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The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) presents

Strategic Survey for Israel 2019-2020

and the Threat Index 2020
to the President of the State of Israel
On Monday, January 6, 2020, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
will present its annual Strategic Survey for Israel (2020) to the President of the
State of Israel, Reuven (Ruvi) Rivlin. This publication summarizes the main
points of the analysis of the strategic environment through the prism of Israel’s
national security  with its existing threats and opportunities  and offers a
series of recommendations for Israel’s decision makers. INSS researchers
will present to the President a review of the substantial political and security
issues facing Israel at the outset of the new year and decade. On this basis and
its forecast of national security challenges, the Institute will present its overall
political and security strategy for dealing with the threats to the State of Israel.

Major General (ret.) Amos Yadlin, Director of INSS, will present the strategic
assessment to the President of Israel at the President’s official residence, in an
event open to the media, on Monday, January 6, at 12:00. It will be possible to
view the event and hear the President’s remarks by live broadcast on the INSS
Facebook page, from 12:00 on Monday, via the following link: The event will be conducted in Hebrew.

An in-depth and detailed discussion of the main insights of the strategic

assessment will be part of the INSS Annual International Conference on
January 29-30, 2020 in Tel Aviv.

The following are the main points of the insights into Israel’s strategic
situation at the start of 2020 (full details given in the attached file):
Increased Probability of War
The focus of the strategic assessment for 2020 is the tension between Israel’s
clear strength and impressive successes in a variety of fields, and the possibility
that this positive situation will prove temporary and fragile. This tension derives
from a number of factors that could lead to widespread clashes and even war
in the coming year, and involves Israel’s approach to significant national
security challenges, led by: Iran’s growing determination and audacity, both
in its nuclear activities and in its efforts to entrench itself in Syria and
other arenas where it can demonstrate its ability to take action against
Israel; the efforts of Hezbollah to obtain large-scale offensive precision
capability; and efforts by Hamas to relieve the pressure in Gaza and
influence the terms of an arrangement with Israel. All these events are
unfolding against a backdrop of the ongoing political crisis in Israel, which
makes it harder to develop an updated strategy, and the strategic competition
between the powers, leading to basic problems and functional difficulties in the
international system.

The presentation of the assessment to the President will take place in the
immediate aftermath of the killing of Qasem Soleimani, Commander of the
Iranian al-Quds force, in an American attack on the night of January 2-3, 2020.
In the view of INSS, this development lends more weight to the assessment
regarding the possibility of escalation and the need to formulate a new Israeli
strategy. The killing of Soleimani creates a new context and has the potential
to cause a change of strategic direction whose scope and dimensions it is still
too early to estimate:

 With respect to the United States, the central question is whether this killing
is evidence of a fundamental change in American policy toward a proactive
military campaign against Iran’s regional activity, or if it is a more concrete
action for prevention and deterrence purposes, by exacting a heavy price
for a series of actions by pro-Iranian elements, directed by Soleimani,
which culminated in the killing of an American citizen (December 27, 2019)
and the storming of the Embassy in Baghdad (December 31, 2019).
 Iran is likely currently examining its options for responding to the American
action, in the absence of Soleimani who previously coordinated the thinking
and planning around such campaigns in the regional arena. Moreover, it is
still too early to assess the impact of killing Soleimani, who controlled Iran’s
connections with its proxies in the region, and was the driver of the Iranian
determination and brazenness reflected in recent months.

Iran and the United States are therefore considering their next steps, and this
naturally raises the levels of uncertainty, instability, and volatility that have
characterized the Middle East over the past decade. Iran will likely try to
respond powerfully to Soleimani’s death with attacks on American targets, but
it may also take action against US allies in the Middle East, including Israel.
In these circumstances the correct course is to prepare for a range of possible
scenarios: escalation of events up to a broad violent confrontation between the
United States and Iran, that could also involve Israel; further clashes between
Iran and the US of the type seen in recent months; or even a postponement of
the Iranian response to a later date when the United States and its allies have
scaled down their vigilance.

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