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Israeli Foreign Policy  

Aviad Rubin

The main principles of Israeli foreign policy emerged during the pre-state period and were shaped by Zionist ideology and the lessons of the Holocaust. The primary goal of this policy was, and still is, to secure a sovereign Jewish state in the land of Israel, and a safe haven for world Jewry. Another dominant factor in the shaping of the foreign policy of Israel was the need to encounter the country’s challenging geostrategic situation—small territory; lack of natural resources, until the discovery of natural gas depots in water in the Israeli exclusive economic zone during the last decade; fragile Jewish communities around the world; and a hostile neighborhood. Combined together, these considerations are the issues that rank high on the agenda of Israeli foreign policy and affect Israel’s relationship with the international community, ranging from the global superpowers to third world countries. After maintaining a relatively steady foreign policy program throughout the 20th century, in the 21st century the state made some significant policy shifts, especially under Benjamin Netanyahu’s consecutive governments. These included a halt in Israeli–Palestinian negotiations for peace; a high-profile campaign against Iran’s nuclear weapons program; more emphasis on the maritime domain; and strengthening ties with illiberal leaders around the world. In 2021, the seeming epilogue of Netanyahu’s tenure as prime minister leaves an open question about the relative weight of structural and ideational factors vs. powerful political agents in the design of Israel’s foreign policy.