merged into one and became the “Special Relationship” with the United States.[ix]

d. Technological and economic excellence – Ben Gurion understood that Israel, lacking natural resources and small in size and population by comparison with surrounding states, could survive only if it achieved technological and economic superiority over those countries, while maximizing the most important available resource – human quality.[x] From the mid-1950s and up to the Yom Kippur War, Israel generally enjoyed impressive growth rates. “The lost decade” following the Yom Kippur War heralded a change in that trend.[xi]

e. National resilience – Ben Gurion also understood that it would not be possible to maintain Israel’s advantages over its neighbors without fostering national resilience based on an Israeli ethos.[xii] This would form the basis for compulsory military recruitment as part of the principle of a “people’s army”; to preserve Israel as an attractive country for world Jewry and thus encourage vital immigration; and to enable the country to thrive through times of economic and security crisis with no loss of resilience. A significant component of this approach is maintaining contact with and defending Jewish people around the world.[xiii]

Further, Ben Gurion was aware of the considerable tension between these principles and Israel’s strategic status. For instance, a sparse population and resources do not allow for the long-term maintenance of either conventional military superiority or technological and economic excellence. On the other hand, he recognized the great potential of Israeli society to direct its human and technological abilities towards a targeted military operation and ultimately a clear victory.[xiv]

As a result, national security strategy focused on efforts at prolonged periods of calm and the postponement as far as possible of future military confrontations and, where necessary, a concentration of full capabilities in order to bring about a quick and decisive outcome to any such campaign, which would then lead to a long period of quiet and stability.

Over the years three further principles were added to these original ones. Firstly, there was the “The Periphery Doctrine”. The opposition of countries hostile to Israel resulted in Ben Gurion seeking alliances with other regional actors. Israel cultivated ties with countries in the Horn of Africa in Egypt’s “back yard”, and with pre-revolutionary Iran, Turkey and the Kurdish people, with the intention of distracting Iraq from dealing with Israel. The Second was “The Eshkol Doctrine” – “the poor weakling Samson”[xv] – by establishing an external and domestic compromise approach, reinforcing “the strength of the weak” or “soft power”, refraining from frequent aggressive action[xvi] , and building up military strength (as seen in the high level of preparedness for the Six Day War). This approach did not survive after Eshkol’s death. Lastly there was “The Begin Doctrine” – disrupting the build-up of nuclear military related projects in countries in the region.[xvii]

These principles indicate long-term vision, some of it far ahead of its time. But, in the spirit of Ben Gurion’s decree to refrain from “intellectual inertia”, they require reconsideration and updating.

The Principal Points of Change

Several basic assumptions concerning the environment remain unchanged in the past six decades. Essentially these are recognitions of Israel’s geo-strategic inferiority in terms of territorial area, population and natural resources within an uncertain and unstable region, necessitating a strong stance by Israel because of an overwhelming refusal of the Arab States to come to terms with Israel’s existence[xviii].

The continued importance of the US as a superpower in the global arena and Israel’s ability to maintain deep and far-reaching relations is of course essential; plus the great significance of the human element in ensuring a clear advantage for Israel over its neighbors. However, over these years, and even more so in the past two decades, these two factors have been overshadowed by changes such as globalization, information technology and the increasing challenges of climate and resources, especially in the fields of energy, water and food. Most importantly the political characters of the Arab States surrounding Israel have changed.

There is also a perceived decline in the status of the nation state and the strengthening of non-state actors of various kinds. For example, international institutions are transformed into agents of long-term change and which has led to the creation of a world order based on commonly accepted policy norms, “ostracizing” any state or actor that does not conform and has the ability to impose sanctions on nations because of their policies.

Substantial changes materialize as a result of the ascension of new global powers, especially China and India, and the transfer of significant political, security and economic power to East Asia. Add to that partial regional recognition of Israel as a fait accompli and the creation of partnerships with a vested interest with some of the leading elites. There are also widespread changes in the value scale and social unification of the Israeli society.

