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Fakultet bezbednosti

*** В Е С Т И ***
Lecture given by H.E. Mr. Arthur Koll

University of Belgrade
Faculty of Security Studies
Tuesday, December 8th, 2009.

Lecture given by H.E. Mr. Arthur Koll, Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Republic of Serbia

"National security - the Israeli experience"

At the outset, we need to define national security, in order to have common ground. National security is what a country defines as its' objectives, a vision of what it wants to achieve, the tools it needs to reach these goals and limitations of its power.

In Israel, we tend to say that national security stands on 4 pillars:

  • 1) defense - military & security power
  • 2) foreign policy
  • 3) economy
  • 4) society

The strength of a country, in terms of "national security", is not defined by the strength of its' security forces only, but by its position in the world, its economical, technological, scientific strength, by the cohesiveness, unity of its society around a common vision and goals.

Although the military power comes as the first association to the notion of the national security, it will not be elaborated in details hereto. However, three other pillars of the national security doctrine will be overviewed in a more detailed manner.

Foreign policy

The country's foreign policy and international standing is most significant. Namely, if there is a war, it is a definite sign that the diplomacy failed. The strength of a country is based on its' ability to prevent a conflict, to achieve the set goals without having to recourse to the military forces.

However, especially in the Middle East, we are sometimes faced with a rather peculiar situation, wherein we do win in the battle field, we achieve the military victory but are unable to translate it into a political success.

The role of diplomacy is to transform any achievement in the military field or any defeat in the military field into success.

Moreover, no country is an island, no country can exist isolated. In the world of today, more than ever before, we live in a global village, we interact globally which subsequently forces us to cooperate, to work together, this being the only way in strengthening a country's position internationally. And in these new circumstances, multilateral relations are gaining ever greater role. We may witness this in the significance of international bodies, such as UN with its seats in New York and Geneva, as well as non-UN bodies such as the EU.

What is the EU, in a nutshell? It is a Club of nations who came together around an unusual dream, which transformed the European continent dramatically. Operating through an amalgam system of supranationalism and intergovernmentalism, the EU Club consisting by now of 27 members, succeeded in creating a new reality, a reality of no internal borders.

Till the middle of the 20th century, the prevailing reality of the continent was a history of wars. However, by now, 27 members of the EU Club joined in creating a new system. But to achieve this unusual goal, each of the member states had to give up part of its independence. So, it is important to stress that the objective of the EU is not prosperity per se, but economic development and cooperation are means to a greater vision, which is a peaceful Europe.


Economy in the broadest sense of the term, the economic prosperity of any nation is very significant, if not crucial from the point of view of the national security.

To give an example, in the Second World War, at the beginning of the war, the US did not take part in the military operations, but limited its intervention to providing the allies with arms and goods. Once the US was attacked, it joined the war, which changed its' course dramatically. In 1941, the existing American armed forces were small and limited in comparison to the others already involved in the conflict, but the US had an immense economic power which enabled it to shift its' industrial potentials into building-up a formidable military force.

In the non-combat era, the economic power of a country is intertwined with the national security. In many countries, approximately 3% of the budget goes for the defense. In strong economies, these 3% represent an immense amount of finances. Therefore, the strengthening of a country's economy is gravely important. Mathematically, 3% of 200 is much more that 5% of 50. In addition, without a strong economy, a state cannot invest the necessary attention and funds to create and maintain high level of education, without which it is impossible to compete in the modern world.


The economic strength of a country has an obvious influence on the morale of the people. The will of a nation is a considerable component in its' national security. Whether a society is motivated, cohesive, believing in the idea which is the national vision or is not, decides notably the level of the national security. In a poor country, divided by unsolved social and economic issues, it is more problematic to mobilize the nation behind the set national goals.

The society means also the ability to produce excellence in science and technology, which presumes a high level education. The education is crucial when it comes to moving the society forward, to elevating it to the next level.

Unfortunately, we in Israel are obliged to sustain a large and expensive military force, as peace is "not yet with us".  We have compulsory military service - every young man at the age of 18 serves the Army for three years and every young woman serves for two years. This Army has a responsibility to provide defense for the country and security to its citizens.

However, in modern warfare, it is not enough to have soldiers. The real might of an Army lies in the most sophisticated military equipment. The Armies of today hit targets from military bases kilometers away, from unmanned aircrafts and by guided missiles. The country has to have potential not only to build such highly sophisticated computerized armaments but also to make the most of it. And, this can be done only by highly educated people.

Changes we should pay attention to:

In the recent years, more specifically at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century, certain circumstances have changed, forcing the national security doctrine to adjust.

There is a paradox, which lies in the inability of an advanced, modern Army to take full advantage of obvious military superiority.

We have a very significant superiority over the enemy, which are the terrorist organizations. In the Intifada (2001-2004) more than 1000 Israeli civilians were killed in suicide attacks.  What should one do to fight the Hezbollah in South Lebanon or the Hamas in Gaza? One can not carpet bomb the terrorist organizations' headquarters that are hiding behind civilian population. The problem therefore remains of fighting the terrorists that hide behind civilians and in the circumstances of the International Law that today has zero tolerance to civilian casualties. The terrorists take full advantage by not abiding to International Law and norm, while states - particularly democracies - do.

