Israel's Strategic Doctrine


Israel's Strategic Doctrine

Prof. Prof. General (Ret.) Isaac Ben Israel


Course description

The course deals with strategic solutions to security problems, applied by super-powers as well as by small countries like Israel. It distinguishes between strategy and grand-strategy and discusses the main strategic variables, including economy, demography and society, which transcend the realm of military strength. The spectrum of solutions includes those that involve the application of force, e.g., wars, covert actions etc., and those that do not, e.g. deterrence, international agreements, alliances, etc. The strategic role of the principles of relative advantage and indirect approach will be analyzed thoroughly, especially their usage in the buildup of strategic force. Special attention will be given to the role of nuclear weapons in the global strategy after the Second World War, including issues such as the proliferation and control of weapons of mass destruction.The course will also include a discussion of new emerging topics like information warfare.


1.            What is strategy?

Basic concepts; Fundamental terms in game-theory.


Essential Reading:

Thomas Schelling, Arms and Influence, Yale University Press, 1966,   location in library: 327(1717)(1713) SCHE

Michael Porter, "What is Strategy?", Harvard Business Review, Nov-Dec. 1996, pp. 61-78.

Paul Kennedy, "Grand Strategy in War and Peace: Toward a Boader Definition", in Paul Kennedy (ed.) Grand Strategies in War and Peace, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1991, pp. 1-7.


Optional Reading:

Brodie, Bernard;  War and politics, New York : Macmillan Pub. Co., 1973 , location in library: 355.0217 BRO  , S

Colin S. Gray, "Why Strategy is Difficult?", Joint Force Quarterly, No. 22, 1999, pp. 6-12.


2.            Varying levels of strategic discussion

The difference between strategy and the other levels, such as operational, tactical, and technical. Examples: air-defence, ground-to-ground missiles, attack helicopters.


Essential Reading:

al-Shazli, Sa'ad; The crossing of the Suez. Rev. English ed., American Mideast Research, c2003, location in library (Soraski/Central): 962.06 SHA


Optional Reading:

Luttwak, Edward;  The grand strategy of the Roman Empire, Johns Hopkins University Press, c1976, location in library (Soraski/Central): 937.07 LUT


3.            Strategy and Grand-strategy

Example: Yom Kippur War


Essential Reading:

Herzog, Chaim, The War of Atonement. Greenhill Books, 1998, Chapters 1-5,19


4.            The First Era: Conflict between Neighbors (1920-1947)


Essential Reading:

The Iron Wall:


Optional Reading:

Jabotinsky, Vladimir;  The political and social philosophy of Ze'ev Jabotinsky, location in library(Soraski/Central): 933.643 JAB


5.            The Second Era: Invasion of state armies (1947-1995) -I


6.            The Second Era: Invasion of state armies (1947-1995) -II

History; striking force versus potential power; numerical asymmetry; quality versus quantity; use of overwhelming force; economical issues; the meaning of victory; The two legs of Iron Wall: conventional and unconventional; the concept of rounds; cumulative deterrence; the concept of "Hachraa" (decisive victory); Home Front and civil population resilience.


Essential Reading:

Michael Handel, "The Evolution of Israeli Strategy: Psychology of Insecurity and the Quest for Absolute Security", in Murray, Knox & Bernstein (eds.), The Making of Strategy, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 534-578

Dan Horowitz, "The Israeli Concept of National Security and the Prospects of Peace in the Middle East", in G. Sheffer (ed.), Dynamics of a conflict, Humanities Press, 1975, pp.235-275

Cohen, Eliot A.;  Supreme Command,  Free Press, 2002 , location in library (Soraski-Central): 322.5 COH

Avner Yaniv, Deterrence without a Bomb: The Politics of Israeli Strategy, D.C. Heath & Co., 1987


7.            Deterrence – I


8.            Deterrence - II


Conventional vs. unconventional deterrence; a brief guide for making a bomb; nuclear effects; measures of deterrence; MAD; second strike capability.


Essential Reading:

Patrick M. Morgan, Deterrence: A Conceptual Analysis, Beverly Hills, CA: Sage Publications, 1983 (second edition), pp. 11-102

 Kissinger, Henry, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign policy,  published for the Council on Foreign Relations by Westview Press, 1984, location in library(Soraski/Central): 327 KIS

Feldman, Shai, Israeli nuclear deterrence, Columbia University Press, 1982, location in library: E355.0217 FEL, BK

Avner Cohen, Israel and the Bomb, Columbia University Press. 1998

Waltz Kenneth and Scott Sagen, The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: A Debate, W.W Norton, 1995, Chps. 1-2.


Optional Reading:

Paul K. Huth, Extended Deterrence and the Prevention of War, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988, pp.1-55

Yair Evron, Weapons of Mass Destruction on the Middle East: Strategies, Threat Preceptions and Possibilities for Arms Control, Washington: The Henry L. Stimson Center, 1998.


9.            Intelligence, Early Warning, and Surprise


Essential Reading:

Isaac Ben-Israel, "A New Approach to Intelligence Assessment", Chapter 12 in Steve Tsang (ed.), Intelligence and Human Rights in the Era of Global Terrorism, Praeger, 2007, pp. 132-144

Ariel Levite, Intelligence and Strategic Surprise, Columbia University Press, 1987, pp. 135-172

Isaac Ben Israel, "Philosophy and Methodology of Intelligence -- The Logic of Estimate Process", Intelligence and National Security, Vol. 4, No. 4, October 1989, pp. 690-718.


Optional Reading:

Kam, Ephraim,  Surprise Attack, Harvard University Press, 2004, location in library(Soraski/Central): 355.4 KAM, CS


10.        The third era (1995-). I – Terror


Essential Reading:

Martin Van Creveld. The Transformation of War, Free Press, 1991, pp. 1-35.

Isaac Ben-Israel, Oren Setter and Asher Tishler, "R&D and the War on Terrorism: Generalizing the Israeli Experience", in Andrew James(ed.), Science and Technology Policies for the Anti-Terrorism Era, NATO Science Series V (Amsterdam: IOS Press),  2006, pp. 51-63


11.        The third era (1995-). II – Missile Wars


Essential Reading:

Isaac Ben-Israel, "Aerospace Power and Counterinsurgency: Israeli Experience", Chapter 10 in James Fergusson and William March (eds.), No Clear Flight Plane – Counterinsurgency and Aerospace Power, The Centre for Defence and Security Studies in Winnipeg, 


12.        Strategy and Technology

Revolution in Military affairs: Precision Strike, Space, Information Warfare, Dominant Maneuver; the unique role of Israel; the principle of relative advantage in force buildup.


Essential Reading:

Martin Van Creveld, Technology and War, The Free Press, 1991, pp. 235-320

Isaac Ben-Israel, "The Revolution in Military Affairs and the Operation in Iraq", in S. Feldman (ed.), After the War in Iraq – Defining the New Strategic Balance, Sussex Academic Press, 2003, pp. 55-74.

Toffler, Alvin,  War and Anti-War, Little, Brown, 1993, location in library(Social Sciences): 355 TOF, BK

Eliot Choen, "A Revolution in Warfare", Foreign Affairs, 1996, Vol. 75(2) pp. 37-54.


Optional Reading:

Howard, Michael; War in European history. Oxford University Press,  1976, location in library(Soraski/Central): 355.09(4) HOW, CS


13.        The role of Defence Industry in Israeli security Doctrine

R&D vs. sustainability; R&D Ecosystem; foreign relations and defence export; examples: UAV's, air-to-air missiles, missile defence.


14.        Summary

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