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Israel 2020: 2 scenarios for the future Scenario 1: Towards the end of the State of Israel / Scenario 2: Towards a durable Israeli state

As 2020 approaches, LEAP wished to republish this study carried out in September 2006 for the GEAB.

Continuing its in-depth analysis of the consequences of the end of the world order which had been the legacy of WWII, LEAP/E2020 started several months ago a strategic reflexion on the future of Israel. In this number 7 of the Global Europe Anticipation Bulletin, our teams present the two major options which, according to our work, are offered to the Israelis as the future of their country by the year 2020.

The summer 2006 Lebanese-Israeli crisis has indeed made it possible to identify more precisely the parameters which from now on will define the regional equation of the Middle East. The development of the two scenarios thus integrates the often radical transformation of seven strategic parameters. Each of the two scenarios is then a result of the type of answers given by the main players involved to the modifications of their strategic environment. The first presents the consequences (in the radically new environment which emerged from the crisis of the summer 2006) of the continuation for another decade of the policy adopted by Israel since the middle of the Nineties. The second explores the potential of a radical rupture of the Israeli policy from that followed these past few years, in order to adapt to the new constraints weighing on the Middle East.

Seven structural assumptions:

1. The initiating forces are now extinct: The creation of the State of Israel is the fruit of two main tendencies immediate after WWII, which are now in the process of extinction – if not already completely extinct yet -, firstly, the general feeling in the western world of guilt towards the genocide of the Jewish people perpetrated by the Nazis; and secondly, the colonial model. The first tendency, which is quickly weakening because of the growing temporal distance with its founding event, was a key factor in the creation of the State of Israel which for the West was an attempt to compensate for the atrocities committed in Europe against the Jewish people during the years 1930-1945. The second tendency, which practically disappeared after decolonization, basically influenced the choice of the place of creation of the State of Israel since it allowed “to cut out a piece of land” from territories that were run by Europeans using a colonial mode.

2. End of the period of military “dominance”: The historical period of Israel’s “domination” over its close environment in the Middle East has ended with the Israeli-Lebanese crisis of the summer 2006. This period had started with the Israeli victory in the Kippur War in 1973 and relied in particular on two assumptions which are now null and void: the invincibility of the Israeli army and the omnipotence of the American Ally. The incapacity of the Israeli army to achieve the goals it had itself laid down when starting the conflict of summer 2006, as well as the ability of Hezbollah to efficiently oppose this Israeli army, has placed the Israeli power back to a certain regional normality [[Even though there is no doubt that the Israeli army remains the most powerful regular army in the area.]] . The incapacity of the American Ally to intervene militarily in the conflict, or to block the UNO resolutions calling for an early interruption of the Israeli offensive, have demonstrated the significant weakening of the United States in the area [[The causes are multiple. This scenario does not need to be developed here. Different issues of GEAB have already explored this evolution of the United States from many angles.]] . This situation contributes even more strongly to the weakening of the concept of a “dominating” Israel since this was strongly linked to the feeling of total support from an American power, being itself irresistible.

3. End of the unilateral option: The strategic choices taken by the Israeli leaders since the assassination of Itzhak Rabin, and particularly by the series of Prime Ministers Netanyahu, Sharon and Olmert, consisting of using this “dominance” to try to impose unilateral solutions to all regional problems, have sped up the process of ending this period of “dominance”. Probably, like numerous leaders in History, they have themselves fallen in the trap of “believing in their own press releases” and have over-estimated the capacity of their own forces. As always, the systematic use of the military apparatus to found and implement their policies, instead of dialogue and negotiation, has created a situation which has contributed to the weakening of this same apparatus and to the reinforced desire, amongst their adversaries, to be able to oppose it [[One can observe that the Israeli army underwent a bureaucratization which resulted in the situation that its current senior officers do not have any concrete experience of war, unlike the preceding generations which had had to fight on the ground. Its constant use in the Palestinian territories has only taught them methods of maintenance of law and order; while their training has followed more and more the American model. The Israeli senior officers who planned the military failure of summer 2006 followed the same training as the American senior officers who planned the current Iraqi quagmire. The political leaders also have enormous intellectual proximity. On this subject, the reading of the excellent article “a fatal summer”, published in [De Defensa->http://www.dedefensa.org/article.php?art_id=3128] on 07/09/2006, is essential.]]

