After its inception, Israel soon realized that reliance on traditional fire power cannot and will not always prove to be a feasible and wise option in the longer run against surrounding belligerent Arab states. With this realization came the infamous yet subtle Ben Gurion’s ‘Periphery Strategy,’ which as the term suggests, aimed to garner and nurture relationships with states and aspiring states based on the periphery of Israel’s enemies. This strategy prompted Israel to forge close ties with states such as Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia and Morocco in addition to several African states that were struggling to sustain themselves in the post- colonial world. Israel in addition also forged close ties with ethnic minorities such as the Druze in Lebanon, Kurds in Northern Iraq and interestingly the Berbers.
This strategy yielded immediate dividends for Israel which suddenly found unlikely allies against Arab supremacy in the Middle East that strengthened Israel’s role in the region for almost three decades, until the Iranian revolution that totally changed the very nature of Israel’s Periphery Strategy, unsettling the geopolitical equilibrium that Israel was trying to establish to balance out its Arab rivals, notably Iraq.
Fast forward to the future, Iran is still ballistic over Israel, Turkey’s relations are eroding away with every statement that Erdogan makes while the Druze gave up on Israel due to Hezbollah’s obstructions which pushed Israel back to concentrate on their immediate issues such as tackling the “Intifadas”. But did it completely give up on the ‘Periphery Strategy’?
Not quite. Israel never turned away from the Periphery Strategy instead stretching it further to include Azerbaijan as well as South Sudan into their peripheral arc. And this arc will certainly keep stretching as Israel looks forward to making new friends in this predominantly hostile region. The new outposts in the form of Azerbaijan and South Sudan are two polls (many believe that Cyprus is the new Eastern poll) that currently separate Israel’s strategic peripheral arc while the addition of new players into the equation will only complement Israel to pursue its regional politics with diplomatic pressure rather than being forced to use traditional fire power to prove a point. This of course can be complimented by the cracks within the Arab world.
As Solmon Lawrence said,”Focus on Israel and it appears to be a tiny isolated country surrounded by a sea of hostile Arab nations. Zoom out, though, and it is the Arab nations that are revealed to be isolated, increasingly surrounded by age-old adversaries, most of which have growing ties to Israel.”
So, in the light of all the discussion, should Israel secretly hope for a sovereign Kurdistan in Northern Iraq to better appeal to its ‘Periphery Strategy’ which will aim to establish Israel as a soft power right in the heart of a densely Arab region?