Defending Fortress Israel

Has Israel’s militarism limited the effectiveness of diplomatic options?  That’s the  strong thesis from Patrick Tyler, whose new book Fortress Israel explains the implications of a society primed and fully prepared for war.  It echoes Thomas Ricks’s new book on the US military–and builds upon the notions articulated in Stephen Glain‘s State Vs. Defense–that when the dominant institution sees the world as a nail all you have is hammers.

Two critiques:

The IDF is, moreover, nowhere near being the all-powerful force in Israel that Mr. Tyler makes it out to be. It doesn’t, as he asserts, “dominate the national budget.” Military spending, though the 2011 budgets largest item, comprised only a bit more than 15% of it. It doesn’t “run a large portion of the economy.” Apart from weapons and military bases, the only significant IDF-owned asset is the popular radio station Galei Tzahal. It doesn’t “exert immense influence over communications and news media through censorship.” Nothing is ever censored by the military in Israel that is not genuinely security-related, and very little of that is, too. And it certainly doesn’t make its own decisions on anything but purely internal matters. Israel always has been, and is today more than ever, a fractious, democratic society in which it is the politicians and judges who have the final say.

via Book Review: Fortress Israel –

Military force has often worked for Israel. The real question is not whether it should use diplomacy instead of force, but rather the conditions under which each might work. Tyler criticizes Israel for using force and not going to the United Nations in response to the Syrian nuclear reactor crisis of 2007, but in hindsight that decision looks better and better: In the past year, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has ignored world opinion as he slaughtered his citizens, and a Syrian nuclear program, even nascent, would be yet another nightmare for military planners.

via Books by Daniel Byman


4 thoughts on “Defending Fortress Israel”

  1. Israel has a history of attacking civilians as a matter of policy, and the conflict with Palestinian is not the exception. Israel has contributed to violence in the territory since it occupied Gaza for four decades and now occupies West Bank. Israel’s strategy is a form of colonization as it seeks to expand settlements in the West Bank. However, Israel’s policy seems makes peace impossible and it is evident that Israel is not looking for diplomatic accords. According to Jabari, a negotiation on a cease-fire could have prevented the dead of so many. In my opinion, Israel could benefit more from diplomacy than the use of force.

  2. I think that the Israeli state could benefit more from using diplomacy than militaristic strategies. However, this is a very idealistic view of a solution to Israel’s predicament, and so I don’t agree with those that condemn them for their strategy. This very one-sided yet intriguing blog post argues that Israeli militarism is “more despicable” than that of any other country. This post focuses on how the United States fires rockets into Pakistan to target al-Qaeda, and has killed around 2,200 non-militant or innocent Pakistanis. Yet our government is not criticized as much as the government of israel for striking back with rockets.

    I think that this perspective brings up an interesting point about how nations are viewed and what authorizes them to act in certain ways. Should the United States be allowed to bomb Pakistan without international outcry, but when Israel does so they are scorned and condemned?

  3. Israel’s pro-militaristic policies in its interactions with many of the Palestinians within its borders have hurt Israel’s legitimacy in the eyes of both its Palestinian residents and the Arab world at large. It makes it very hard now for Israel in its negotiations with Palestinians in determining how to solve for the ever present Palestinian conflict within its borders.

    This article argues that Iran restarted its nuclear program in 2005 due to increased hostilities by Israel.

  4. This subject is a tough one to dissect in my opinion as there are literally so many moving parts. As the military advocate that I am I often find myself saying why not to a militaristic strategy. However on the flip side I can’t argue that there is definitely a time and place for diplomacy and should be used instead of a knee-jerk military action. However as you examine Israel’s difficulties you cannot blame them for their militaristic mindset. If they don’t they run the risk of losing legitimacy in the region, but if they over step that fine line they lose legitimacy as well. I do think that Israel could benefit from more diplomacy. Having met with airman and other special operators that have worked closely with IDF forces, they are considered to be a major military force to be reckoned with in that community and are taken very seriously by other foreign military’s. With this legitimacy already in place i feel that Israel would benefit from looking into more diplomatic options.

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