Tuesday, December 28, 2010

"Clarifying our Position"

Arlene Kushner

Last night was the Hadar-Israel seminar, "What Are Israel's Security Needs for a Viable Peace?"

The over-arching messages of the evening was that it's time to be very clear and specific and vocal with regard to what Israel's security needs are. As moderator Dan Diker (Secretary-General Designate for the World Jewish Congress) explained: We have been living in a time of ambiguity with little attention paid to Israel's needs.
Each speaker in his own way returned to this.


The first speaker was Maj. Gen. (res) Yaakov Amidror -- former commander of the IDF's National Defense College and former head of the IDF's Research and Assessment Division, and now program director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

He addressed the issue of foreign troops in Judea and Samaria -- a very bad idea that is being proposed by some as a way to provide "security" for Israel without an Israeli military presence.

There is a matter of a significant principle, first, said Amidror: Israel operates on the basis of self-defense. We must be able to defend ourselves. With just four minor exceptions (e.g., there is American radar in the south now that is operated by Americans), we have never had foreign troops on our soil.

We don't need foreign forces to protect us and we must not rely upon them.

In this vein, Amidror made a most interesting comment. He said he was asked whether Israel is pressuring the US to attack Iran. He knows the answer to this is "no," because Israel is preparing to do it herself.


Then there is the practical aspect: It would be very naive to exchange territory for international protection. In the end, no nation would be willing to pay the price to protect us. What we need is control of critical areas.

In point of fact, we have had no experience with international forces that have defended us as they were supposed to, but quite the contrary:

-- UN forces evacuated the Sinai in 1967 at the demand of Nasser, just when they were needed because Nasser was preparing for war.

-- UNIFIL in Lebanon has been a farce with regard to blocking Hezbollah: The goal of these troops is to survive and to that end they have compromised with "insurgent" forces. Three Israeli soldiers were kidnapped 100 meters from a UN checkpoint (in 2000, at the Israel-Lebanon border). Re-arming done by Hezbollah was never stopped. There has not been a single instance of assistance provided to Israel by the UNIFIL forces.

What is more, UNIFIL's presence has interfered with Israel's ability to act and react. International forces in Judea and Samaria would create the same situation -- they would interfere with our ability to react to terrorists and would provide an umbrella for them.

Lastly, foreign forces fighting and dying for Israel would have multiple ramifications for international relations. This is with regard to the US and Israel, and the US and the Arab world. Amidror posed a hypothetical situation in which US troops chased after Hamas terrorists in the narrow alleys of Nablus. When American boys, killed by Hamas, were brought home in boxes, what, he asked, would the American people's response be? How would this impinge upon Israel's relationship with the US?


The second speaker was Maj. Gen. (res) Uzi Dayan -- former commander of Sayeret Matkal (an elite special forces unit), and then, in turn, head of Central Command, Deputy Chief of Staff, and head of the National Security Council (until 2005).

He spoke about defensible borders. Borders and security arrangements constitute the most tangible issue to be addressed, he said.

The US understands that it has failed twice in attempts to move negotiations along. Now there is talk of the US presenting a plan of its own. And so now is the time for addressing very clearly what our security needs are. We have both the need and the right to defensible borders.

UN Security Council Resolution 242 did not require Israel to return to the 1967 line, but spoke instead about "secure" boundaries."

The famous letter given by President Bush to PM Sharon in 2004 (Note: which declared that "the United States reiterates its steadfast commitment to Israel's security, including secure, defensible borders...") was endorsed by both Houses of Congress -- and then Senator Hillary Clinton voted for it.


The primary issue is one of strategic depth:

There are only 64 km (about 40 miles) from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. This is the minimum that Israel requires in the way of strategic depth. We require the Jordan Valley and a presence at the river in order to defend ourselves.

We must prepare for an attack from the east. The future of Iraq and Jordan are in doubt. No one knows what Iraq will be like in years ahead. There are one million Iraqis in Jordan. And the Kurds are awakening.


Additionally there is the issue of counter-terrorism:

If a Palestinian state is to be demilitarized, this requires control of boundaries so that weapons cannot be brought in. And there is, further, a question of control of air space.


