The media portrayal of Israel – as an aggressive and dominant military power in the Middle East – is at sharp contrast with the reality of the situation facing this tiny State. Yes, Israel is well prepared for war, and every Israeli man and woman aged between the ages of 18 and 20 is required to complete military service – but this is the response, by Israel, to a history of having to defend herself from aggressive Arab and Muslim neighbours.
Consider the reality of the position Israel finds herself in, today. Surrounded by Arab nations which are, between them, 650 times as large as Israel with 50 times as many people – many of them harbouring a deep hatred of Israel to the point that some have expressed a desire to destroy the Jewish state – and you begin to get a sense of why a strong army is a necessity.
The threats are also hard to defend. Israel’s borders are difficult to defend due to geographic, demographic, and political challenges that few other nations could endure. This makes Israel’s task in maintaining sovereign borders and defending its civilians – as is the right of every other nation on Earth – particularly difficult.
In her short 70 year modern history there have been at least four attempts to annihilate Israel – with united attacks by Arab nations in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973 – so it should come as no surprise that she would be determined to defend herself.
And the threats are not just from Israel’s neighbours. The Islamic Republic of Iran has consistently threatened Israel with attack and made progress toward developing nuclear weapons with which to enact those threats. In 2012 Iran’s Military Chief of Staff declared: “The Iranian nation is standing for its cause and that is the full annihilation of Israel.”
And Iran hasn’t just limited itself to its own nuclear and ballistic program. It has also spent millions of dollars funding terror groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, which has stockpiled more than 120,000 missiles under villages on the border with Israel. Iran also funds terror groups in Gaza that fire rockets indiscriminately into Israeli territory and has also been behind attacks on Israelis and Jews living outside Israel, with links to the bombing of the Jewish community centre in Argentina in 1994 and the suicide bombing of a busload of Israelis in Bulgaria in 2012.
It is precisely because of these and other threats – as well as the constant threat of other forms of Islamist terror – that Israel has had to develop sophisticated techniques and equipment to survive. Sadly, due to an increasing number of terror attacks worldwide, those techniques and tools are now also increasingly required by other nations.
One of many examples of this would be the role that Israeli intelligence played in helping to foil an attack on an Australian passenger aircraft in 2017 – and Israeli cyber security systems are being used by companies and governments around the world to foil digital attacks. Israeli disaster response teams have also been deployed to major events worldwide because of their expertise.
It is generally understood that, if Israel were ever to lose her security advantage – or a war – this beacon of democracy would disappear. Israel would quickly fall victim to another genocide and the world would see the creation of another repressive Islamic state where Israel currently exists.
Perhaps a day will come when Israel can exist with open borders and minimal defence – at peace with her neighbours – but that day is not today. For now, the world needs the tiny Jewish State to hold back a tide that, left unchallenged, threatens to overwhelm us all.