A single word, which depending on one’s viewpoint, has many different meanings, interpretations and derivations.
Prime Minister Netanyahu is a security hawk with his prime focus being twofold:
– Iran generally, as well as stopping Iran from getting nuclear capability.
– Closing the gap towards formal overt ties with Saudi Arabia.
In both of these, Netanyahu seeks good relations with Israel’s closest allies and the Arab world, and knows there is an internal price to be paid.
As Prime Minister in 2020, Netanyahu chose relations with the UAE et al over annexation of parts of Judea/Samaria/West Bank. That is, peace deals with four Arab countries, over extending Israeli sovereignty in Judea/Samaria/West Bank.
Of course, they are not perfect deals. The UAE sits on the United Nations Security Council and despite the real warmth of the relationship, often leads UN resolutions against Israel.
Morocco is now wavering on hosting the next session of the Negev Forum.
And so it goes on.
Egypt, who Israel negotiated the recent ceasefire with Gaza through, and who trusts its good offices, regularly supports harsh UN resolutions against Israel.
This realpolitik is frustrating and irksome, but Israel tolerates it, understanding that these countries also have their domestic realities to take into consideration.
Let us go back to another security hawk – Ariel Sharon. Sharon had been previously referred to as ‘the father’ of the settlements, but it was he who in 2005, brought Israel the Disengagement from Gaza and four Judea/Samaria/West Bank towns and villages.
Sharon’s judgment at the time was that withdrawal from these areas brought Israel greater security, especially with the overlay of the exchange of letters between himself and President Bush.
In 1979, security hawk Menachem Begin ceded much of the territorial gains of the Six Day War in exchange for a peace treaty with Egypt and even brought the future of Judea/Samaria/West Bank into play.
One can site more examples, but what all of the above have in common is that they were leaders from the right and all exchanged territory for something, that they believed, brought Israel greater security.
A security hawk has different strategic aims to a territorial hawk. For one, territorial concessions can be a means to achieving security. For the other, territory is the end in itself.
Both of these groups are found in the current Israeli government and they do not coexist easily.
The territorial hawks tend to be from the religious Zionistic right and to some extent secular rightists, but do not include the Haredim who have little to say on territorial issues.
Netanyahu has been trying to balance the need to keep his right flank satisfied, whilst not losing sight of seeking the support of allies for his two main security goals.
In this, he put settlement expansion of the most sensitive area called E1(between Ma’ale Adumim and Jerusalem) on the backburner yet again, but gave approval for a further step in the planning process for more homes in other areas over the Green Line.
Where this will lead and how many homes will actually be built is an open question, but the pendulum is moving towards greater settlement housing being constructed.
Another essential element of security is internal cohesion and the resilience of the Israeli civilian population. This depends on the population feeling it has buy-in to its own future.
The current on-going protests represent, with varying expressed actual aims, essentially the same general issue. A fear, justified or not, that for demographic reasons, large sections of the community will not have their future interests, lifestyles and values guaranteed.
One can recall the 2011 socio economic demonstrations and tent city protests centred around Rothschild Boulevard Tel Aviv, when over the Israeli summer ultimately hundreds of thousands of people, initially largely from the middle class, protested the high cost of living.
As the protests continued, the groups represented broadened, as did the protestors’ agenda. Social justice and corruption issues also became prominent.
Passing their peak, the protests waned. In October the police dismantled the tent city and it was the beginning of the end. The protest leadership included people like Stav Shaffir and Itzik Shmuli who rose to national prominence, entered politics and climbed the political ladder for a while.
Most assessments agree that the 2011 protests themselves ultimately achieved little if anything at all, neither in terms of their agenda, nor in producing the next generation of political leaders.
It is too early to say what the outcome of the current protests will be, but Israelis love saying that ‘this time it is different’. It may well be, but we just do not know as yet.
What they have succeeded in doing so far is to convince Netanyahu, to try and negotiate a compromise on judicial reform under the auspices of the President. What they have almost certainly achieved, is that even if the compromise talks completely break down, judicial reforms will be much milder than originally proposed. Whether that will be enough for things to return to ‘normal’ or not remains to be seen.
The other effect of the whole protest process, perhaps of larger immediate significance, has been to divide the government itself along multiple fault lines, which if it brings the government down, will be considered by the protestors to be a success.
The government is so divided, that even four members of it voted with the opposition, to put opposition member, Yesh Atid MK Karine Elharrar on the Judicial Selection Committee. This is, the committee which nominates judges, including for the Supreme Court. A lot will depend on how this government proceeds and its ability to hold together. Settlements and judicial reform are just two of the many matters that deeply divide it.
Last weekend at the Australian discussions initiated by President Herzog as part of a worldwide process re Israel-Diaspora relations, it became clearer that just as Diaspora Jewry claim Israel does not fully understand them, the truth goes both ways.
In reality it might be better to not speak about ‘the Israeli government’ as such, but rather the different elements of it.
This would be a more nuanced approach and one that would reflect the realities a little better. Initially the formation of this government, with its relatively clear majority, was expected to bring some stability to the political arena. It has not really done so.
Division, as well as confusion over who dominates policy, brings its own insecurity.