Some years ago, in conversations with then Israeli Ambassador Zalman Shoval, I urged the creation of a special “brain trust” to examine Israel’s increasingly precarious security situation. The main objective, related to Ambassador Shoval, would be to assemble a uniquely capable cadre of strategic thinkers who would be free from the various constraints that normally burden both academic and military planners. The Ambassador agreed fully, but for one reason or another, the idea never got off the ground at that time.
Several years later, speaking to Mr. Shoval’s successor in the same office of Israel’s Washington Embassy, I made the identical suggestion to Ambassador David Ivry and his military attache. Although somewhat less enthusiastic about my proposal than Ambassador Shoval had been, the distinguished former Israel Air Force commander did seem to agree at least that the idea “couldn’t hurt.” Once again, however, it was an idea whose time had not yet come.
Then, unexpectedly, matters began to change. A little more than two years ago, in urgent conversations with certain senior figures in Israel’s military and security establishment, it became clear that a major new worry had surfaced. This was the distinctly dreadful spectre of a suicide bomber in macrocosm, a hostile Arab/Islamic state that might — under certain improbable but still conceivable circumstances — choose to attack Israel with weapons of mass destruction despite an expected nuclear reprisal. In the language of strategic thinking, what we feared here was the prospect of “irrationality” combined with nuclear and/or biological. weapons. It was not an idle fear; indeed, today the existential danger to Israel may be even more plausible and more lethal.
I had all but given up on my idea for a pertinent and private advisory group to Israel’s Prime Minister when, on the occasion of a lecture I delivered in Miami, I had the blessedly good fortune of meeting Dr. Irving Moskowitz and Mrs. Cherna Moskowitz. These two very special friends of Israel are devoted unreservedly to the Jewish People. Upon learning of my particular defense concerns and my stubbornly-enduring idea for a now desperately-needed brain trust, Dr. Moskowitz unhesitatingly — literally, without a moment’s hesitation offered to help. As a result of his generosity, l was able to quickly identify four. prominent Israelis and one exceptional American to comprise the new group. With this support, we were able to meet discreetly on different occasions in New York City and Washington D.C. for over a year to produce an extraordinary work of scholarship especially for Prime Minister Sharon. With this gracious help of a truly remarkable, heroic and righteous Jewish couple, “Project Daniel” was born.
Israel’s Strategic Future, the Final Report of Project Daniel, painstakingly prepared over hundreds of hours of intensive private and collaborative intellectual labor, was finally delivered by hand to Prime Minister Sharon on January 16, 2003. It was transmitted on our behalf by both AMB. Shoval and by Minister Benny Elon, and was immediately shared by the Prime Minister with Minister of Defense Mofaz and Chief of Staff General Ya’alon. Although we are unable to confirm or deny that our specific recommendations have now been wholly or partially incorporated into operational IDF doctrine, there is good reason to believe that Israel’s Strategic Future has been very well-received.
Over the next few months 1 plan to apprise my readers of these specific recommendations and of the way in which they relate to Israel’s still imperiled position in the world. In these columns, exclusive to The Jewish Press, I will describe the way our group responded to the various mega-security challenges facing Israel and the fashion in which these challenges are presently interwoven with dire threats to the United States. In the second of this new series of columns, I will begin by describing what animated this study in the first place; that is, what Israel must avoid at all costs. I refer, of course, to the expected consequences of a nuclear attack upon the Jewish State. Whether the result of rational or irrational enemy state action, a nuclear attack on Israel would have indisputably genocidal intent, and would undoubtedly leave the survivors envying the dead.
The Project Daniel. Group is composed of the following individual members: Professor Louis Rene Beres, Chair, USA; Naaman Belkind, Former Assistant to the Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense for Special Means, Israel; Professor Isaac Ben-Israel, Maj. General (Res.) Israel Air Force, Israel; Dr. Rand H. Fishbein, Former Professional Staff Member, U.S. Senate, USA; Dr. Adir Pridor, Lt. Col. (Ret.), Israel Air Force; Former Head of Military Analyses, RAFAEL, Israel; and Col (Res.) Yoash Tsiddon- Chatto, Israel Air Force, Former Member of Knesset, Israel.
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LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with terrorism and international law. He is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press.