The principles of a new security strategy

Three of the principles presented below are intended to arrange Israel’s modus operandi vis-à-vis the external strategic environment. These are initiative, assimilation and coping with threats. The other three aim at building sources of internal strength that will create the necessary conditions for Israel to promote its overall goals – leadership, unity and connectivity between government and non-government efforts.


In light of the pace and depth of the changes, Israel needs to adopt a strategic initiative based on a future vision of the relevant region (the Middle East and its periphery), and on positioning its standing in the global arena. Such an initiative must be expressed in a proactive policy designed to promote the vision via political, military-security, economic and cultural means. At the same time, there must be a willingness to take security-related risks and pay the political and economic price for such a policy. For example this might be the allocation of financial assistance and/or participation in stabilization operations and peacekeeping forces.


Assimilation requires changing an existing principle into a distinct concept. In essence, this means creating in-depth links with different influential bodies in the global arena and in the region, while recognizing the existential strategic risks inherent in political isolation and the significant profits to be gained for Israel from cooperation. This is an almost entirely diplomatic endeavor.

These activities can be defined as:

a. Global – a coordinated national effort that aspires to political leadership in the global arena in a defined number of key issues (e.g. alternative energy and water; changes in laws of war; the fight against terrorism; and prevention of proliferation).

b. Public – opening up channels of communication with publics that are key to Israel – American, European and Arab.

c. International – alongside the special relationship with the US, which is an existential necessity, creating relations with other key actors in the international arena – Europe – Germany, France, the UK and Italy in particular; economic and security ties with India and Brazil; and economic and cultural ties with Russia, China and Japan.

d. Peripheral – promoting relations with relevant nations in the Middle Eastern periphery – countries in the Horn of Africa (not the entire African continent); Greece and South East European countries (Romania, Bulgaria); the Central Asian republics; and minorities in the middle east, mainly the Kurdish people. These could serve to leverage influence in countries in the region.

e. Regional – “shadow” coalitions and “silent” cooperative ventures in strategic, economic and security fields with Gulf nations, and in particular Saudia Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey and strengthening local players in other countries.

Coping with threats

As concerns coping with threats, this means the military-security dimension of security strategy of disrupting and intercepting threats, maintaining an effective deterrence and overcoming them with far-reaching action where necessary. The main function of this principle is to achieve maximum strategic flexibility – even at the cost of risk-taking and refraining from a “hermetic” response to any security-related problem – in order to enable action within the bounds of the overall security policy.


This is the national level preservation and reinforcement of a civilian advantage creating external and internal leadership stand. This includes three principal endeavors. Firstly, creating and sustaining economic and technological superiority, based on education and investments in R&D. This also requires maintaining a lead in Hi-Tech fields and creating growth engines of international worth. Secondly, the superiority in intelligence, security and the military, as seen in a blend of quality manpower, advanced technology and relevant, state-of-the-art modes of operation. Lastly, strengthen the special relationship with the US with more in-depth dialog and joint activity as an external foundation for a leadership approach. To support that effort, Israel needs to show long-term transparency, operational cooperation and a willingness to act in American interests.


There needs to be a strong social consensus on the objectives of security policy and the national partnership that is required to promote it. A number of processes are needed to achieve this end. For example, an economic-social vision that is far-reaching and connected to the leadership principle (Israel as a “technology greenhouse”). A new security contract between the country and its citizens – in-depth discourse on the three security resources: budget, manpower and home front resilience. And lastly, a national dialog between different sectors of society, especially the ultra-Orthodox and Arab populations.[xix]


The strategic objectives are achieved through broad cooperation at national level within the government sector and between government, business and non-government sectors. This is a trivial statement in matters concerning economic and social objectives, but is no less appropriate for the achievement of political and security objectives.

Principles of the Existing Security Doctrine[xx]

The policy whose primary goal is to avoid military confrontations to the greatest extent possible and, where necessary, to concentrate all capabilities on a decisive outcome, is expressed in security doctrine in three central principles: defensive strategy and offensive action, the “people’s army” and the “security triangle”.

