Taking Israel’s security interests into account: Deterrence policy in a changing strategic environment

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For more than six decades now, the Jewish state has been involved in an intense armed conflict with state and non-state actors in the Middle East/ Gulf. Since its primary interest has been on maintaining the status quo, it has relied heavily on deterrence, both to prevent the emergence of new challenges to its security and to contain existing ones. Political, military, and technological developments during this period have changed the strategic environment, and led to major shifts in Israel’s deterrence strategy. This article describes these changes and analyses their implications. The first part briefly discusses the concept of deterrence in Israel’s strategic thinking and shows how the changes in its strategic environment led to the declining relevance of one type of deterrence and the growing importance of others. The starting point for the second part of this essay is the fact that the main challenge to Israel’s deterrence policy in the future will be non-conventional threats, primarily Iran’s nuclear programme, which might compel the Jewish state to rely more heavily on nuclear deterrence. Consequently, I describe the logic behind its nuclear project, explain Israel’s policy of opacity, provide a description, on the basis of non-Israeli sources, of the current status of its arsenal, and examine the effect of its image as a nuclear power on the policy of its regional opponents. Finally, the article analyses the main elements of the Jewish state’s future deterrence policy vis-à-vis Iran.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationArms Control and Missile Proliferation in the Middle East
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781136491184
ISBN (Print)9780415601115
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012 Selection and editorial matter, Bernd W. Kubbig and Sven-Eric Fikenscher.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Sciences (all)
  • Arts and Humanities (all)


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