The Significance of the Coronavirus Epidemic for Israel's National Security

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser - In spite of the potential for change that the pandemic creates, it seems that most players in the Middle East (who so far report limited damage) view it as just an imposed break and, right after it disappears, they intend to keep promoting their interests. The tensions between rival camps in the region and their attitude toward Israel are not expected to change. The most affected country in the region so far is Iran and there is the main potential for change. Many in Iran believe that the dangerous reality of corona is the result of the problematic conduct of the regime. Meanwhile, the regime tries to blame the U.S. and is presenting its support for terrorist elements as useful in the fight against corona. Thus, the Iranians showed Hizbullah members from Lebanon disinfecting the streets of Qom. The possibility of beginning negotiations with the U.S. on a new nuclear agreement from the point of weakness in which the regime currently finds itself is not on the agenda. Yet if it becomes clear to the regime that all other avenues of action have failed and public anger threatens to explode, it may have no choice but to consider even this possibility. The Palestinian issue is completely pushed aside. The focus on the U.S. peace plan is frozen. Even if there is an increase in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority stemming from a joint interest in the fight against the virus, it is doubtful if this will have any impact on Palestinian positions regarding the conflict. The enormous economic damage and the blow to the idea of globalization as an organizing principle of the international system may deepen the responsibility of each country to deal by itself with the virus and later with the need for economic revival, that will likely take time. The economic recession, the potential for growing tension between the U.S. and China, and the impact on the results of the U.S. elections may affect Israel's national security interests. The tension between the need to invest in the military or in health to guarantee national security and the international economic crisis may put pressure on the military budget and affect its ability to implement long-term plans. One clear way for Israel to deal with the new and complex challenges arising in the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic is to invest in the advancement of responses to the virus and to thereby expedite its contribution as a center of scientific research to the security of the West and the U.S. The writer, former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Research Division and director-general of the Strategic Affairs Ministry, is director of the Project on Regional Middle East Developments at the Jerusalem Center.

2020-03-23 00:00:00

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