National vs. Human Security

In the foreign policy discourse, there has been an argument about whether to accept that human security is national security. Those who oppose the idea argue that its definition is too vague for implementation as a policy. Proponents assert that globalization and interdependence of nations have changed the nature of threats across borders, hence the need to embrace the definition. The Israeli foreign policy case does not reflect the idea of human security as national security because the country’s demographic constitution, strategic objectives and military strategy and doctrine are its three constant elements, which focus on the state and not on individual citizens.

National security is defined as the protection of state borders and interests against external aggression to preserve territorial integrity and sovereignty. Apparently, such view focuses on the state instead of individuals living in it. Moreover, the use of military power is a dominant strategy according to this view. Countries using it invest resources in developing capabilities to thwart and deter attacks from external hostile groups. On the contrary, human security is the liberation of people from vulnerabilities that threaten their lives and freedoms. In this definition, the focus is on people living within states and the issues that negatively affect their lives. Some of the threats that human security attempts to neutralize include hunger, poverty, repression, climate change, disruption of life and diseases. Therefore, human security delves into specific internal issues that affect people in a state that can contribute to insecurity, while national security is concerned with external attacks on a nation. The proponents of human security argue that a country’s failure to address the problems people face within its borders creates an environment of insecurity because repressed, hungry, sick and poor people engage in activities that threaten national security.

States that promote either of the conceptions portray distinct behaviors that are consistent with each of them. National security-oriented states are obsessed with developing and acquiring advanced weapon systems that are superior to their perceived enemies. For instance, they are in a race to develop nuclear weapons to deter enemies. Secondly, national security-centric countries establish foreign allies in various geographic locations and help them build military capabilities so that they can protect their interests in such regions. The relationship between the United States and Israel is clear representation of such cooperation. In fact, America provides Israel with military aid and technology to develop defense capabilities. When Israel gains a qualitative military edge over its regional nemesis, American interests in the region are safe.

On the other hand, Israel helps America to gather intelligence in the Middle Eastern region that enables the country to create strategies to thwart possible attacks against its borders or foreign interests by terrorists. Thirdly, countries that promote national security crave to establish military alliances with friendly nations in the hope that they can provide assistance when required. The establishment of NATO is one of such alliances that Western European countries and the United States created to deter possible aggression by countries such as Russia. The fourth characteristic of national security-oriented countries is that they focus on acquiring vital resources that can determine military victory in the case of war. For instance, the United States has established friendships with countries such as Saudi Arabia by selling some of its weapons to them. In return, the United States secures its access to Saudi Arabian oil, which can be vital during wartime. On the other hand, countries that promote human security focus on areas that can improve human lives, freedoms, and prosperity. First, they strengthen their institutions to deliver vital services for the citizens. For instance, they ensure access to education for the population, medicine in hospitals, poverty eradication programs and strong policies that promote democracy.

Such establishments ensure citizens’ welfare, which deters them from engaging in activities such as gang formation, drug abuse, and terrorism. Secondly, they help to enhance nations with economic development aid, capabilities to fight global pandemics and means to strengthen democracy so that they can maintain order within their borders. Evidently, instability in a country creates an atmosphere that promotes the formation of terrorist groups. Such groups can then access any nation and cause destruction because globalization has made it easy for people to migrate across borders. Thirdly, such states promote initiatives to reduce climate change because its effects impact on every country in the world. Climate change causes global warming, drought, and famine, which reduce governments’ ability to govern, hence an increase in insecurity.

The Israeli foreign policy has three constant elements that derive their legitimacy from the country’s self-concept. The first element is its internal constitution. Israel views itself as a country composed of a Jewish majority within any border it occupies. Zionism, which is the basis of the self-concept, is a political-ethnic-religious state ideology that Israel’s founders made a policy-making guideline. Since Zionism expects the establishment of a Jewish state, the constitution of the country’s demographics is critical. Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, thus, influences its foreign policy because its existence as an independent Jewish nation is dependent on a peace process with them. Since the two sides cannot agree on almost all terms of the peace process, the intervention of the international community becomes essential. In the peace process, the international community expects both sides to make concessions, but some of them are totally acceptable to Israel because they are related to the very core of its existence. The situation becomes worse due to the Palestinian refugees’ expectation of the right to return to their homes, which they lost between 1948 and 1949 during Israel’s war of independence. In fact, such return would alter the demographic balance and undermine the Zionist dream of a purely Jewish nation, which Israel would see as a national threat to its existence.

