Israel's Geographic Challenge

2 MINS READAug 4, 2015 | 13:43 GMT

Founded in 1948, the State of Israel is located on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea. The country borders the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt. Israel’s territory has historically been a magnet for great powers, from the Romans to the British. For a Mediterranean power, Israel can serve as a strategic land bridge and for an Eastern power, control of Israel is necessary to secure its flank.

Israel contains parts of four distinct topographical regions. The Negev is an extension of the Sinai Desert, and accounts for more than half of Israel. The coastal plain begins in the Gaza Strip and extends northwards to the border with Lebanon. The hill region extends from the foothills of Mount Hermon in the north to south of Jerusalem. The Jordan Rift Valley follows the length of the Jordan River and continues down to the Red Sea. Israel also claims the western two-thirds of the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau. The country’s core is in the coastal plain and the northern and central hill region. Over 3 million of Israel’s approximately 8 million inhabitants live in Gush Dan, or greater Tel Aviv.

Israel’s primary geographic challenge is its lack of abundant resources combined with its lack of strategic depth: its narrowest point is just 9.3 miles (14.97 kilometers) wide. Israel currently has the ability to defend itself, but must maintain a posture of constant military readiness. Though advances in water desalinization technology have helped address water scarcity issues and relatively large offshore natural gas field discoveries at Tamar and Leviathan have improved Israel’s access to natural gas, Israel is still a resource-poor country.

As a result, Israel historically has depended on the support of a great power patron, and often must balance relations with regional powers as well. Any serious cracks in internal unity can be taken advantage of by foreign powers; in the past this has resulted in direct subordination or outright destruction.

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