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Policy Analysis

Policy Focus 15

Israel and the Gulf Crisis: Changing Security Requirements on the Eastern Front

Dore Gold

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December 1990

The Gulf crisis has set into motion several fundamental strategic changes along Israel's eastern front that, taken together, could dramatically alter Israel's security requirements in the West Bank. The Israeli government would then find it even more ddifficult to offer far-reaching concessions in negotiations with the Palestinians.

Three major changes draw into question Israel's security margin vis-a-vis the West Bank:

  • Increasing domestic instability in Jordan and King Hussein's support for Iraq raise doubts about Jordan's ability to engage in an eventual peace settlement as a stable partner cooperating with Israel to contain a future Palestinian entity.
  • A rapid rapprochement between Iraq and Iran will permit Iraq's army to reduce its pre-occupation with guarding the border with Iran and instead focus more of its deployments toward the west against Israel.
  • A decline in the qualitative superiority of the Israeli Air Force owing to massive U.S. arms sales planned for Saudi Arabia which will reduce Israel's ability to rely on air power to stop Arab armies advancing from the east.

These developments will make military access to the West Bank more important than ever for Israel. As a result, Israel's security requirements in negotiations with the Palestinians will increase, complicating efforts to achieve a settlement that addresses both Palestinian political rights and Israeli security. Understanding Israel's new strategic concerns and taking them into account will present a serious challenge to U.S. diplomacy as it tries to invigorate the peace process in the post-crisis period.

19 pages