Thereafter, part of its policy is to defend the country from Palestinians who lay claim to the same land that Israeli Jews own. The second element represents Israel’s strategic objectives. First, the country is aimed at gaining acceptance of its existence by the international community and the Arab states. Secondly, it hopes for political acceptance of the legitimacy of its current political and military methods. The third element is its military doctrine and strategy, which involve an aggressive and offensive posture against its Arab enemies. In its military doctrine, the country sees an offense as a defense to maintain an element of surprise in the case of an attack by Arab countries. Additionally, it uses excessive force to retaliate against aggression, which acts as a deterrent mechanism against those who would consider attacking the country. Israel also maintains a last option that is nuclear use against its enemies while aggressively campaigning against other regional nations from obtaining unconventional weapons. The final aspect of its military strategy is seeking and maintaining unconditional support from the United States. The military strategy and Israel’s expectation of acceptance are at odds, which make the peace process elusive.

Israel’s contemporary foreign policy involves signing peace treaties with as many Arab states as possible. The possible return of acquired land during previous wars is likely to influence the success of the foreign policy. For instance, the return of Golan to Syria may be a motivation for Syria to sign a peace treaty with Israel. The aim of such agreements is to normalize ties, which would signal Israel’s acceptance as a Jewish state. Additionally, the normalization of ties would end Israel’s long-standing isolation by other countries, which would empower it to influence international agendas and advance its economic and political power. Ultimately, Israel hopes to end its existential threat that has been part of its history since its inception. Some of the benefits of Israel’s successful foreign policy include shared infrastructure with neighboring countries, exchange of tourists, air travel freedom, and military cooperation with countries outside the region. The obstacles that Israel faces in its foreign policy include various contentions. First, Israel hopes to make Jerusalem its capital, while Palestinians expect East Jerusalem to be part of their future state. Secondly, Israel and its neighbors must decide the fate of 3.6 million refugees hoping to return to Israel since no country wants to absorb them permanently. Israel must decide the future of its settlements, which the world regards as illegal before it gains world legitimacy.

Israel’s foreign policy is not consistent with human security as national security for various reasons. First, the purpose of the foreign policy is to preserve the sovereignty of the state by aggressively handling enemies through military action. The country’s military strategy and doctrine clearly indicate that its concern is on protecting its borders and existence. Secondly, the country’s insistence on the preservation of a Jewish majority disregards suffering and the alienation it would cause for the Palestinians living within its borders with the hope of reuniting with relatives who are refugees in other countries. Thirdly, Israel’s strategic objectives do not include any aspect of individual Israelis. They focus on gaining world’s recognition as a Jewish state and the eradication of Arab enmity against Israel, while legitimizing the country’s military and political approaches.

Israel should align its foreign policy to be consistent with human security. The problem is that some of its youths that will form its future society seem indifferent towards Zionism. Consequently, the Zionist values that make the current society accept the country’s perception of national security may change over time and create apprehension as more people demand democracy defined by secular values. Additionally, the increasing population is likely to strain the country’s resources and create scarcity and human suffering. When such scenarios arise, the country will face insecurity from both internal and external sources. The nature of the threats that Israel faces, however, demands that the country continues with its focus on external aggression, while incorporating human security aspects in its foreign policy. Given that there are countries that wish to exterminate Israel, it must strike a balance between human and national security so that it can reflect the dynamics of the world’s security situation.

In conclusion, the Israeli foreign policy is inconsistent with the concept of human security as national security due to its focus on state issues rather than on the individual citizens. Human security is associated with individual citizens’ security against aspects that cause suffering in their lives, while national security protects the state against external aggressors. Behaviors consistent with human security include strengthening institutions, helping develop nations to gain various capabilities and stability, and addressing climate change. The features of national security include the acquisition of vital resources, establishment of foreign allies and military alliances, and accumulation of nuclear and other advanced weapon systems. Israel’s foreign policy comprises three constant pillars, which include its internal composition, military strategy, and doctrine and core strategic objectives. The policy is inconsistent with human security because it does not focus on its citizens’ individual needs. However, it should balance national and human security to handle possible future threats.

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