Ceremony welcoming new INS Atzmaut

Israeli Maritime Power and Eurasian Competition

While the U.S. military force structure pivots away from Middle Eastern security concerns toward East Asia, Russia, China, Turkey, Iran, and the Gulf monarchies are all potentially or actively hostile to Israel, or will seek more influence if the United States departs from the Middle East, or both. As Middle Eastern regional rivalries intersect increasingly with Eurasian great-power competition, the maritime element of Israeli grand strategy will grow in importance.


Modern Israel stands at a strategic crossroads. Bilaterally, the Trump administration was more accommodating of Israeli interests than any U.S. presidency had been since the first years of the century, if not the late 1960s. The Abraham Accords constituted the most significant diplomatic shift in the modern Middle East, creating the possibility of a legitimate Arab-Israeli coalition to counter Iranian expansionism. Moreover, Israel’s diplomatic opening to Russia provided Israel with greater freedom of action in Syria and Iraq against Iran, potentially indicating a broader Eurasian political shift.

However, the situation has shifted over the past year. The United States now seems eager to return to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Obama administration’s nuclear deal with Iran that likely would provide a core aspect of a regional realignment. The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Taliban’s subsequent victory may indicate a broader American pivot away from the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. The U.S. military force structure—particularly at sea, but also more broadly—increasingly reflects this pivot away from European and Middle Eastern security concerns and toward East Asia. Russia remains a potential threat to Israeli interests, depending on its political relationship with Iran. Turkey is now an active hostile power with clear ambitions to control the Levantine Basin. Increasing daylight exists among the Gulf monarchies over their policies toward Iran and Russia. China steadily has expanded its regional economic influence, within and without Israel, and will seek a more explicit political role if the United States departs from the Middle East. Internally, although Israel has escaped the electoral deadlock that paralyzed its domestic politics from early 2019 to June 2021, the new governing coalition has yet to resolve the tensions within Israeli society that generated internal gridlock.

The strategic situation requires an understanding of Israel’s maritime interests and strategy. Israel’s physical and human geography, economic realities, and geo[1]political location give it a distinct interest in maritime security. And as Middle Eastern regional rivalries intersect increasingly with Eurasian great-power competition, the maritime element of Israeli grand strategy will grow in importance

 

Read the full article at Naval War College Review.

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