Defensive strategy and offensive action

Ben Gurion understood the tension between the advantage of action, within recognized internal lines, and the inability to go to war within Israel’s limited territory, and especially its pre-1967 configuration. This resulted in the formulation of a defensive military strategy for Israel – namely, responding to threats as part of the desire to maintain international support and striving to act within internal lines. However, it is manifested in offensive action that transfers the fighting as early as possible to enemy territory, to avoid it taking place primarily on Israel’s limited territory.

“The people’s army”

“The people’s army” of the IDF is based on compulsory conscription, which enables it to maintain a relatively small regular force handling ongoing security tasks; prepared the IDF for war; and insofar as necessary, should be able to provide defense at the initial stages of war. Beyond, and on the basis of that regular core army, a larger reserve force was created to be prepared at all times should war materialize. On receiving the command, and within a relatively short space of time, the IDF could become a force large enough to deal with a military coalition opposing the State of Israel in phased fighting between the various arenas.

“The security triangle”

“The security triangle” is a result of the need to avoid confrontation as far as possible or, in the event that such confrontations do erupt, to resolve them quickly. It led to the formulation of three basic concepts:

a. Deterrence – Israel will maintain the basis for a clear superiority of capability over potential opponents and will project determination, in such a manner as to cause decision makers on the opposing side to hesitate and defer a decision to enter into a combat situation. Deterrence is based on the fulfillment of all five security strategy principles. The concept of deterrence was expanded over time in order to ensure its relevance in the struggle against terrorism.

b. Early warning – Israel will identify changes in the intentions of decision makers on the enemy side and the degree of preparedness of their military forces that could indicate preparation for confrontation, with enough early warning time for full IDF recruitment – focusing on reserve forces – for such an event. In order to fulfill this principle (though not only this one) Israel created one of the strongest intelligence communities in the world. The domain of early warning was actually broadened in recent decades to include all types of potential threats, resulting in a significant growth in the scope of the intelligence community’s responsibilities.

c. Decision – because of Israel’s lack of operational depth, the IDF will launch an offensive attack as early as possible – preferably at the outset of any confrontation, and even at its own initiative (“preventive war”, “preventive strike”) – to transfer fighting to enemy territory. Such an offensive, which will bear the full force of Israel’s might, will bring about a quick decisive resolution (a few days or weeks), which will result in severe damage to the enemy’s capability and create conditions for a relatively long period of calm.

Decision is a concept embedded in the context of inter-state relations: by means of military force, one nation imposes on another to settle on a particular policy. In Israel’s case, this means a preference for political relations rather than the use of military means. On this front, Israel achieved decision vis-à-vis surrounding countries as a result of the Yom Kippur War in1973. Recent decades have seen efforts to apply the idea of decision in other contexts – such as non-conventional weapons and terrorism – but the issue is complex and not always practical.

The Dan Meridor Committee, which was active between 2003 and 2006, decided on the inclusion of a new, fourth basic principle to be added to the “security triangle”, namely “self-defense,” in other words “defense”. The State of Israel invests a significant portion of its budget and security efforts in defensive efforts. This has been largely realized with concepts such as the West Bank security barrier and Iron Dome. In addition there is a wide-ranging system of security in both the public and private domains. On top of passive defensive measures, those seeking to expand the idea of “self-defense” further into “defense” add specific offensive measures aimed at preventing, by the use of force not superseding the threshold of broad escalation, the launching of rockets and missiles or terror attacks.

What has Changed?

