7 Reasons Why Israel Is Weaker Than You Think

Israel has a reputation as a formidable force in the Middle East. The country has seen several stunning military successes since its founding in 1948, as well as rapid economic growth in recent decades. Israel is often cited as a liberal, democratic and free market bastion in the Middle East that combines economic success with military might. However, this reputation actually hides a much starker position for Israel. In fact, the country has a number of ingrained weaknesses. Let us explain…

1. Israel Has Weak Geography

A first weakness Israel has is its poor geography.

There are several geographical factors contributing to Israel’s weaknesses. The first is that Israel is narrow. This makes the country hard to defend as an attacking army could split the country in two at its narrowest point. Many see the Israeli occupation of the West Bank as one way the country is trying to mitigate this weakness, by providing a degree of strategic depth.

A second geographical weakness Israel has is that the country is almost entirely flat. As well as this, along Israel’s borders there are no geographical features, such as mountains, forests or rivers, that can assist with its defence. Israel has moved it forces to the high ground that it can, especially by its occupation the Syrian Golan Heights. There is also high ground along the bank of the Jordan River, another reason for the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

Geography is a key factor that contributes to a country’s strength or weakness. Israel’s geography is a major factor contributing to its fragile position.

2. Israel Faces Demographic Challenges

A second weakness Israel has is its demographics.

Israel faces two main demographic challenges. The first, and probably most pressing, is the country’s inability to resolve the ongoing question of the Palestinian population. So far Israel has failed to incorporate the Palestinians living in the territory it occupies into a functioning state – either through the two-state solution, or into a single inclusive Israeli state. This failure has meant that the Israeli occupation has continued for over five decades, posing grave security risks to Israel, as well as drawing international criticism.

The second demographic weakness that Israel faces is within its Jewish population. Although  the country retains a high birth date, the increasing population of Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews within Israeli are exacerbating tensions with more secular section of society. These communities have a strong enthesis on religious observance, but also require significant financial and material support from the state. As their population grows, Israeli society is likely to become more divided as tensions over resources, military service and religious adherence come to the forefront.

Many countries demographics pose significant weaknesses for them. However, Israel’s two main demographic issues pose a unique challenge for the country and form one of its biggest weaknesses.

3. Israel Is Heavily Reliant On Foreign Support

A third weakness Israel has is its reliance on foreign support.

Although Israel has grown its economy and become a major technological powerhouse in recent decades, the country still relies on external support, mainly from the United States, to enhance both its economy and its military capabilities. This is a major vulnerability for Israel.

Israel also relies heavily on foreign support in the diplomatic arena. Many countries shun Israel due to its ongoing occupation of Palestinian territory. However, the country still receives significant diplomatic support from the US, as well as other Western nations. This helps to limit the diplomatic isolation Israel could face.

The problem with relying so heavily on foreign support is that, if attitudes towards Israel shift within the public, or politics, of supporting nations, Israel could see its position deteriorate. Therefore, the country’s reliance on foreign support is a major weakness.

4. Israel Lacks Water

Another weakness Israel has is its lack of water.

Israel has a mostly arid climate, with large parts of the country being desert. There are limited sources of fresh water in Israel. As a result, the country relies heavily on desalination in order to meet its water needs. This is an expensive, and somewhat inefficient process, that also limits the overall supply of water Israel has.

In order to offset the country’s water vulnerability, Israel has attempted to acquire additional water sources. However, Israel is often accused of doing this at the expense of Palestinians or neighboring Arab countries. This has heightened tensions with both groups. As water sources in the region are likely to become more challenging to access as global climate change progresses, these tensions could flare.

All countries need a constant and sustainable supply of clean water. The fact that Israel’s water supply is vulnerable is one of the nation’s major weaknesses.

5. Israel Is Extremely Politically Polarized

A major weakness Israel faces is its political polarization.

There are deep political divides within Israeli society. These are driven by a mixture of historical, demographic, cultural and security factors. There has long been a strong divide between the left and right wing of Israeli politics, however in recent years Israeli voters have been moving further to the extremes.

A lack of common ground within Israeli politics hampers the ability of the country to function. Israel sees regular elections and governments often struggle to form. This means there is a severe lack of political stability and a dearth of long-term policy planning, as well as an inability to address pressing political issues.

Israel has so far failed to address its political polarization and looking forward the situation could further deteriorate. This poses a major weakness for Israel.

6. Israel Has Severe Religious Divides

A further weakness Israel has is the major religious divides within the country.

Israel is home to many different religious sects. As well as Jews, Muslims and Christians, there are also many denominations of each of these within Israel. This can contribute to social tensions and the political complexities the country is facing.

There are often disputes within Israeli society over control of holy sites, religious influence in public life, and the balance between religious and secular values. More extreme religious sects, such as Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities, often clash with more liberal and secular segments of society. Working out how to navigate these religious divides is a significant challenge for Israel’s government and wider society as it seeks to maintain a delicate balance of religious freedom and national unity.

Unless Israel is able to find a sustainable and inclusive way to address the many demands of the different religious communities in the country, the divide between them will remain a major weakness for the nation.

Sustainability Of Israel Occupation Makes It Weak

A final weakness that Israel has is the sustainability of its occupation of Palestinian territory.

Critics of Israel’s occupation cite the negative impact it has on human rights, the fact it acts as a root cause of violence and the economic burden Israel bares for its continuation. Israel also faces extensive international criticism for the occupation. There is a risk that if views shift further among the population, or politics, of Israel’s major backers, that support for the country’s occupation could diminish significantly.

As the Palestinian population in the occupied territories continues to grow, Israel will likely face major issues regarding the feasibility of maintaining control over a large population with limited political rights.

Although proponents of the occupation cite its importance for maintaining Israel’s security, the long-term sustainability of maintaining control of Palestinian territory, along with the political, economic and military risks that this entails, means the occupation is actually a major weakness for Israel.

Global Affairs Explained

Global Affairs Explained is an ongoing project aiming to provide concise guides to world events. Focusing on international relations, history, and geo-politics, Global Affairs Explained uses original research and data to answer questions often not covered by traditional media.

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