4. Constant reinforcement of the military-strategic capacity of the adversaries: The Arab-Moslem world as a whole enjoys a constant improvement of its fighting capacity against US (or directly inspired by US) military strategies and tactics, (as it was the case for the summer 2006 Israeli offensive). For several years now, the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts have indeed each day provided innumerable lessons on the matter which are then analyzed and communicated throughout the whole Arab-Moslem world. The strategic or tactical superiority of the Israeli army will thus from now on be constantly confronted with a particularly complex challenge. The nuclear question raised by Iran is a more sophisticated example than the Hezbollah capacity of resistance; but basically it involves the same tendency. One can observe, and this despite the American and British opposition, that the rest of the world managed to impose (though certainly not easily) on Israel to stop the destruction of the public and civil infrastructures of Lebanon. The potential dissuasiveness of the Israeli nuclear arsenal is thus indirectly questioned, since one should reflect on which powers in the world would support the quasi-destruction of the world’s main oil installations and sterilization for decades of zones concentrating immense hydrocarbon reserves (in the event of a nuclear strike against Iran or another power of the Persian Gulf). There too, the pure potential military power does not equate necessarily to any real political capacity.

5. Increasing uncertainty of the nature of the American support towards Israel in the long term: The American failure in the Middle East, in particular the stagnation in Iraq – within the background of a generalized weakening of the United States – could call into question the privileged relationship between Israel and the United States, fed as much by adversaries to an American unconditional support to Israel [[Mearsheimer and Walt’s famous article, published in Harvard in March 2006, illustrates the rise of this tendency. Source: [John Kennedy School of Governance->http://ksgnotes1.harvard.edu/Research/wpaper.nsf/rwp/RWP06-011] ]] as by the advocates of this same support, who are anxious to observe the incapability of Israel to implement American priorities in the area [[Aron Raskas recent article, entitled “What US Jews now expect from Israel?” is very enlightening on the matter. Aron Raskas is an eminent person in charge of several important Jewish organizations in the United States. Source: [Haaretz->http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/754726.html], 04/09/2006]] . Depending on political and economic developments in the United States, Israel might even face a very brutal inversion of trends, which could rock America’s strategic choices in the Middle East. In the United States, the Israeli leaders mentioned in our point 3 chose to favour the alliance with the Christian right wing of the Republican Party. This alliance of circumstance should not make us forget that this American religious-political family has a long anti-Semitic tradition, and that being very much related to the current power in place in Washington, it could be tempted, in the event of a reverse of domestic politics, to find a scapegoat to justify the failures of its policy to the Middle East. One does not need to be a great visionary to imagine which group could be used as this scapegoat; and the effects of such development on Israel/United States strategic relations.

6. The increasing and consistent influence of the European Union in the Middle East: One can observe as anecdotic the return of Europeans militarily to the Middle East exactly 50 years after being driven out by the American-Soviet tandem at the time of the Suez [[As observed by Franck Biancheri in an article published on 29/08/2006 in [Newropeans-Magazine->http://www.newropeans-magazine.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4491&Itemid=110]. ]] crisis. However it is no less real that 7.000 European soldiers will ensure from now on the protection of the Northern border of Israel and supervise the Lebanese coasts. This possibility was always regarded as undesirable by the successive Israeli governments of these last decades, and by Washington. Far from being an allocation of tasks desired by the American administration, or the authorities in Tel-Aviv, it is indeed the great return of Europeans to the zone (fortunately with other objectives than those of the colonial and post-colonial period). And this return is durable since it enjoys the strong support of European public opinion (91% of support according to this month’s GlobalEurometre) and since Europeans regard this Lebanese operation as a first stage towards a lead-role in the solving of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (with a plebiscite from the public opinion, with 98% of positive opinion [[Source GlobalEuromètre 09/06]]). This increasing importance of Europeans in the area will be accompanied by a more balanced approach to the conflict and marks the end of the era of automatic support for Israel seen in the last decade of “American sponsorship” of the former peace process.

7. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict becomes a true regional conflict: This means that the conflict involving the future of Israelis and Palestinians is becoming a conflict which primarily involves the regional powers; and involves less and less non regional powers. It is a logical consequence of assumptions 1, 2 and 6: the disappearance of the USSR, the durable weakening of the United States, and the rise to power of the EU or Iran illustrate a phenomenon of “re-centering”. During the 1950’s/1990’s, it was in Moscow and Washington that the biggest decisions concerning this conflict were made. From the beginning of the 1990’s and until the summer 2006, it was in Washington. Henceforth, and for a long period, it will be within a perimeter established by Teheran in the East, Ankara in the North, Brussels in the West and Riyadh in the South that the broad outlines of the future of the Israelis and the Palestinians will be decided. This does not mean that the rest of the world has no importance any more; it means it will have only secondary importance.

Scenario 1: The end of the State of Israel/ Towards simple Jewish communities in a Moslem Middle East

Scenario 1 implies these two following fundamental assumptions:

1. A strong political continuity in line with the decade 1995/2006: Instead of positively integrating the new constraints weighing on its environment (as defined by the seven strategic parameters retained by LEAP/E2020), the leaders and the people of Israel continue to base their actions on a logic of a power struggle with their neighbours (of which Palestinians in first place) and with the rest of the world (namely in refusing to recognize the resolutions of UNO that displease them). Politically this can be seen particularly in the option of the seizure of power taken by Benjamin Netanyahu and his associates.

2. The failure of a revival of the Arab unity process, opening the way to an increasing religious influence (Islamic toughening) of all Middle East. This tendency would mark in particular the perpetuation of Iran as a regional power, including a satellite position of most of Iraq; as well as a cascading collapse from Egypt to Morocco of pro-Western regimes [[For LEAP/E2020, the West’s inability to prevent the possession of nuclear arms by Iran is a factor. An Israeli-American preventive action in the current context would do nothing but increase the probability of Scenario 1.]]. Egypt is indeed today in a situation of “end of reign” which places the Moslem Brothers as the principal force able to seize power after the disappearance of president Mubarak [[Here in this country as well, LEAP/E2020 researchers have observed the exhaustion of the last decade’s dominant tendencies. Initiated in the Seventies during the Egyptian swing from a position close to the USSR towards the American orbit, they have allowed Israeli-Egyptian peace, and have had Egypt play a buffer role with regard to the extension of the tendencies affecting the Middle East towards the Maghreb. However peace with Israel which has never succeeded in anchoring itself in the Egyptian public opinion, and no credible actor of the post Mubarak era appears eager to challenge the Egyptian public opinion on the matter.]] .

Under these conditions, at the horizon of the decade 2010/2020, the whole of the direct and indirect vicinity of Israel (excluding the EU) will become wildly hostile to it, while being equipped with an increased military-strategic capacity. An open military conflict with several neighbouring countries and directly involving Iran or other powers of the Gulf would then become inevitable. For the reasons previously developed (parameter 4), unless Israel suffers a direct preliminary nuclear attack, it is likely that the main world powers (members of the Security Council) would prevent Israel from using its nuclear arsenal.

The rise of tensions and the beginning of a traditional conflict, preceded by the raining down of missiles over Israel, would initially cause a rapid exodus of approximately 1 million Israeli citizens who also have (or can automatically have) a European or American passport [[In particular with the widening of the EU. Source: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, Jewish Political Review Studies, [2005->http://www.jcpa.org/israel-europe/ier-muller-05.htm]; and [Fall 2001->http://www.jcpa.org/cjc/cjc-kay-f01.htm].]] , that is to say 20% of the Jewish population of Israel. The European Union and the United States would accommodate them without difficulty, especially if this avoids a direct military engagement with completely unforeseeable consequences.