There are four principal changes in Israel’s strategic and security environment, which affect the security doctrine:

a. The increase in the complexity of security problems in all related areas, in terms of both analysis and response, gravely enhanced in the past years as a result of the social and political changes in the surrounding Arab states.

b. The transition from a war or crisis once every ten years to the reality of a more limited military campaign, on average once every three or four years,[xxi] and an increasing preoccupation with the interdiction of threats and defense in the intervals between campaigns.

c. The change in the nature of threats to Israel. The conventional military threat – which, until the Six Day War was considered an existential threat – is weaker than in the past. At the same time the threat of terror attacks and unconventional warfare have become central to the focus of Israel’s security system. The combination of terror and conventional weapons incorporates high-trajectory rockets and missiles on the national home front, both civilian and military.

d. Ongoing change in “battlefield” characteristics.[xxii] Today we face war “amongst the people”[xxiii] – the enemy is concealed within the civilian population and seeks to inflict harm on us; hence we have to reach that enemy within the population. The composition of relevant groups of the enemy within a population, the Israeli, the international and the regional (as distinct from past government positions) are a primary element when considering the exercise of force. Anyone who owns a 3G or 4G cell phone is potentially a “reporter”. Cyberspace too is a growing sphere of hostile action. Information operations and attempts to influence public consciousness are new elements in campaigns. Financial and legal action represent growing areas of “soft action”.

It is almost exclusively the political and thus policy dimension of Israel that these changes have appeared in.

Proposal for New Security Doctrine Principles

Firstly, there are three new principles of a proposed security doctrine

  1. Continuity of campaigns.
  2. Efforts to bring about a profound change in enemy strategy.
  3. Combined defensive and offensive concepts.

Secondly, there are six key concepts of the new security doctrine:

  1. Deterrence – to be redefined.
  2. Understanding – to replace the concept of early warning.
  3. Interception.
  4. Cooperation.
  5. Resilience – to replace the term self-defense or defense.
  6. Continued superiority – replacing the term decision.

Continuity of campaigns

The principle of the continuity of campaigns is a change from the dichotomy of a back-and-forth switch between routine and emergency. It is felt on a daily basis in campaigns between wars, which always have the possibility of turning into large-scale wars in one operational arena or another. Campaigns between large-scale wars necessitate a wide-ranging national response, including meaningful links between political, diplomatic, security and military endeavors.[xxiv]

Efforts to bring about a profound change in enemy strategy

The principle of efforts towards a profound change in enemy strategy is aimed at the “end state” of security-military endeavors. That is to bring about a major change (effectively a transformation) in the opposing side’s policy.[xxv] This differs from the principle of extending the time span between wars, which characterizes the existing doctrine. While Israel aspires to stability and peace on the security front, in the face of the increasing and changing nature of surrounding threats; however, this is not enough. The enemy must be forced to alter their agenda.

Combined defensive and offensive concepts

The principle of combined defensive and offensive concepts differs from the existing doctrine characterized by defensive strategy and offensive approach. The new doctrine advocates the combination of a defensive and offensive approach. The correct mix for each individual arena will be defined by the enemy’s policies and the constraints inherent to the environment.

Six key concepts

Deterrence Redefined

The deterrence principle strengthens in the security doctrine but there are changes in its nature. This derives from the fact that the increased complexity of challenges diminishes our ability to predict the likelihood that war will achieve the desired strategic aims and avoid undesirable results.

There are a number of changes in the characteristics:

a. A bilateral analysis of deterrence between Israel and its enemies is necessary. The issue to understand is the significance, for security policy, of Israel’s refraining from action because of the actions that may be consequently taken by other parties.

b. Deterrence also constitutes an objective of the exercise of force. Today the “in order to” element of military action also includes aspects of “regaining/improving deterrence”. The issue to elaborate is what characteristics of deterrence address: both a suspension of war and its outcome. The overall aim should be to reinforce deterrence, not merely return the status quo.

c. Today’s deterrence is not only based on the bilateral power ratio between enemy or rival states. It is also connected to the position of other players – international and regional – and publics, with particular emphasis on those supporting the enemy and the Israeli public. The issue to elaborate is how to integrate those players in realizing the principle of deterrence. Strong support or condemnation of the use of force may itself influence the depth of deterrence.


