Security / Israeli Perspective
In its early years, Israel confronted conventional ground invasions from neighboring Arab states, as well as Palestinian fedayeen, who rejected Israel’s right to exist and threatened to “drive the Jews into the sea.” Israelis were encircled by enemies, and felt exposed by the country’s limited territory, especially at its “narrow waist” opposite the city of Netanya.
Since then, a number of factors have all but eliminated the threat of invasion: Israel’s qualitative military edge, land buffers in the West Bank and Golan Heights, peace agreements with Egypt in 1979 and Jordan in 1994, and Iraq’s diminished military capability.
Today, the conventional threat to Israel has largely been replaced by aerial attacks — rockets, short-range missiles, and aircraft, including drones. Israelis are threatened in the south by rocket fire from terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula, and in the north, by Hezbollah and other terrorists groups in Lebanon and Syria. Technological advancements have also put Israel within striking distances of medium and long-range ballistic missiles, with Iran posing the most serious threat. To confront these threats, Israel and the United States have jointly developed cutting-edge missile defense systems: Iron Dome, David’s Sling, and Arrow 3.
Israelis continue to be threatened by terrorism. Suicide bombings have largely been reduced since the end of the Second Intifada in 2005, but the threat of “lone-wolf” attacks has increased. There is also a risk of terrorist infiltration into Israel through tunnels and from the sea. The threat is fueled by ongoing regional instability, and ISIS and other violent extremist groups — together with Iranian financial and arms support.
Despite Israel’s qualitative military advantage, and the promise of enhanced regional security cooperation, Israelis still feel vulnerable to a number of threats, especially in the wake of the turbulent Arab Spring. Therefore, some are hesitant to accept a Palestinian state next door. From an Israeli perspective, a peace agreement must not diminish Israel’s ability to protect itself, by itself — and ideally should strengthen Israel’s capabilities.