Examining Israel’s Security Concerns

Mitchell Plitnick
8 min readJul 28

Israel’s security are used to justify many of its violent actions. How real are those concerns?

I recently wrote about Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times calling for ending US military aid to Israel. One point that Kristof made really needs attention, and it’s not going to get it with everything going on right now.

In presenting his case, Kristof wrote, “I don’t think any change should happen abruptly or in a way that jeopardizes Israeli security,” and later added that “Israel has legitimate security concerns,” and “There’s a legitimate counterargument that any reduction in aid could be perceived as a pullback of support for Israel in ways that might invite aggression by, say, Iran.”

These remarks are, for most of Kristof’s audience, uncontroversial. But are they accurate? That is, does Israel really face such terrible threats, the likes of which other countries do not? It seems obvious to its supporters that it does, being a state whose creation was passionately opposed by its neighbors, came into being by the colonialist dispossession of the Palestinians, and which remains deeply unpopular among the people of the region. And, of course, many feel that the Jewish nature of the state foments antipathy. It also can’t be denied that, as country dominated by people of European descent, it brings up distinctly negative feelings that are associated with its settler-colonial nature.

All of those are reasons why Israel might face unique threats. But does it in fact face such threats? That’s an assumption born out of Israel’s first 25 years of existence, years that were entirely different than the current era. That assumption has not been examined in a long time. Let’s examine it now.


Starting with the most obvious example: when a security threat to Israel is raised, Iran is the first source that comes to mind. Once Israel’s closest Muslim ally, the 1979 Islamic Revolution turned that relationship around 180 degrees.

Iran is, without a doubt, the most active state in terms of expressing belligerence toward Israel. But Iran’s actions have been blown far out of proportion.

Iran is called “the leading state sponsor of terrorism,” but that’s not true and never has been. That proud…

Mitchell Plitnick

Author of "Except for Palestine," with Marc Lamont Hill. President of ReThinking Foreign Policy. Policy analyst for 20 years.