The war has become asymmetric

In the previous eras, we had mainly symmetric wars, of armies fighting against armies. Conflicts of today are asymmetric. Israel is facing terrorist organizations and terror tactics in the Middle East, while the NATO is facing the same in Afghanistan.

A consequence of the asymmetric warfare is asymmetric investment into defense and military capabilities. If one looks at the September 11th attack and makes a fairly rough calculation of the expenses made by Al-Qaida to organize such a horrific terror act, one realizes that the costs were minimal (airplane tickets, training, few knives and razors). On the other hand, the subsequent investment made by the entire world to defend itself from such future attacks was immense.

In Israel, at the beginning of 2009, we faced Hamas terror once again. The threat was "cheap" - self-made short range KASAM missiles, terrorizing day in day out the population of the neighboring cities and villages. To build up a proper defense system was costly. It demanded creation of a warning system for 5 kilometers short range missiles, a strengthened concrete walls' room in each house/dormitory, concrete made bus stations, up to sophisticated systems capable of intercepting such missiles.

Importance of media

We are living in an era in which the battles are not necessarily fought in the battle fields but in the media. An incident that may happen in a remote village, in the far end of the world, is no longer "out of sight" but through media becomes an issue. In this respect, an isolated act of a simple soldier may have overall strategic consequences.

Human rights

Whether one likes it or not, human rights have become an important issue in the international arena, while excuses and explanations are the matter of the past. The basic expectation of the modern world of today is that civilized societies act in a certain manner, and that there should be no abuse of basic human rights.

It is better for a society to realize it and accept it as a reality. Every society is expected to provide basic human rights to minorities, groups with different beliefs, groups with different life styles, as these are the basic criteria upon which societies are being judged.

Warfare with minimum casualties

Countries are no longer tolerant to the price to be paid in case of a conflict. The fact is that in wars, there are casualties. However, nowadays there is a naïve expectation that if a country is in a conflict, war will be won with almost no casualties.

The sophisticated military capacities make it possible to fight from far, thus reducing significantly the number of casualties. But, this option is limiting, there are no sterile wars. War is an ugly matter and it is better to prevent it than to fight it.

Increased importance of soft power

Soft power represents all elements that add to the overall power of a nation. The EU has a lot of soft power. It does not possess a military force per se, but its vision, a promise of a better life, makes its' soft power. Soft power is also projected by advanced democratic society, quality governance and transparency.

What did not change?

Every country today tries to prevent a conflict through deterrence. It manages to deter the other side from engaging into a conflict, by bringing it to understand that the cost will be too high and therefore not worth it.

The deterrence is a major pillar of the Israeli national security doctrine. But, the nature of the enemy has changed. How does one deter terrorists? How can one deter a suicide bomber, to whom life has no value? The analysis of suicide terrorism showed that bombers come from poor or weak backgrounds even if University graduates, of religious fanaticism, while the terrorist organizations' leaders do not send their children to death. In the hunt after the leaders lies the key of deterring terrorism.

Every society lies on a set of values. As much as the notion of human rights is important in the international arena, in the internal affairs it is its' set of values that define a nation. The lack of it may create rifts, which subsequently weakens the society, making it impossible to mobilize the nation around the overall well being.

The world today, and ultimately the states are facing new challenges, not known in the past. Some of these challenges are cyber terror, non-conventional warfare and non-conventional terror, different types of organized crime, such as human trafficking, narcotics' trade, etc. These new circumstances demand continuous cooperation of the entire international community, in exchanging experiences, data and information. No individual country is able to face these challenges alone and to fight them alone. Only united the international community may tackle these new realities and sustain.


The lecture envisages defining the term of the national security, more specifically the notion viewed through the Israeli experience.

Israel's national security stands on four pillars - defense, foreign policy, economy and society. The defense power comes naturally as the first association inherent to the national security. However, the three other components were overviewed in a more detailed manner, thus emphasizing the following. A country's foreign policy, its ability to prevent a conflict and achieve the set goals without having recourse to the military forces is what makes its true power. Furthermore, a country's economical, technological, scientific strength, the cohesiveness and unity of its society around common vision and goals is of paramount importance for its national security.

The second part of the lecture tackled the contemporary circumstances that influenced the national security doctrine to change. They were defined under the questions: "what did change?" and "what did not change?" at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century. The question "what did change?" enlightened the whole range of issues such as: asymmetry of the modern war, importance of media, human rights, increased importance of soft power, etc, and its consequences, while the question "what did not change?" explained the significance of the two terms - deterrence and strong strategic alliances.

The Lecture ended by an overview of the new challenges not known in the previous eras - the cyber terror, non-conventional terror, different types of organized crime, etc, that while influencing the national security doctrine, further demand a continuous cooperation of the entire international community, in terms of exchanging experiences, data and information. Only united, the international community may deal with these new realities and prevail.



 H.E. Mr. Arthur Koll





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