Recent years have seen the formulation in leading world nations of new security principles of understanding or knowledge and anticipation.[xxvi] According to this principle, in order to make decisions and take action at all levels of national security activity – strategic-political, strategic-security, operational and tactical – there is a need for profound yet specific and relevant knowledge of the enemy as well as the immediate environment and its broader context. Such knowledge must encompass all aspects – political, economic, security, military, social, cultural, consciousness and media and communications.

Information gathering and analysis for the purpose of understanding are not the exclusive domain of the intelligence community, despite it being a key player in the application of the principle. They are also the concern of other bodies responsible for maintaining a presence and ongoing contact with target publics and occupied with relevant topics.

Early warning really means the application of understanding, for the purpose of advance warning, in order to enable ample preparation for possible action to intercept threats and exploit opportunities. This is now only one element of this principle of understanding.


This is the effort to thwart the enemy’s capability to threaten Israel and the implementation of such efforts. Within the principle of continuity of campaigns, this is manifested in different types of conflicts:

a. Campaigns between wars – a range of efforts aimed at depriving the enemy of the possibility of developing, acquiring or implementing threat capabilities.

b. Preventive strike as part of a campaign between wars or as an initial act of war – a strike aimed at a single operation with specific capability (non-conventional weapons, terror) in order to eradicate its existence or disrupt its imminent operation (such as the attack on the Iraqi reactor in 1981).

c. Preventive war – a decision to engage in military conflict with the enemy in order to deprive it of its primary capabilities of inflicting damage on Israel.


Maximizing opportunities and thwarting threats through both military and broader security cooperation with countries in the international and regional arenas. Joint action with key players in the international arena can facilitate a significant increase in the scope and depth of Israel’s intelligence coverage and operational activity capabilities when fighting common enemies. The cost of developing such cooperation is a willingness to expose Israel’s modus operandi and operations, and agreement to curb their implementation as a consequence of the need to abide by the other party’s terms and conditions.


The threat to the national, military and civilian rear is a fundamental component in the changing context of the security doctrine. This change led to the addition of the “self-defense” or “defense” component in the last decade. The current definition incorporates different methodologies – passive defense, active defense, attack for the purpose of minimizing threats from the enemy, and so forth.

The definition of the concept of resilience in the security doctrine is designed to turn the incorporation of such methods into an approach with a comprehensive rationale. Within this context, a comprehensive approach is used to enhance means: the capacity for resilience on Israel’s home front in the campaign between wars and during wars. Examples of more conceptual aspects of the element of resilience are a dialog between decision makers and the general public and its local representatives;[xxvii] the distribution of people and important installations according to Ben Gurion’s vision; [xxviii]the use of the underground sphere; and more.


The security-military system needs to create a clear advantage over relevant enemies in all conceptual dimensions – deterrence, understanding, interception, cooperation and resilience – and in all dimensions of warfare – defensive and offensive, combat and maneuvers, physical combat and even relating to perceptions and “soft war”. In terms of security doctrine, superiority will facilitate the achievement of profound change in the opposing side’s policy. At security strategy level, superiority would help realize the principles of strategic initiative, assimilation and of coping with threats.

The concept of superiority encompasses the existing concepts of victory and decision. Victory is the military objective of every tactical and operational encounter; its purpose is to create a decisive advantage over the enemy to the point of paralyzing its combative ability. Decision is an extreme form of superiority, whereby the enemy’s security-military system loses its combat capability, at least in the short term. This should enable Israel to impose its will and pin the enemy down to formal arrangements.


There are significant challenges facing Israel in advancing structured dialog on national security. It is likely that attempts to set in motion a formal process to formulate a binding document will not be successful, even though such a prospect should be seriously considered. Hence, further preoccupation with this issue should be undertaken by the following means:

a. Discourse on updating security strategy and security doctrine in academic institutions, think tanks and the media. The objective: to create a rich theoretical foundation for formal debate and promote understanding of the need therefor.

b. Motivating informal national discourse under the leadership of the National Security Council and with the participation of all relevant actors to planning, policy and security. The objective: a foundation for joint inter-organizational understandings of the issues as a base for a discourse of decision makers.

c. Discourse among decision makers on principles of security strategy and security doctrine. The objective: to create a common ground of understanding the challenge and perhaps even to formalize some of the principles with firm decisions.

d. Annual re-examination processes: annual national assessment spearheaded by the National Security Council, aiming for adaptations necessitated by reality in security strategy and security doctrine, and the manner of their assimilation.

