Mideast Security and Policy Studies

Mideast Security and Policy Studies serve as a forum for publication or re-publication of research conducted by BESA Center research associates.

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Land Combat Vehicles: Protection Must Come First

| November 28, 2019

For decades, western armies have been working on developing a land-combat vehicle that would address the changing nature of warfare — notably fighting in densely populated urban and rural terrains — and
new operational threats like mines, side bombs, and short-range rockets for purposes of ambush. But attempts to circumvent the use of expensive heavy armor by harnessing advanced sensory-fire and mobility technologies to neutralize potential threats before their actualization has been far from successful, leaving ground forces vulnerable and exposed. Development of a new land-combat vehicle
will thus necessitate a highly inventive engineering and technological approach that slashes costs and weight of protective armor without compromising its effectiveness.

Trump’s Trade Wars: A New World Order?

| November 8, 2019

President Donald Trump’s declared economic protectionism has taken the US’s international relations with several foes and allies into uncharted territory. His open-ended trade wars with several nations have triggered criticism among conservatives and liberals alike in the US. He has justified his actions by arguing for a downturn of America’s trade deficit, but the American people don’t seem to be on board with his logic. This paper examines the ramifications of President Trump’s policy of economic sanctions and tariffs vis-à-vis several nations and international groupings. It also looks at China’s counter-strategy and considers whether Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia will be caught in the web of the current trade wars.

What Happens to Israel If the US and Iran Go to War?

| September 12, 2019

On core matters of peace and security, two closely interrelated questions must be asked: 1. What precisely does Donald Trump have in mind regarding any potential armed conflict with Iran? 2. What might such a possibility portend for Israel, a US ally? Answers to these questions must extend beyond narrowly partisan simplifications. They should be nuanced and subtly overlapping. At a minimum, once a shooting war were underway, the Israeli armed forces (IDF) could become involved, possibly to a substantial degree. In a worst case scenario, clashes would involve unconventional weapons and directly affect Israel’s civilian population. The worst of the worst could involve nuclear ordnance.

EU Funding of Illegal Palestinian Settlement in Area C

| September 3, 2019

“Area C,” which makes up about 60% of the biblical lands of Judea
and Samaria (known as the West Bank since their 1950 annexation by Jordan), is making news these days. This time, the hot button issue is the illegal Palestinian settlements that are sprouting up across the region. These settlements shred the last scraps that remain of the Oslo Accords,
which propelled the idea of the “two-state solution” for a generation.

The funding for these illegal Palestinian settlements, which amounts to hundreds of millions of euros annually, comes from the EU. According to the Oslo Accords, only Israel can issue construction permits in Area C. In joining forces to promote the rapid expansion of illegal  Palestinian settlement in Area C, the EU and the PA have dispensed entirely with any coordination with Israel, in direct contravention of the Accords.

A Geopolitical Crossfire: Al-Azhar Struggles to Balance Politics and Tradition

| August 22, 2019

When Pope Francis I visited Egypt in 2017 to stimulate interfaith dialogue he walked into a religious and geopolitical minefield at the heart of which was Al-Azhar, one of the world’s oldest and foremost seats of Islamic learning. The pope’s visit took on added significance with Al-Azhar standing accused of promoting the kind of ultra-conservative Sunni Muslim Islam that potentially creates an environment conducive to breeding extremism.

Israeli Nuclear Deterrence in Context: Effects of the US-Russian Rivalry

| June 20, 2019

Israel’s presumptive nuclear deterrence posture depends upon several separate but intersecting factors. Most important, of course, are the country’s weapons, infrastructures, and missile defense capabilities. Less conspicuously urgent, but still important, are the principal defining structures of world politics. These include (as ever) the fundamentally anarchic system created after the 1648 Peace of Westphalia (“The State System”) and the more transient or temporary US-Russian rivalry. This essay casts attention on the latter set of factors, or “Cold War II.” Israel’s strategists should pay close attention to this critical expression of geopolitical “context.”

The West Bank’s Area C: Israel’s Eastern Line of Defense

This study explores the strategic-military implications of the establishment of a Palestinian state along the pre-June 1967 lines. Its central thesis is that the creation of such a state, on the heels of the IDF’s total withdrawal from the West Bank, will not only deprive Israel of defensible borders but will almost certainly lead to the advent of a terrorist entity like the one created in the Gaza Strip – at a stone’s throw from the Israeli hinterland.

American Jews and Their Israel Problem

| December 31, 2018

Jewish anti-Zionism emerged in central Europe in the early nineteenth century as a response to anti-Semitic claims that Jews were unfit for many civic rights because they constituted a separate nation. Central European Jewish immigrants to the United States later in the century brought their anti-Zionism with them and made it a staple of Reform Judaism in America. The influx of pro-Zionist eastern European Jews, together with the Shoah and the founding of Israel, resulted in a dramatic rise in pro-Zionist opinion among American Jews, including within the Reform movement. But the persistent predilection to appease anti-Jewish opinion by seeking to accommodate anti-Jewish indictments has always had some negative impact on support for Israel among American Jews. In recent decades, as groups within the wider society with whom many American Jews identify have become increasingly critical of and even hostile towards Israel, major segments of the Jewish community have chosen cultivation of their links with those groups over the defense of the well-being of the Jewish state.

Pakistan and Its Militants: Who Is Mainstreaming Whom?

| November 18, 2018

Pakistani militants of various stripes collectively won just under 10% of the vote in the July 2018 parliamentary elections. Some represented longstanding legal Islamist parties, others newly established groups or fronts for  organizations that have been banned as terrorists by Pakistan and/or the United Nations and the United States. The militants failed to secure a single seat in the national assembly but have maintained, if not increased, their ability to shape national debate, mainstream politics, and societal attitudes. Their ability to field candidates in almost all constituencies, and, in many cases, their performance as debutants enhanced their legitimacy.

The 1981 AWACS Deal: AIPAC and Israel Challenge Reagan

| November 8, 2018

In 1981, US President Ronald Reagan’s decision to implement a large arms deal with Saudi Arabia involving aircraft, tanks, and Airborne Warning and Control Systems (AWACS) prompted a determined campaign against it spearheaded by the America-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC and the Israeli government found the inclusion of the AWACS in the deal particularly troubling, as they threatened to speed up the regional arms race and erode Israel’s technological edge. President Reagan was equally determined to see the deal go through, as failure to do so would have had a detrimental effect on his authority and international standing. In his first major policy challenge in the White House, Reagan led a no-holds-barred effort to convince Congress to approve the deal.

This conflict between a US president and Israel illustrates the peril into which a small state wades when it asserts its own perceived national interest at the expense of that of a far more powerful ally. This dynamic would come to the fore once again decades later, when Benjamin Netanyahu would openly resist the efforts of President Barack Obama to
reach a nuclear accord with Iran.