The Arena | Emily Landau

Emily Landau

Senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) and head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program. Dr. Landau has published and lectured extensively on nuclear proliferation, arms control, and regional security dynamics. She teaches at the IDC Herzliya and the University of Haifa.

What is the most significant advantage Israeli diplomacy currently enjoys?

Well-trained and capable diplomats spread across the globe, who have access to diplomats, policymakers, academics, and others in a host of countries. This can be a huge contribution for formulating Israel’s foreign policy objectives and policies, while the relationships that diplomats cultivate in these countries can be very conducive to executing policy. 

Photo: Chen Galili, with permission by the photographer

What is the greatest disadvantage that Israeli diplomacy suffers from?

Because of the overwhelming role and impact of security calculations in Israel, the security establishment (Ministry of Defense, IDF, Mossad, etc.) tends to play a disproportionate role in foreign affairs as well. As such, issues that should perhaps be in the hands of diplomats end up being led by members of the security establishment. The diplomatic team in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is well trained and capable, but the diplomats often seem to play a secondary role to those trained within the security establishment.

What do you think is the most important opportunity Israeli diplomacy currently has?

The greatest opportunity today for diplomacy is to work on Israel’s relations with states in the Middle East. The common threat posed by Iran has created a common interest to be capitalized upon. Clearly this is happening already but there is more that should be done. Especially in light of the WMDFZ idea, that could return to the agenda in 2020, there is a need to press for a new conceptualization of regional security dialogue in the Middle East between Israel and its Arab neighbors. This dialogue would need to span over the full range of security issues, from soft to hard security, including WMD.

What is the central challenge and/or threat Israeli diplomacy faces?

The greatest challenge and threat to Israel today no doubt emanates from Iran and its ongoing nuclear and regional ambitions. Iran has not reversed course in the nuclear realm, and the flaws in the JCPOA – even after the United States withdrew from the agreement – still enable a patient path to nuclear weapons. The Islamic Republic’s entrenchment in Syria and desire to set up a permanent presence of Shiite militias there, to assume a role similar to that of Hezbollah in Lebanon, is a major threat to Israel.


While a security threat at its core, the challenge for diplomats is to find ways to counter this situation through diplomacy. In this case, diplomacy must be focused on the US and European states – to convince them of the gravity of the threat and the imperative of curbing Iran's ambitions and activities.

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