In the ever-changing landscape of geopolitics, nations must adapt and refine their strategies to safeguard their national interests—no nation more so than Israel. Israel, with its long history of defending its sovereignty, now faces the immediate need to implement a radically new approach to its geopolitical position.
While the famous Begin Doctrine emphasized preventing enemy states from acquiring nuclear weapons, the post-Oct. 7 security landscape demands a new doctrine that addresses the threat posed by non-state actors with genocidal intentions.
For lack of a better name, let’s call it the Netanyahu Doctrine. A Netanyahu Doctrine should seek to develop and implement a comprehensive new strategy to eliminate the presence of any non-state terror group with expressly genocidal intentions to destroy Israel and murder Jews. It should do so by leveraging Israel’s resources and its improving relations with Arab and Muslim states that face similar threats from the same terrorist groups driven by similar exterminationist ideologies.
The Begin Doctrine was never officially proclaimed, but it remains influential. Its most consequential implementations were Israel’s 1981 destruction of Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor in Iraq, followed in 2017 by the destruction of a secret North Korean-built nuclear facility in Syria.
The Begin Doctrine still faces a major challenge: The rapid advancement of Iran’s widely dispersed and highly advanced uranium enrichment and plutonium production facilities.
However, the Oct. 7 Hamas massacre demonstrated in horrific detail the urgent necessity of eradicating the presence of genocidal non-state actors from Israel’s borders. These groups, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, Shi’ite militias in Iraq and Syria, and now the Houthis in Yemen, do not function as conventional armies. Nonetheless, they represent no less a threat to Israel’s survival than did the armies of Syria, Egypt, Jordan and Iraq in years gone by.
Israel can no more tolerate the presence of genocidal non-state actors on its borders than it can the nuclear ambitions of enemy states committed to Israel’s destruction. Just as the Begin Doctrine prescribes preemptive and proactive measures to prevent the latter, the Netanyahu Doctrine must require an equal commitment to preventing the former.
These are potential key elements of a Netanyahu Doctrine:
Preventive action: Following the elimination of the current exterminationist threats from non-state terror groups on Israel’s borders, Israel should take steps to prevent the re-emergence of such groups before they can become a threat. This includes targeted operations, intelligence-sharing and coordinated efforts with like-minded nations.
Diplomatic outreach: Israel should concentrate its diplomatic efforts on garnering international support for its preventive actions and commit to publicly seeking endorsement from key allies.
Cooperation with regional partners: Israel should work closely with Arab and Muslim states that share concerns about genocidal non-state actors. Collaborative efforts should involve intelligence sharing, joint operations and coordinated strategies to neutralize threats.
Balancing deterrence with diplomacy: Israel should recognize the importance of maintaining a strong deterrent while simultaneously seeking diplomatic resolutions. Israel should use its military capabilities to ensure its security while striving for peaceful solutions.
Humanitarian considerations: Israel should emphasize the importance of minimizing civilian casualties and promoting humanitarian efforts, even while combating non-state actors. This approach aims to garner international sympathy and support.
Implementing a Netanyahu Doctrine will not be easy, to say the least. However, if developed, implemented and marketed effectively, such a doctrine can serve as a basis for increased cooperation between Israel and regional partners. Arab and Muslim states are also threatened by genocidal non-state actors, and thus have a shared interest in eliminating those threats and preventing their re-emergence.
The Netanyahu Doctrine would represent a major strategic shift in Israel’s geopolitical approach. But by adopting a proactive approach, engaging in diplomacy and cooperating with regional partners, Israel can better safeguard its security and the security of its Arab neighbors, as well as promote regional stability.