Following terrestrial military offensives, accompanied by Israeli failures to put an end to the firing of missiles on the centre at the country (like the crisis of the summer 2006 already showed), will lead to a rapid collapse of the country whose very small size does not allow for several maintainable front lines to be created [[During the 1967 war, such a situation nearly occurred. Distances in the area are measured in tens of kilometres and any significant break-through makes it difficult to re-establish a new front line.]] .

Thus, in the space of a few weeks, the State of Israel would have disappeared [[France, for example, suffered a brutal collapse of all its official apparatus at the time of the fast break-through of the German forces in June 1940. Such a situation is generally the result of a complex mixture of irresponsibility of the elite, lack of preparation of the people and inability to take into account new power struggles which make possible what used to be “impossible”.]] . However, three to four million former Israeli citizens of Jewish confession will remain in the area; mainly the poorest, or those of families who initially came from countries not wishing to accommodate them (such as Russia, Ethiopia,..). For the international Community, the problem will take the form of an inversion of that of Palestinian refugees seen in 1948. Probably one or two million of them will still find refuge in Europe, the United States, Canada, Australia or Latin America. But there will remain strong Jewish communities on the territory of old Israel which will become a new source of tensions. Thus while UNO would try to negotiate the best possible statute for these communities, one would probably see the emergence of Jewish, local and international terrorism, asserting the re-creation of the State of Israel.

The team of LEAP/E2020 is aware that this scenario will cause consternation to some, even a pure and simple rejection of such a possibility. However, it is essential to point out two fundamental historical elements in order to put in perspective the trends at work in the Middle East area:

1. The double choice of Israel this past decade, consisting in one part to be more and more bound in its collective destiny to that of the “world Prince” i.e. United States and, in the other part, to protect itself behind a defensive wall (physical and/or virtual), strangely resembles the old process of ghettoisation of the Jewish minorities in the Christian and Moslem worlds. The reinforcement of such a tendency (that the political choice which underlies scenario 1 would incarnate) leads to the raising of the questions about the consequences, and to integrate into the analysis, the developments of Jewish ghettos in History. And this study does not create optimism with regard to the outcome of Scenario 1.

2. Demographically, financially, technologically,… Israel strongly depends on its base outside the region. It was also the case of other states created by Europeans (which most of the founders of Israel were) in this same area approximately a millennium ago. The durable weakening of Papacy, initial power behind the emergence of these states, with a background of progressive disinterest by European powers worried by other interests, sealed the future of these states.

History does not repeat itself, but, with a wild sense of irony, it feeds itself with the ongoing ability of humans to believe they will be more skilful at succeeding where the others have failed.

Scenario 2: A durable Israeli state, partner of an Arab world in process of regional integration

Scenario 2 implies the two following fundamental assumptions:

1. A major rupture with the policy pursued during the 1995-2006 decade: The leaders and the Israeli people positively integrate the new constraints imposed on their region (as defined by the seven strategic parameters retained by LEAP/E2020) and stop the logic of power struggle with their neighbours (firstly with Palestinians) and with the rest of the world (while specifically starting to recognize the UNO resolutions which displease them). Today, it is very difficult to identify the leaders or the credible political forces capable to incarnate such a move. Nevertheless it is present within the Israeli younger generation. It is the fourth Generation, after that of the “founders” (extinct for about 20 years), that of the “builders” (of whom Sharon was the last political example) and that of the “heirs” (of which Olmert and Peretz are the most edifying examples). What it will do is still uncertain, but part of these 20/35 [[LEAP/E2020 has met many on several occasions these last few years in the course of various projects.]] year old group is trying to open a new era, that of the integration of Israel in its regional environment.

