Ged Ornstein

Existential risks, new and old, facing Israel in April 2023

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It is nothing new that Israel has to deal with a largely hostile world. Neighbouring states are intent on Israel’s destruction and harbour heavily armed proxy military forces. In addition endless UN resolutions single out and condemn Israel.

It is nothing new that the world’s media paint a uniformly distorted narrative endorsed in our universities and corrupting the minds of the young and uninformed.

And it is nothing new that the ancient prejudice and Jew hate have morphed into yet another handle for antisemitism under the fig leaf of antizionism.

The world is in turmoil and the geopolitical times we are witnessing make a dangerous situation more dangerous by the day.

Looking backwards perhaps it was the war in Iraq that started it all; or the naivety of Western ideals that led to the so-called Arab Spring; or the Syrian civil war which saw the West and the USA abandon its red line; or the withdrawal from Afghanistan; or the abject failure of the Iran nuclear deal; or COVID. Or all of these.

But what is clear is that Russia, China and indeed Iran no longer believe that the United States and the West are willing to challenge their own ambitions whether militarily; or in cyberspace; or in the world harvesting of resources. This is a highly dangerous belief and overreach would be catastrophic.  

Russia was emboldened to make war in Ukraine. China is threatening Taiwan and, by its invasive use of technology, much of the world. Europe feels the pain of over-reliance on Russian oil and gas as China flexes its economic muscles whilst Iran can thumb its nose at those seeking to prevent it having nuclear weapons. All are ruthless dictatorships, with appalling human rights records and are sinister and malevolent. Let there be no misunderstanding, each is a rogue state, but they are in our world and therefore need to be dealt with.

It has taken the Ukraine invasion for the realisation that a new axis of evil exists. This has traumatic and far-reaching consequences for the western world and particularly for Israel.

Russia has encountered unexpected resistance in its invasion of Ukraine – there wasn’t the expected quick victory. Western nations have made Russia an international pariah causing immense financial distress. Internally there is growing opposition to the war as the deaths and injuries mount. Weaponry began to run short and Russia had to turn to whomever would assist. And here we come to possibly the unexpected game changer in the whole geopolitical situation – weaponized drones.


Iran has developed sophisticated drones, able to fly long distances, which can be used for intelligence gathering and as very effective weapons. They are cheap to manufacture and can be accurately directed at targets to devastating effect. Iran has been manufacturing and supplying ever more sophisticated drones to the Shiite Houthis in Yemen to be used against Saudi Arabia where they have proved their effectiveness.

The Iranians are now supplying Russia with huge numbers of such drones and this has been fundamental in forging a close relationship which also encompasses mutual sanction breaking.      

Simultaneously, Russia has looked to China for help in breaking sanctions in exchange for an understanding that each can have their own spheres of influence ie. Ukraine and the Chinese Sea including Taiwan.

China, has realized that the drone weaponry could also help it extend its influence in Saudi Arabia by brokering a rapprochement between Saudi and Iran in which, as a starting point, Iran would cease supplying the Houthis with drones and ensuring that the attacks against Saudi Arabia cease. This at a time when USA Saudi relationships are at a low ebb.

Under Mohammed bin Salmin Saudi Arabia is modernizing and, in their view becoming more liberal, a view not necessarily supported by the USA nor indeed liberal Europe. Undoubtedly, the USA under President Biden is much less supportive and more distant than in former times. MBS possibly believes that he and his country are being slighted and not being given international respect. This is showing itself in a number of ways but in particular by two recent decisions. Firstly, against the wishes of the USA and Europe oil output has been reduced. Secondly Saudi Arabia has linked up with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization joining among others Russia and Iran. And now we come to it; this clearly has an enormous impact on the situation in Israel and also the Abraham Accords.

Israel has been walking an even tighter tightrope following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Israel gives humanitarian aid and shelter to refugees but not overt military assistance for fear of being restricted by the Russians from taking measures against Iran and their proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

Until very recently it was hoped that Saudi Arabia would indicate support for the Abraham Accords even if not actually signing up to them. But it would seem the repositioning that has taken place has put an end to these hopes – certainly in the near future.

Where does this leave Israel?

What if Russia bombs Ukraine into complete devastation and capitulation as happened in Chechnya and Syria? Would it then look at Israel and permit and even assist its ally Iran to achieve its stated aim of the destruction of the Jewish state thus humiliating the United States? Would European countries come to Israel’s aid? Or would they speak in sorrow only?  

What is certain is that Israel would fight to the end for its own survival and the consequences of that fight would be dire for the survival of the whole world as we know it.

It is now or never for Ukraine to be provided with the logistical support and weaponry to prevent its collapse and to ensure the world does not stumble into Armageddon with Israel at its epicentre.

This week in Israel we have stood in silence as the sirens sounded on Yom HaShoah. Next week we will again stand in remembrance of Israel’s fallen on Yom HaZikaron.

However, we will also be celebrating Israel’s 75th birthday. May future generations celebrate in peace Israel’s 100th and 150th birthdays and may there be peace and dignity for all.

About the Author
Co-producer of: 1. Whitewashed - Antisemitism in the Labour Party 2. Forced Out - a film about people who’ve had to leave Labour because of antisemitism.
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