The Commanders for Israel’s Security movement on Tuesday issued a highly publicized warning to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: The annexation of territory in Judea and Samaria will put the State of Israel’s residents at risk.
Just a few weeks ago, at the height of the election campaign, Commanders for Israel’s Security paid for tens of millions of shekels’ worth of billboards and posters in an attempt to convince voters this election would decide between separation and annexation. There was never any doubt in anyone’s mind as to which party this group sought to bolster with this move.
A significant majority of Israelis chose to ignore the recommendations of these former security officials. Three former Israel Defense Forces chiefs of staff in the Blue and White Party leadership, with the open support of three other former IDF chiefs of staff, were not enough to rally enough public support to implement the recommendations of former Israeli defense officials who support additional territorial withdrawals.
There are two aspects to this dispute. The first concerns the question of the vision of the people of Israel and the national interests that stem from this vision. As the IDF so succinctly puts it: “National security is a field that focuses on ensuring the national ability to effectively contend with any threat to national existence and national interests.” The truth is simple: The nation of Israel has national interests in Judea and Samaria, that go beyond pure security claims.
This is also true from the perspective of our Palestinian rivals, as reflected in Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas’s reservations over U.S. President Donald Trump’s upcoming peace plan; as he put it, “We will not allow the Palestinian problem to be turned into a mere economic-humanitarian problem.”
In this same manner, we must not transform the Zionist dream into nothing more than a desire for a safe haven for persecuted Jews. Indeed, security, as Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, was wont to emphasize, is the means and not the end. There is a significant difference between the desire for security and the desire for independence, and herein lies the root of the problem.
The second aspect of the dispute relates only to the security claims made by a group of former security officials, claims repeatedly refuted whenever reality comes into play.
Many of the signatories to the letter from the Commanders for Israel’s Security to Netanyahu are also signatories to a declaration of support for the 2005 disengagement from the Gaza Strip, in which they promised the withdrawal would improve Israel’s security.
In a study I recently published for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, I analyzed where these officials went wrong in their understanding of the potential threat developing against the State of Israel. It is enough to look at the last round of fighting in Gaza to understand what the threat to Israel’s coastal cities would look if the state were to yield its control over territories that control coastal cities to the east. Highway 6 will become the border road, and anti-tank missiles will threaten traffic on major thoroughfares.
The results of the last election have shown that despite our nation’s deep appreciation for the dear people who dedicated their lives to defending the country, a vast majority of Israelis have come to understand they would be better off not adhering to their vision or recommendations.
Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.
This column first appeared on Israel Hayom.