Various suggestions regarding ways to ensure Israeli security without actually stationing Israeli troops on site will not work. These suggestions include listening stations, trip wires, and permission for the IDF to deploy in a crisis.

Said Maj. Gen. Dayan:

You cannot replace the soldier fighting on his own land. "It's our land, and we will defend it."


Third speaker of the evening was Dr. Dore Gold -- former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, advisor to prime ministers, and for the last ten years, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

He addressed the strategic and diplomatic ramifications of the current situation. We are at a crossroads and must rethink our diplomatic strategy.

Until now, Israel was behaving as if there was the possibility of entering negotiations imminently. Thus we tended to be vague so as to not tip our hand, and to offer confidence building measures. (Note: the question of whether this was ever a good idea was not addressed.)

But now there is the emergence of a new set of circumstances. Some countries are beginning to recognize a Palestinian state (in some cases, specifically with a '67 "border"). There is concern about the possibility of the US advancing its own peace plan or a bridging proposal.

It is Gold's observation that Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian's chief negotiator, has been pushing the issue of refugees of late in order to establish the claim when the US makes a proposal or in anticipation of unilateralism. This is a new diplomatic stage.

We must put our cards on the table now -- we must talk about issues such as defensible borders and Jerusalem.


An aside: Dayan noted, during questions, that when a Palestinian is asked what he expects from negotiations, he will say, refugee return, Jerusalem as the capital, '67 borders. People may disagree but there is no doubt about what is being demanded. But ask an Israeli what is expected, and you may get an answer like, "Well...we want peace. It's complicated... we'll have to see how it works out..." There is not clarity.


Gold then addressed the issue of Jerusalem, which went on the negotiating table only with Oslo in 1993. Notably, however, by 1995, then Prime Minister Rabin, in his last address before his assassination, laid out Israel's future, and included a united Jerusalem as Israel's capital. Rabin, after initial enthusiasm, had already pulled back after assessing the realities on the ground.

There are several myths current with regard to dividing Jerusalem:

1) The myth of the "blue and the green": the idea that Jerusalem can be divided into east and west, or Arab Jerusalem and Jewish Jerusalem. Demography won't allow this, as Jerusalem is a checkerboard. There are 189,000 Jews who live in Jerusalem neighborhoods past the Green Line.

2) The myth that the Palestinians might accept the village of Abu Dis -- which is not within the Jerusalem municipal boundaries but is immediately adjacent -- as an alternative location for its capital. This proposal may have first been advanced during unofficial talks between Yossi Beilin and Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas), but the bottom line is that the Palestinians saw Abu Dis as no more than a springboard to the Old City of Jerusalem. Their claim is to Har Habayit (the Temple Mount).

3) The myth of demography. The argument is made that the Jewish majority of Jerusalem is declining because of the higher birth rate of Arab residents of Jerusalem. Thus, it is said, we have to remove the Arab neighborhoods. But the reality is that lack of affordable housing is driving Jews to move out of the city. And thus the solution is the construction of housing -- including in the eastern part of the city. Additionally, Jerusalem should be a priority in terms of economic development so that jobs are available.


An interesting, and not insignificant, aside by Gold that connects to the points made earlier by Maj. Gen. Amidror: In 1947, as part of the UN partition plan, Jerusalem was supposed to be international. But when the Arab League attacked after Israel declared independence, no one in the international community lifted a finger to protect Jerusalem.


Jerusalem has strategic value as it provides a key route for forces into the Jordan Valley.

But most significantly, Jerusalem is tied to our purpose here: We must believe in the justice of our cause, and no where is this more the case than with regard to Jerusalem. If Israel were to give up on Zion, it would constitute a heavy blow to Israeli national self-assurance.


A final last word from Maj. Gen. Dayan, which was the most enthusiastically received line of the entire seminar. During questions, he was asked about what would happen if certain steps were taken for the Palestinians. He stepped to the podium and declared:

"I'm sick and tired of trying to please the Palestinians!"

Let's work to please the Israelis, he suggested. Nothing pleases the Palestinians.


For further excellent information on the issue of Israel's Critical Security Needs, see here:



© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution

see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info
see my website www.ArlenefromIsrael.info

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