One does not have to be a military expert to easily identify the critical defects of the armistice lines that existed until June 4, 1967. — Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister Yigal Allon, former commander of the Palmach strike force, 1976
… historians a thousand years hence will still be baffled by the mystery of our affairs. They will never understand how it was that a victorious nation, with everything in hand, suffered themselves to be brought low, and to cast away all that they had gained by measureless sacrifice and absolute victory … — Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons, 1938
The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. … Then we will move forward. — Abbas Zaki, PLO ambassador to Lebanon, 2009
I used these very excerpts in an article I wrote some thirty months ago, titled “Imbecility squared,” addressing the policy proposals advanced by an organization called Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), comprising more than 200 senior Israel Defense Forces’ officers and other high-ranking officials in Israel’s intelligence and police force.
Sadly, they are as pertinent now as they were then, arguably more so.
Putting the two-state proposal on indefinite life support
Readers may recall that CIS have, in the past, called for Israel to declare that it forgoes any claims to sovereignty over territory beyond the Security Barrier; freeze all construction in Jewish communities beyond that barrier; encourage the unilateral removal of all Jewish civilian presence there; but leave the IDF in control of security throughout the entire area. Indeed, CIS envisages this IDF deployment continuing until some Palestinian peace-partner emerges—sufficiently pliant to reach an agreement to accommodate Israeli security concerns, yet sufficiently authoritative to enforce its terms on a potentially recalcitrant population.
The purported “rationale” for this policy prescription is to preserve the viability of the two-state formula for resolving the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs, something which CIS acknowledges is not feasible at the moment, as no prospective partner with the adequate pliancy-cum-authority can be identified.
Nonetheless, it believes that these proposed measures are necessary to prevent what it considers the disastrous demographic consequences entailed in Israel retaining large portions of Judea-Samaria, together with its Arab population.
While I do not want to diminish the demographic dangers annexation of Judea-Samaria, along with its Muslim inhabitants, might herald for Israel, the CIS blueprint is as pernicious as it is preposterous.
Post-dated bill of surrender
Indeed, ever since CIS began to participate actively in the public discourse—just prior to the 2015 election—with their allegedly “non-political,” yet undisguised anti-Netanyahu vitriol, I have repeatedly pointed out the dire detriments in its perilous prescription; see, for example, here, here, here, here, here and here.
However, undeterred by reason or reality, CIS recently launched yet another, copiously funded, media assault on the Israeli public to advance their ill-conceived program by means of social media, op-eds, main-stream media interviews and prominent bill-boards; see, for example, here , here , here and here.
Sadly ,therefore, I feel compelled to reiterate, once again, much of what I have already written.
For in effect, what CIS is suggesting is handing Israel’s adversaries a bill of post-dated surrender, in which Israel, apriori, commits to yield them all they demand today, if they will only morph into something they have not been for more than 100 years—or feign doing so temporarily.
Indeed, the intellectual structure of its proposal are so patently and predictably flawed that it is difficult to decide what is more perturbing: Whether CIS is aware of the deadly defects in its misguided program, but persists in promoting it anyway, or whether it is unaware of them, and is promoting it out of sheer ignorance?
Replicating South Lebanon realities
For by advocating renunciation of claims to sovereignty over all of Judea-Samaria beyond the Security Barrier, on the one hand, with the continued deployment of the IDF in that territory, on the other, CIS is in effect calling for replicating precisely the conditions that prevailed in South Lebanon until the hasty unilateral IDF retreat in 2000.
For anyone with a modicum of foresight, it should be clear that CIS’s prescription of deploying the IDF for an indeterminate period in territory over which Israel lays no sovereign claim—and hence, by implication, acknowledges that others have such claims—creates an unsustainable political configuration.
Indeed, CIS’s proposal would, in a stroke, convert Judea-Samaria from “disputed territory” to “occupied territory”; and the IDF from a “defense force” to an “occupying force” by explicit admission from Israel itself.
Accordingly, this will, sooner or later, generate irresistible pressure on Israel to withdraw, leaving the country exposed to the very dangers the IDF deployment was intended to obviate, precisely as transpired in South Lebanon.
As readers will doubtless recall, the result was the unbecoming flight, orchestrated by then-prime minister and former IDF chief of staff (and Israel’s most decorated soldier) Ehud Barak, under intense pressure from left-leaning civil society groups, such as “Four Mothers,” to extricate the IDF from the “Lebanese mud” and “bring our boys back home.” Thus, abandoned to the control of Hezbollah, the area was swiftly converted into a formidable arsenal—now a veritable strategic threat bristling with weaponry capable of hitting almost any major Israeli city or town.
Formula for open-ended occupation
Moreover, by conditioning the end of IDF deployment across the Security Barrier on some acceptable future agreement, CIS is promoting what is, in effect, a formula for open-ended “occupation,” whose duration is totally dependent on the Palestinian Arabs.
Indeed, if CIS’s plan is for the IDF to remain in these areas until some suitably credible Palestinian negotiating partner appears, what happens if such an interlocutor fails to emerge?
After all, CIS itself concedes that, absent some suitable arrangement with the Palestinian Arabs, the security situation requires continued IDF deployment.
Accordingly, all the Palestinian Arabs need to do to ensnare the IDF in an open-ended “occupation” is … nothing. All they need to do is wait for the IDF to become caught up in what will inevitably become the “West Bank mud” (much akin to the “Lebanese mud”), an easy target for guerilla attacks by a hostile population backed by armed Palestinian security services (which CIS does not recommend dismantling).
Soon, a combination of mounting domestic and international pressure will build up for the IDF to withdraw—similar to that which precipitated the IDF pullout from South Lebanon. On the domestic front, recurring IDF casualties in a “foreign land” will result in incessant calls to “bring our boys back home.” On the international front, increasing impatience with open-ended “occupation” will create growing demands for the removal of Israeli troops.