Israel has moved from a nation fighting for its very existence to a nation that now has to adjust its policies, strategy, conduct and use of force to the changing nature of the world. A significant tool in conducting these adjustments is a thorough review of the National Strategy; National Security Doctrine; and National Security.


[i] David Ben Gurion, The Israel-Arab War, 1948-1949, Mapai Publishing, Tel Aviv, 1951, p.11. Quoted in an article by Avi Altman: “Militarism – Military Leadership at the Highest Echelons”, published in Ma’arachot Magazine, No. 439. Note: the author was unable to ascertain whether this was published in English. Hence, a proposed translation (Endnote 1) may be for the overall book title, whereas this quote is taken from one section or chapter, whose title could not be traced in English.
[ii] examines the broad context of national existence (geo-political, economic, demographic, social, historical, cultural, political and security-military) and defines – in reference to the political principles of elected political representatives and resources – the fundamental strategic principles of national activity:

From: A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy, October 2012, pp.9-12: “Our strategy reflects the country that we want to be… This Strategy outlines the international context in which we can best pursue our interests… A strategy is only useful if it guides choices… A national security strategy, like any strategy, must be a combination of ends (what we are seeking to achieve), ways (the ways by which we seek to achieve those ends) and means (the resources we can devote to achieving the ends)… A strategy must reflect the context in which it is developed, the particular strengths and skills that we can bring to bear…”.

From: National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2006, p.54: “The challenges America faces are great, yet we have enormous power and influence to address those challenges. The times require an ambitious national security strategy, yet one recognizing the limits to what even a nation as powerful as the United States can achieve by itself. Our national security strategy is idealistic about goals and realistic about means”.
[iii] Focuses on the basic ways to cope with security-related and military challenges:

From: Strategic Guidance – United States Department of Defense, January 2012, p.7. “This strategic guidance document describes the projected security environment and the key military missions for which the Department of Defense (DoD) will prepare. It is intended as a blueprint for the Joint Force in 2020, providing a set of precepts that will help guide decisions regarding the size and shape of the force over subsequent program and budget cycles, and highlighting some of the strategic risks that may be associated with the proposed strategy”.
[iv] addresses the definition of current lines of action, linking strategic security principles and security doctrine to a periodic evaluation of national status and the aspirations of political echelons:

