Israel in Middle Eastern and Asian Context

“The most dangerous enemy to Israel’s security is the intellectual inertia of those who are responsible for security.” David Ben Gurion, 1951.

Israel in Middle Eastern and Asian Context

2016 will mark the 100th anniversary of the Sykes Picot agreement, officially called the Asia Minor Agreement, which shaped the map of the Middle East with which we are most familiar. In this map Israel appears as a small country – an alien presence – in the midst of a sea of 22 Arab countries. But as we approach the centenary of Sykes-Picot, the image of the Middle East it presented begs to be reconsidered: in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, which brought neither a democratic summer nor a return to the winter of dictatorship, the countries surrounding Israel have dramatically changed. Many have split into regions based on religion or nationality, and others are in states of civil war, threatening to follow suit. It seems that the map should no longer be drawn as one color surrounding Israel, where Israel is threatened by a consolidated sea of enemy countries, but rather Israel is increasingly to be seen as surrounded by a rainbow of religions, nationalities, and cultures. Threats to Israel no longer come primarily from surrounding regimes, but from groups which are anything from sectorial to transnational. If the changes in the Middle East are as dramatic as this description suggests, surely Israel urgently needs to update its strategic thought.

National Strategy Initiative

The Herzl Institute is leading the way in the rethinking of Israeli strategy in the wake of the Arab Spring. Pulling together a network of thinkers of varied backgrounds, from political thought to strategic studies, from academia to practical government and military experience, we are creating a wide ranging and innovative discussion of Israeli strategic issues both in Israeli public discourse and in Jewish forums in the diaspora.

The National Strategy Initiative at the Herzl Institute hosts a permanent working group as well as more occasional participants who prepare papers on strategic issues and discuss them with the working group. The permanent working group has been convening since Fall 2013, bringing together ten Israeli professionals of varied backgrounds (academic, military, government), both from inside and outside the Herzl Institute. Its members include:

Eden Bar Tal is a businessman and entrepreneur who has served in senior positions in both the public and private sectors. Most recently he was the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Communications (2009-2013).… »

Colonel (Res.) Hanny Caspi is the founder and CEO of C-OP Ltd., an international relations and strategic assessment business consulting company. She is a frequent lecturer to foreign delegations on strategic issues and contemporary… »

Dr. Harel Chorev-Halewa is the Head of the Desk for Middle Eastern Network Analysis at the Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University, and Deputy Director of the M.A. program for mid-career civil servants in the Department of Middle… »

Dr. Ehud Eiran is Assistant Professor of International Relations at the School of Political Science, University of Haifa. Eiran holds degrees in Law and Political Science from Tel Aviv, Cambridge, and Brandeis Universities. He… »

Ofir Haivry is Vice President for Academic Affairs of the Herzl Institute and the Director of its National Strategy Initiative. He served in executive positions at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, including founding Editor-in-Chief… »

Yoram Hazony is President of the Herzl Institute. His books include The Virtue of Nationalism, The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, and The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel’s Soul. Hazony is Director of the John Templeton… »

Dr. Chen Kertcher lectures on global history, conflict resolution, peace building and peacekeeping operations at Tel Aviv University, Haifa University and the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya (IDC). »

Dr. Kertcher received his…

Dr. Paul Rivlin is a Senior Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle East and African Studies, Tel Aviv University. »

Dr. Rivlin studied at Cambridge, London and Harvard Universities and is the author of five books: The…

Col. Shay Shabtai (Ret.) has served for more than 20 years as part of Israel's national security and strategic and military planning community including as a member of the Dan Meridor commision for national security. He received… »


Works in this area by scholars at the Institute include:

Ofir Haivry
The Great Arab Implosion and Its ConsequencesMosaic Magazine monthly essay, July 2016
Israel Should Support Syrian ‘Druzistan’“, Al Monitor, July 9, 2015
The Druze Fight for Israel: Should They Now Fight Alone?Tablet, July 7, 2015
Moment of Truth Drawing Near for Syria’s Druze – and for Israel“, Ynet, June 17, 2015
Shifting Alliances in the Middle EastCommentary, November 2014
Israel in the eye of the HurricaneMosaic Magazine monthly essay, January 2014
Objects in Mirror Appear Larger Than They AreMosaic Magazine, January 2014

Yoram Hazony
Interview on Israel and the future of the Druze in Syria, The John Bachelor Show, July 9, 2015
The Druze Fight for Israel: Should They Now Fight Alone?Tablet, July 7, 2015
Why We Need the Jewish State LawTimes of Israel, November 23, 2014

Aryeh Tepper
Christian’s in the Holy Land: Don’t Call us Arabs”, The Tower, January 2015
Toward a Pluralistic Middle East?Jewish Ideas Daily, March 2011
The Azeri ExceptionJewish Ideas Daily, October 2010