Eventually, continued IDF deployment will no longer be tenable and evacuation become inevitable, without any adequate political settlement or sustainable security arrangements. Just like in South Lebanon.
Deceptive ‘divorce’ analogy
In its recent campaign, CIS have invoked the analogy of “divorce” to promote its preferred policy of separation from the Palestinian Arabs. Admittedly, this kind of argument does have some superficial appeal to it until one considers the context.
Indeed, having your disagreeable spouse separate and move off to some distant location, allowing each former partner to live their life in undisturbed peace, is one thing. It is quite another to allow a belligerent spouse to take control of a property overlooking your own—from which he/she can harass you continuously, egged on by similarly inimical neighbors in the surrounding areas.
Curiously, CIS never seems to dwell on the crucial military importance of the territory it seems so eager to hand over to Palestinian Arab rule. Indeed, with all its vaunted accumulated security experience, it never once addresses the fact that the territory, earmarked for a future Palestinian state, overlooks the heavily populated coastal plain including Greater Tel Aviv together with 80 percent of Israel’s civilian population and 80 percent of its commercial activity; abuts the trans-Israel highway, and controls the county’s major international airport and numerous other vital infrastructure installations.
All of these would be hopelessly exposed and vulnerable to any hostile forces, regular or renegade, deployed in the commanding heights that would constitute much of any future Palestinian state.
Accordingly, a glaring flaw in CIS’s proposal is its seeming assumption that once a Palestinian state is established, all grievances will disappear. This of course is a grave miscalculation. Any putative Palestinian state will certainly be subject to incitement and infiltration by the most radical elements that abound in the Muslim world—spurring it on to further aggression against the infidel Zionist entity with or without the complicity of Israel’s purported peace partner, which hardly bodes well for any amicable “divorce.”
The fiction of ‘reduced friction’
CIS repeatedly mentions “reducing friction” between Jews and Arabs as a goal of its proposal. This, of course, leaves us to puzzle over how CIS envisages this being accomplished, given the fact that it prescribes that the IDF should remain deployed in the “Palestinian areas” to maintain security as what is essentially, an alien occupation force.
But beyond this intriguing question, the “reduced friction” refrain has an eerie ring to it, disturbingly reminiscent of the rationale advanced to justify the 2005 disengagement from Gaza—and look how splendidly that worked out!
Indeed, as the case of Gaza—the ultimate effort to “reduce friction”—vividly shows, whenever “friction” was reduced, the Palestinian Arabs engaged in enhancing their offensive capabilities to attack Israel, rather than focus on their own socio-economic development.
There is little reason to believe that much the same would not occur if the Palestinian Arabs were left to their own devices in Judea-Samaria; certainly, CIS provides no persuasive argument why it would not.
But then, of course, that might be because the “plan’s” real goal (much like the almost identical one advanced recently by the Institute for National Security Studies) is nothing more than an elaborate ruse to accomplish something completely different—the removal of Jewish communities beyond the present security barrier. After all, that is the only objective it is likely to attain.
Evacuation-compensation … in reverse?
According to CIS, its long-term goal is the achievement of a two-state reality, with a Palestinian state existing alongside Israel. To facilitate this, it advocates providing financial compensation to Jewish residents of Judea-Samaria to evacuate their homes.
However, support for a “Palestinian state” is nothing but a thinly disguised recipe for the establishment of (yet another) homophobic, misogynistic Muslim-majority tyranny, whose hallmarks would be: gender discrimination, gay persecution, religious intolerance, and political oppression of dissidents. Indeed, not even the most dedicated of two-staters appear to contend that it would be anything but that.
Accordingly, one is compelled to ask whether or not CIS has it backwards when it comes to the desired formula for evacuation-compensation. After all, why is it morally acceptable to offer financial inducements to Jews in Judea-Samaria to evacuate their homes to facilitate the establishment of said homophobic, misogynistic tyranny, and a likely bastion for Islamist terror; while it is considered morally reprehensible to offer financial inducements to Arabs in Judea-Samaria to evacuate their homes to prevent the establishment of such an entity?
Surely, the latter would be a more Zionist-compliant answer to CIS’s demographic concerns?
CIS’s hypocrisy: Taking security’s name in vain
In a recent column, Yediot Acharonot’s Shimon Shiffer excoriates CIS for what he sees as blatant hypocrisy, pointing out that, for years, all the members of CIS were not only complicit in the very policies they now condemn, but in fact were the vehicle through which they were conducted. Accusingly, Shiffer notes that not one of them ever resigned in protest against what they now so vigorously oppose.
But this is not the only hypocritical aspect of CIS’s activities. On its website, it prominently displays the thousands of years of security experience its members have accumulated as irrefutable proof of the validity of their position.
However, few if any, of the arguments CIS advances are related to their area of professional expertise. Nowhere do we learn why/how Israel’s security will be enhanced by lengthening its relatively straight eastern border (north of the Dead Sea) from around 100 kilometers to a contorted one of 500 kilometers. Likewise, it is unclear as to what military principle CIS invokes when it advocates relinquishing topographic superiority over the coastal plain for topographic inferiority. Or reducing Israel’s strategic depth from 70 kilometers to 70 meters.
Instead, all CIS offers are sociopolitical assessments, a realm well beyond their professional expertise.
Significantly, CIS’s website does not post the years of sociopolitical experience its members have accumulated. Indeed, in the past, virtually every time top military figures have departed from their field of expertise and ventured into one where they have none (politics), they have, almost invariably, been disastrously wrong.
The Israeli public will do well to recall this and relate to the CIS proposals with the skepticism they clearly merit.
Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.
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