Decision Points

Decision Points is a Washington Institute podcast on key moments in Israel's history and present. The first season focused on the history of U.S. Israel relations and the second season focused on key Israeli and Arab lea

Hezbollah and Israel: Between Deterrence and Deterioration

Season 3, Ep. 5
Since the 2006 Lebanon war, Israel and Hezbollah have not engaged in major hostilities. Yet while mutual deterrence has averted all-out war, this uneasy truce is weakening. At home in Lebanon, Hezbollah is facing a dire economic and political crisis. Moreover, the group still seeks to convert some of its estimated 140,000 rockets into precision-guided missiles, a serious threat to Israel. It has also fired antiaircraft weapons at Israel from Syria in support of Iran’s presence there.Is deterrence unraveling, and is a full-blown conflagration inevitable? To discuss this major decision point, David Makovsky hosts a new episode with Hanin Ghaddar, David Schenker, and Amos Gilead.Hanin Ghaddar is the Friedmann Fellow in The Washington Institute’s Geduld Program on Arab Politics, where she focuses on Shia politics throughout the Levant. Previously, she worked as the longtime managing editor of the NOW Lebanon news site, where she shed light on Hezbollah’s political evolution and Iran’s growing regional influence.David Schenker is the Institute’s Taube Senior Fellow. Previously, he served as assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs through January 2021.Gen. Amos Gilead dedicated most of his career in the Israel Defense Forces to the Military Intelligence Corps. As chief of the Intelligence Research and Analysis Division, he was responsible for producing the national intelligence assessment and other strategic analysis. Currently, he teaches security and intelligence studies at IDC Herzliya’s Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy.Audio clips from C-SPAN “Israeli Prime Minister Remarks at U.N. General Assembly”See for privacy and opt-out information.

Israel's Gray Zone: Iran in Syria

Season 3, Ep. 3
Since 2015, Iranian forces have increasingly entrenched themselves in Syria as part of a broader effort to bolster the rule of Bashar al-Assad. As this effort began to unfold, Israel feared reenacting the cautionary tale of Hezbollah in Lebanon, where indecision over rooting out the Tehran-backed terrorist group proved to be a decision in itself. To avoid a situation in which Iranian or proxy forces are positioned along the entirety of Israel’s northern border, the IDF has been walking a tightrope in Syria, taking direct action against major security threats while trying to avoid a full-scale war. Can this gray zone strategy succeed in pushing Iran out of Syria or not?To discuss this regional decision point, David Makovsky hosts distinguished guests James Jeffrey, Assaf Orion, and Oula Alrifai.Ambassador Jeffrey served as the U.S. special representative for Syria engagement and special envoy to the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS until November 2020. He currently chairs the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program.General Orion is a senior fellow at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies and the Rueven International Fellow with The Washington Institute. Previously, he served as head of the Strategic Division in the IDF General Staff’s Planning Directorate.Alrifai, a native of Syria, is a fellow in The Washington Institute’s Program on Arab Politics, author of its recent study “In the Service of Ideology: Iran’s Religious and Socioeconomic Activities in Syria,” and executive producer of the award-winning documentary Tomorrow’s Children.

The United States, Israel, and the Iranian Nuclear Program

Season 3, Ep. 1
World attention has focused on the prospects of the United States and Iran finding terms that enable them to return to their 2015 nuclear deal. Yet what does this mean for all the unanswered challenges that President Biden and Secretary of State Blinken say are essential to address in a “longer and stronger” follow-on agreement? How will the United States preserve its leverage for such a second round? What incentives will Iran have to engage in negotiations after a Vienna deal is reached? And what does this mean for Israel and the rest of the Middle East?For the first episode of the season, host David Makovsky discusses this major decision point with three guests who have deep expertise on Iran, the nuclear program, and Israel’s approach to deterring it. Ambassador Dennis Ross, the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, formerly served as special assistant to President Obama and senior director for the Central Region at the National Security Council, among other prominent positions. Ray Takeyh is the Hasib J. Sabbagh senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and author of the recent bookThe Last Shah: America, Iran, and the Fall of the Pahlavi Dynasty. Ariel (Eli) Levite is a nonresident senior fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program and Cyber Policy Initiative at the Carnegie Endowment; previously, he served as principal deputy director-general for policy at the Israeli Atomic Energy Commission from 2002 to 2007.