TEL AVIV — The Iranian nuclear threat is not specifically mentioned in the IDF's new strategy document, at least not in the unclassified version approved for public release.

While its hegemonic Islamic designs on the region and its support for extreme terrorist organizations is a central and recurring point of reference, the existential threat Tehran presumably poses through its nuclear program does not appear in the 33-page document signed by Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, IDF chief of staff.

Instead, Eisenkot warns against "exposing the state of Israel to risks that are not reasonable for its existence."

Eisenkot repeatedly references the military's total subordination to the political echelon and the need to fortify deterrence through a credible military threat. He also writes of the IDF's obligation to achieve all objectives as defined by the government and to "defend and win" in any government-mandated use of force. But Eisenkot also states that use of military force should be aimed at achieving an improved strategic situation as a result of combat.

At a time of plummeting relations between the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the administration of US President Barack Obama over the Iranian nuclear deal, Israel’s top officer accords high priority to prioritizes fortifying bilateral cooperation.

Similarly, he defines Israel’s international standing as a key tenet of national security strategy that which must be strengthened through multidisciplinary action of which the IDF is only one part.

Israeli experts here welcomed Eisenkot's publicly released document, yet decried the fact that the Netanyahu government has not come out with a strategy paper at the national level.

In an Aug. 16 paper, analysts from the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) say assumptions that have long guided Israeli strategy should be revised at the national level, given the "absence of an existential military threat" and the spread of non-state actors who are much harder to deter and whose "centers of gravity" are much harder to attack.

INSS authors Udi Dekel and Omer Einav argue that Israel's national security and defense strategy must be multidisciplinary and involve not only IDF power, but soft power contributed across the government spectrum. They take Netanyahu's government to task for too often relying on military might instead of more holistic means of achieving national objectives.

"Even when a conflict develops, as has happened four times over the past decade, the enemies cannot be defeated through exclusively military means, whether due to the minimalist definition of political aim, or as a result of constraints in using force by international law and the lack of international legitimacy for using military force in a civilian environment," they write.

The INSS authors called for a revised national strategy for promoting Israel's interests and political-security goals that must include public diplomacy, "instruments of soft power," cooperation with actors whose interests overlap those of Israel; cyber operations, and the establishment "of a legal and public relations apparatus aimed at reducing Israel's isolation in the international arena."


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Opall-Rome is Israel bureau chief for Defense News. She has been covering U.S.-Israel strategic cooperation, Mideast security and missile defense since May 1988. She lives north of Tel Aviv. Visit her website at

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