From: A Strong Britain in an Age of Uncertainty: The National Security Strategy, October 2012, p. 35. On the basis of security strategy: “Based on our assessment of the context, our national interests, the objectives we have outlined and the resources at our disposal”, the National Security Council formulates Security Policy – “the National Security Council has overseen a full Strategic Defense and Security Review to implement this strategy. This will outline how we will achieve our objectives, and the balance of resources and capabilities we need to deliver them”.
[v] And in comparison with the USA (ibid, p.1): “Our national security strategy is, therefore, focused on renewing American leadership so that we can more effectively advance our interests in the 21st century”; and the United Kingdom (ibid, p.9): “The National Security Strategy of the United Kingdom is: to use all our national capabilities to build Britain’s prosperity, extend our nation’s influence in the world and strengthen our security”.
[vi] See also: “Army and State”, Ben Gurion’s 1953 overview of national security (published in editions 279-280 of Ma’arachot, May-June 1981). Ben Gurion denotes three of the five underlying principles. In this document, which addresses the IDF, he does not refer to the nuclear issue and reliance on a superpower – p.2: “It is known that our security does not depend on the army alone. Non-military factors will be no less decisive than military factors: the nation’s economic and financial capability…”; pp.4-5: “The advantages we have in comparison with the Arabs, who can determine an Arab advantage in manpower and arms: 1) a geographical advantage. We are located in the center (internal lines)… 2) we are a unified nation… 3) technical advantage… 4) spiritual advantage…”.
[vii] Ibid, p. 5: “The aforementioned implies that that crucial direction is in the organization, equipment and training of our army. Since we are inferior in numbers – we must be superior in quality. Translating this clear principle from theory to action is not so simple or easy.”
[viii] Avner Cohen states in Israel and the Bomb, Schocken Publishing, 2000, pp.96-97: “The second keystone of Israel’s deterrence capability (alongside the reinforcement of the conventional deterrent mentioned before - S.S.) was the independent nuclear program, to be considered as a ‘rainy day’ option (this was one of the most widely used cloaked expressions in use by politicians and reporters to denote the program). Ben Gurion promoted efforts on both these fronts, while maintaining as much separation between the two as possible”.
[ix] Ibid, p.96: “Ben Gurion also aspired to obtain guarantees for Israel’s security from at least one Western nation. His efforts were reinforced after the Suez Campaign, but towards the end of the 1950s Ben Gurion reached a general conclusion that the United States, France or NATO would be unwilling to provide such guarantees (for Israel’s security in the face of a surprise attack from the Arabs – S.S.) Nevertheless, he continued those efforts until the end of his term in 1963”.
[x] Ben Gurion, “Army and State”, p.2: “What made me deeply concerned in this examination was the non-military factors of our security: the economy, population settlement, immigration…”.
[xi] See, for instance: “Israel 2008 – Vision and Strategy for Economy and Society in a Global World”, Eliahu Hurwitz, David Brodet, Samuel Neaman Institute, 2008.
[xii] Ben Gurion, “Army and State”, p.9: “… and again the principle of high quality and inferior status in the Diaspora impose on the IDF educational functions that are shared by no other army. The fundamental thing that security – as well as all the rest – is in fact dependant on: the people, is readily available and a given in every country, even before there is a state; in Israel a Jewish people exists only by potential and not in practice.”
[xiii] Ibid, p.10: “… the big problem – maybe the biggest of all – of the Jewish Diaspora in the Soviet Union and other Islamic nations. It seems to me that this must be our first concern in coming years – for this country, for population settlement, for its freedom and security. At least another two million Jews are needed…”.
[xiv] Ibid, p.5: “We cannot maintain a regular army as the Arabs do, on both budgetary and economic grounds. For this reason our combat strength relies mainly on the reserve force”.
[xv] Ezer Weizman, Lekha shamayim, lekha arets, Maariv Library, 1975, pp.301-302: “… in the course of the preparatory work we reached the conclusion that we would need a large number of airplanes, ‘Skyhawks’ and A-6 ‘Intruders’. When I came to Eshkol to present him with the plan… he just listened and said, ‘Fine, no problem’ – in the simplest Hebrew. I saw that he did not get worked up about the large numbers and then I said, ‘Sir, I do have one small problem, perhaps you can help? On the one hand I need to present myself to the Americans as being somewhat weak so that they will be persuaded to sell us the airplanes. On the other hand, as Commander of our Air Force, I have the utmost confidence in our ability and I do not want the Americans to have any feeling whatsoever that they are dealing with some small, inadequate air force…’. Eshkol did not pause for thought even a second before responding with his famous suggestion to ‘present yourself as “Shimshon der Nebechdikker!”’ [Yiddish for ‘Samson the poor weakling’, imparting a uniquely ironic meaning to the powerful capability of a nation as small as Israel]”.
