Ilan Berman
Ilan Berman
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Pundicity: Informed Opinion and Review

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Israel Seeks A New Strategic Concept

April 11, 2024  •  National Institute for Public Policy Information Series No. 583

On October 7, 2023, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas carried out a brazen, large-scale attack on communities in the south of Israel. The offensive, dubbed "Al-Aqsa Flood," entailed the breaching of the border fence separating Israel from the Gaza Strip by hundreds of militants, and subsequent systematic assaults on population centers, social gatherings, and other soft targets. The results were horrific; Hamas' campaign of terror left more than 1,200 Israelis dead in the largest slaughter of Jews to take place since the Holocaust more than eight decades earlier. In response, Israel has launched a large-scale military offensive in the Gaza Strip – a protracted campaign that, six months later, is still ongoing. Its goals are two-fold, albeit potentially contradictory. The first is to remove Hamas from power in the Gaza Strip, degrade the group's strategic capabilities, and prevent it from ever presenting a threat to Israeli security ever again – an objective that, Israeli officials have made clear, will require the establishment of a new "security regime" in the enclave. The second is to secure the return of the 130-plus hostages that remain in Hamas captivity. In tandem with its military offensive against Hamas, however, Israel has experienced a deeper strategic shift. A sea change is now taking place in Israel's approach to security affairs, informed by the errors and miscalculations that made the atrocities of October 7th possible.

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The True Obstacles To A Palestinian State

April 2, 2024  •  Newsweek

There's a new joke making the rounds in Israel, concerning the Biden administration's Mideast policy. The punchline is that the White House is worried about a "two state solution"—just the wrong one. That is, rather than figuring out how to make real, lasting peace between Israel and "Palestine," Washington, D.C., is preoccupied with pacifying two other states: Michigan and Arizona. Like all such anecdotes, this one has a ring of truth to it. The Biden administration, facing an increasingly tough re-election battle this fall, is tacking left in its approach to Israel, hoping to mollify voters angered by its support of Israel's current war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the process, President Joe Biden and his supporters have broken with Israel's government in all sorts of very public and concerning ways, from undercutting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by hosting his main political rival in Washington for an unsanctioned visit to calling for Netanyahu himself to step down. The White House has also, in a clear nod to calls from its activist left, begun weighing options for the near term recognition of Palestinian state. (Most recently, the two sides have engaged in a very public dust-up over America's failure to block a controversial U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for a ceasefire without mentioning Israeli hostages.) One the one hand, this is understandable. All politics is local, after all, and Team Biden needs to be responsive to its constituents if it hopes to win re-election in November. On the other, however, it is deeply myopic because it gives little serious thought to what it might actually take to build a viable "day after" solution for the Palestinian people.

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The Limits Of Israeli-Saudi Rapprochement

April 1, 2024  •  AFPC Insights

Is a political thaw between Jerusalem and Riyadh truly possible? Before the terror attacks of October 7th, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was widely hailed by many – including many in Israel – as the next likely entrant into the Abraham Accords, joining Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Morocco in normalizing relations with the Jewish state. Even now, amid Israel's ongoing war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, many still believe that the nascent reconciliation could be easily and quickly revived. In his recent address at New York's Radio City Music Hall, President Biden himself said as much when he suggested  that the House of Saud, and other Arab governments as well, "are prepared to fully recognize Israel" if the Israeli government makes greater accommodations for humanitarian assistance to the Palestinians, and paves the way to an eventual two-state solution. Others, however, are striking a more sober note. For instance, a new policy paper from the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), Israel's premier think tank, suggests that – for all of the official optimism that surrounds it – Israeli-Saudi normalization could end up being a decidedly uphill battle.

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Russia's Islamist Terror Threat Reemerges

March 2024  •  The Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

On March 22, Islamic militants opened fire on a concert hall in the Russian capital of Moscow, killing scores of concertgoers before setting the venue ablaze. Less than 24 hours later, the Islamic State terrorist group publicly took responsibility for the assault. The death toll currently stands at 137. While some reports link the attack to the Islamic State's regional branch in Central Asia (named "Islamic State – Khorasan Province") where the shooters are from, other analysts conclude that multiple branches of the Islamic State cooperated in the Moscow attack. Vladimir Putin has suggested that the assailants had links to Ukraine. But the Islamic State's likely "justifications" for the attack won't lie in Kyiv. Rather, the Islamic State would likely justify the attack through two causes in Russia: Russia's policies in the Middle East, and the alienation of its Muslim citizens and migrant Muslim populations living in Russia. The proximate cause for such an attack may have more to do with tactical considerations such as chances for success resulting from Russia's vulnerability.

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What Moscow Truly Wants From Kyiv: Total Submission

March 20, 2024  •  The Hill

These are difficult days for Ukraine. Two years into its war against Russia, Western support for Kyiv's fight against the Kremlin appears to be flagging. In Washington, billions of dollars in much-needed military aid have stalled in Congress. Europe has sought to fill the resulting funding gap, but officials in Brussels are quick to admit that the continent simply doesn't have the resources to sustain Ukraine's defense on its own. As a result, they warn, Ukraine could soon experience what amounts to a dramatic reversal of strategic fortune. It's no wonder, then, that more world leaders have begun telling Kyiv to sue for peace. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for instance, has urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to acquiesce to peace talks under his government's sponsorship. And in a now-infamous interview recorded earlier this month, Pope Francis counseled Zelensky to surrender, saying that "the strongest is the one who sees the situation, thinks of the people, and has the courage of the white flag, and to negotiate." There's only one problem. Such calls presuppose that Ukraine is the intransigent party, that Russia is open to compromise and that the only thing required for meaningful peace is for Kyiv to come to the negotiating table. Nothing of the sort is true, however.

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Books by Ilan Berman

Cover of Iran's Deadly Ambition Cover of Implosion Cover of Winning the Long War Cover of Tehran Rising

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