2. Success, even limited, of a process of Arab unity: After the eradication by the West of the pan-Arabism starting from the Sixties, and the corresponding rise of the pan-Islamism of which Bin Laden is a final product, one can today observe a trend towards a new hope for an Arab unity amongst the young Arab elite. This evolution is in particular nourished by three complementary phenomena: firstly, the feeling of humiliation generated by the American invasion of Iraq and of impotence towards the unilateral policy of Israel; secondly, the growing visibility of the success of the European unification process which generates a real emulation; and finally an increasing concern that the American failures are currently more specifically beneficial to non-Arab Moslem forces (Iran, Pakistan,…), which use the Moslem religious identity to the detriment of the Arab identity. The revival of a process of Arab world unification would contribute to strongly reducing the inequality and sense of inferiority which is omnipresent in Arab countries, and currently nourishes a feeling of injustice favourable to extremists. The EU, because of her growing role in the region, will reinforce this tendency; and the nature of its process of foreign relations will lead it to favour a process of Arab regional integration. In any case, the failure of the Euromed [[The Euromed process, launched by the European Union in the middle of the Nineties, focused on countries of the Southern and Eastern banks of the Mediterranean, failed de facto even if it remains formally in the European agenda. The resumption of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict at the end of the Nineties paralysed a basically bureaucratic process, with no long term political vision. Within the framework of its maturation with regards to foreign policy, the EU is firstly defining its own clear Middle-East policy which aims to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian problem, and secondly at working out a policy of vicinity. In parallel, it tries to leave the politico-religious vision (centred on Islam) imposed by the United States of G.W. Bush and relayed by the United Kingdom of Tony Blair since September 11, 2001. It is within this framework that it gradually discovers a new political option specifically focusing on the Arab world.]] process requires it to seek alternatives. This assumption, over a period of 10 to 15 years, is thus not a fantasy notion. For the team of LEAP/E2020, it is rooted in trends that are still fragile, but already currently at work.

If these assumptions are confirmed, during decade 2010/2020, Israel will be able to massively contribute to the improvement of its own environment while in particular acting as a facilitator for this renaissance of the Arab unification process. Its geographical position, at the crossroads of several key countries (Egypt, Lebanon, Iraq, Syria,…) offers Israel remarkable strategic assets for the success of such a process. Its capacity, in such a context, being the privileged vector of European or American partnerships with the remainder of the Middle East, will even more so reinforce this situation. Compared to the current dominant ideology in Tel-Aviv and Washington, the paradox is that it is a unified and powerful Arab world which would be largely less problematic for the existence of Israel than a cut-up Middle East, corresponding with a war between Islam and Christendom, Orient and Occident, Arabs and Americans [[For LEAP/E2020, Europeans will refuse to follow Washington in such a way, as Iraq has already shown; and as their progressive disengagement of Afghanistan will continue to show from now until the end of 2006.]] . The Middle East will not remain indefinitely out of the XXI° century. And a future Beirut to Cairo highspeed railway project, a project which is technically conceivable by 2020, would have to go through Jerusalem, or Tel-Aviv.

For LEAP/E2020, one of the crucial points of this evolution will be the renouncement by Israel as by the Palestinians (and other Arab people) to make Jerusalem a political capital. Whether it is simple, double, triple or quadruple, Jerusalem should not become a political capital. The path of scenario 2 will be able to concretize only if all parts renounce to this symbol which is dear to all their hearts. Inspired in particular by the experiment of European construction, it is indeed one of the essential messages that the international Community must communicate. It will be a question “of inhibiting the power” in order to move the stakes from confrontation to co-operation, instead of using it to try to crush oppositions.

LEAP/E2020 is aware that scenario 2 can seem very optimistic, but it is inspired by History as well, in particular that seen recently on the European continent, or in countries such as South Africa, where the worst appeared inescapable.

For our teams, the Israeli-Lebanese crisis opened a door on a future which can give birth to these two scenarios. Of course, it is up to the players directly concerned to define their actions according to these alternatives; but it is also up to the Europeans, the rising force in the area, to become aware of their heavy responsibilities.


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