[xvi] As an expression of his desire to refrain from any counter-action to terrorist acts by the PLO, he made the well-known statement that “the ledger is open and the hand is writing”.
[xvii] From a Foreign Ministry press release following the attack on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981: “Under no circumstances will we allow an enemy to develop weapons of mass destruction against our people. We shall defend the citizens of Israel in time, and with all the means at our disposal”.
[xviii] It as an “irony of fate” that what Ben Gurion said in “Army and State”, p.2, which was written against the background of military revolutions and coup d’états in the 1950s, is equally applicable to the current situation in the region: “intelligence personnel themselves admit that they are less familiar with the Arab world today than they were in the past, because in two countries – Egypt and Syria – and Jordan should also be added, regimes have been overturned and are now headed by new forces, which we were totally unfamiliar and had no contact with before the State. With the previous rulers, it was almost always possible to know in advance how they would react to this event or that situation or another: the new rulers are unknown quantities”.
[xix] In this context, Ben Gurion’s statement in “Army and State”, p.11, is of interest: “The question of recruiting Arabs to the army should be looked into”.
[xx] Unlike unwritten security strategy, security doctrine – which is effectively the core of the “security concept” – has been frequently referred to in writing. Among others: a Broadcast University lecture series on the issue by Major Gen. (Ret.) Prof. Isaac Ben-Israel; lectures by MK Minister Dan Meridor, including “21st Century Security Challenges: the Creation of a National Security Policy”, at INSS (Institute for National Security Studies) on January 31, 2011; Ariel Levite, “Israel’s Military Doctrine: Defense and Offense”, HaKibbutz Hame’uchad, 1988; Ze’ev Schiff, Meridor Committee Report: “The Concern that Iran may Prompt other Mideast States to go Nuclear”, Haaretz, April 24, 2006; et al.
[xxi] Since the end of the 1970s, Israel was faced with terror and non-conventional warfare situations in the First Lebanon War (1982); the First Intifada (starting in 1987); the First Gulf War (1991); Operation Accountability (1993); Operation Grapes of Wrath (1996); the Second Intifada (2000); Operation Defensive Shield (2002); the Second Lebanon War (2006); and Operation Cast Lead (The Gaza War – 2009). In the past two years Israel has been engaged in “rounds” of conflict in Gaza every few months.
[xxii] For more detailed coverage of the development of battlefield characteristics, see Shay Shabtai, “The War after the Next War”, Ma’arachot Magazine, No. 440, December 2011, pp.4-9.
[xxiii] The main hypothesis in Rupert Smith’s book, Utility of Force (Vintage Books, 2008), which defines the current era of war as “war amongst the people” – i.e. conflict among people and over their consciousness.
[xxiv] Shay Shabtai, “The Concept of the Campaign between Wars”, Ma’arachot Magazine, No. 444.
[xxv] For a more detailed view of the principle of transformation, see Shay Shabtai, “The War after the Next War”, Ma’arachot Magazine, No. 440, December 2011, pp.4-9.
[xxvi] UK – Joint Doctrine Publication 04 (JDP 04), Understanding, December 2010, paragraph 101: “Understanding provides the context for the decision-making process which informs the application of national power. The purpose of understanding is to equip decision-makers at all levels with the insight and foresight required to make effective decisions as well as manage the associated risks and second and subsequent order effects”.

France – The French White Paper on Defense and National Security, 2008, p.125: “In an international environment marked by great uncertainties and potentially extremely short warning periods, a country’s first line of defense are its capabilities for knowledge and anticipation. These must offer decision makers, as much prior to the crises as possible, the necessary basis for assessing the situation (the variety and gravity of risks and threats, opportunities for French and European interests, etc.), enabling them to make better-informed choices between the different possible modes of action. Consequently, the knowledge and anticipation function has been elevated for the first time to the status of a strategic function in its own right and embraces several areas”.
[xxvii] Winston Churchill’s speeches in 1940 and throughout World War II can also be seen as such a dialog.
[xxviii] Ben Gurion, “Army and State”, p.11 – “2) a more rational distribution of the population – the avoidance of excessive and additional concentration in the Tel Aviv area. The allocation of benefits to establish factories and workshops in the Negev, Jerusalem, the Jerusalem corridor, [and] north of Akko”.