Podcast: "The 'Periphery Doctrine' and Israel’s Quest for a Middle East Identity" with Yossi Alpher

March 16, 2015

An audio recording from Yossi Alpher, former director, Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University.

On March 11, 2015 at MEI, Yossi Alpher presented his newest book Periphery: Israel's Search for Middle East Allies on the history of a little known Israeli foreign policy doctrine and gave his thoughts on Netanyahu's speech before Congress. Alpher spoke about the Periphery Doctrine, an Israeli policy to seek allies in East Africa, the Caucasus, the Balkans, and other peripheral Middle East regions, as well as an entente with Iran and Turkey called "Trident", in order to balance against aggressive neighboring states including Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. He discussed his own experiences as a Mossad officer to create these often covert relationships and their eventual usefulness in crafting longer lasting ties with neighbors like Egypt. He also discussed the new periphery thinking resurgent in Israel as regional stability deteriorates and the limited possibilities for the strategy to work again.

Alpher added a frank and insightful answer to audience questions about current Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin "Bibi" Netanyahu's March 3 address to the U.S. Congress (second track in playlist below).

Listen to the full recording of the March 11, 2015 event here:

Click here to view photos of the event on the Middle East Initiative Facebook page.

About Yossi Alpher:

Yossi Alpher is a veteran of the Mossad and former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University. His book “Periphery: Israel’s Search for Middle East Allies” draws extensively on his intelligence and strategic studies careers.

About Periphery:

Since its establishment in 1948, Israel has sought alliances with non-Arab and non-Muslim countries and minorities in the Middle East, as well as with Arab states geographically distant from the Arab-Israel conflict. The text presents and explains this regional orientation and its continuing implications for war and peace. It examines Israel's strategy of outflanking, both geographically and politically, the hostile Sunni Arab Middle East core that surrounded it in the early decades of its sovereign history, a strategy that became a pillar of the Israeli foreign and defense policy. This “periphery doctrine” was a grand strategy, meant to attain the major political-security goal of countering Arab hostility through relations with alternative regional powers and potential allies. It was quietly abandoned when the Sadat initiative and the emerging coexistence between Israel and Jordan reflected a readiness on the part of the Sunni Arab core to deal with Israel politically rather than militarily.Yet this periphery strategy had been internalized to some extent in Israel’s strategic thinking and it has begun to resurface as the rise of political Islam in Egypt, Turkey, Gaza, southern Lebanon and possibly Syria, coupled with the Islamic regime in Iran, has generated concern in Israel that it is again being surrounded by a ring of hostile states—in this case, Islamists rather than Arab nationalists.

By looking at Israel’s search for Middle East allies then and now, the book explores a key component of Israel’s strategic behavior. And it raises the issue of how a country perceiving itself surrounded by enemies can develop grand strategies to ensure its survival.

For more information on this publication: Please contact Middle East Initiative
For Academic Citation:Podcast: "The 'Periphery Doctrine' and Israel’s Quest for a Middle East Identity" with Yossi Alpher.” Audio, March 16, 2015.