On early July 19 the Knesset passed a highly controversial and divisive quasi-constitutional measure, the so-called “Jewish nation-state law.” As the world’s liberal public carries on with its denunciation and deploring comments in this context and the expert controversy over the law’s strategic utility for the State of Israel can hardly produce a final and determinate recommendation or advice, the following is an intro to an attempt to clarify, in a deductive way, the importance of non-material factors and resources for national defence in general and Israel’s present security in particular.

On National Power and Defence

“America First,” or historically, “Macedonia to the Macedonians,” “Deutschland über alles,”…Are all these just mere nationalist slogans aimed at mobilizing human and material resources in support for the respective national causes?

Surely, in a contemporary context they could be readily assailed, if not already, as politically incorrect and inherently discriminatory. Yet, ironically, many of our (neo)liberal and cosmopolitan contemporaries, who a priori attribute negative, anti-democratic connotations to national-patriotic idioms of this sort, seldom, if ever, bring up the possibility of enhancing or compromising national security via ‘social-constructivist’ means.

Material factors, such as military readiness and technology, aside, a state’s stability and security can greatly benefit from ideation and social constructs. This includes not just raison d’état-oriented political ideas and their legislative derivatives, but also linguistic and cultural unity, and even the expedient use of terminology and semantics in domestic social engineering efforts. By the same token, the state’s adversaries, if clever enough, would consider more conventional coercive and military options only after attempting to weaken its integrative core, which is typically consist of language(s), culture, traditions, as well as specific inter-ethnic, inter-religious, and demographic arrangements.

What follows from the above are two bare facts: first, power in world politics, as recognized even by classical and neorealists, has never been limited to material capabilities (military, economic, demographic), and second, the concept of national defence has always been, at least in theory, much larger and much more encompassing than its quintessential military component. Hence, a nation’s capacity to deter potential aggressors, whoever these may be and whatever offensive means they may be considering, and to repel an ongoing attack, including such pertaining to special (psychological and hybrid) warfare, is highly contingent upon spiritual and ideational variables.

Israel’s post-2009 right-wing coalition government led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to understand these strategic axioms quite well. Therefore, it would be erroneous to dissect and criticize the Knesset’s recently adopted “nation-state law” from any perspective divorced from existential national security concerns. While the discourse on human rights, multiculturalism, and Palestinian self-determination has its own merit, proclaiming Israel, de jure, as “the historical homeland of the Jewish people” and enshrining it as such (“the national home of the Jewish people”) in a basic law, however “symbolic,” is apparently deemed by Israeli patriots, along with other measures (e.g. President Trump’s previous recognition of Jerusalem as a capital), a must in a post-Arab Spring Middle East.

For better or worse, the imperative logic of this perceived strategic necessity overshadows the need to pacify the continuing Jewish-Arab tensions.


Hristijan Ivanovski is a Research Fellow at the University of Manitoba (UofM) Centre for Defence and Security Studies (CDSS), Associate Editor (Europe) of iAffairs Canada, and a former coordination officer with Macedonia’s Secretariat for European Affairs. Since 2016, he has been a Member of East-West Bridge (EWB) contributing to the Foundation’s Foreign Policy Task Force. Hristijan can be reached @ hristijan.ivanovski@umanitoba.ca.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

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