(August 9, 2020 / JNS) “It is useless for the sheep to pass resolutions in favor of vegetarianism, while the wolf remains of a different opinion.” — R. Inge, dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, 1915
“The most righteous of men cannot live in peace if his evil neighbor will not let him be.” — from Wilhelm Tell Act IV, Scene III, by Friedrich von Schiller, 1804
“When somebody says they want to kill you, you should believe him.” —An unnamed Holocaust survivor commenting on the lessons he had learned from his experiences during World War II
After several past endeavors—which have produced mixed results, ranging from the unsuccessful to total fiascoes—the organization known as Commanders for Israel Security (or CIS) has attempted to renew its assault on public opinion.
For readers unfamiliar with the organization, CIS is a group purportedly comprising around 300 former senior Israel Defense Forces officers (from the rank of brigadier general and above) and officials with corresponding seniority in the Israel Police and the Shin Bet.
Although ostensibly “non-political,” CIS has very clear political preferences—virulently opposing any move that would entail extension of Israeli sovereignty over areas of Judea-Samaria (a.k.a. “The West Bank”), and proposing extraordinary measures to preserve the viability, however remote, of a two-state solution as a potential means for resolving conflict between Jews and Arabs over control of the Holy Land.
In recent weeks, CIS, apparently as a response to increased focus on annexation in the public debate, launched a new (copiously funded) P.R. campaign in English and Hebrew on social media, prominent billboards and full-page ads in the Israeli press, against any initiative to formalize Israeli control of territory across the pre-1967 Green Line.
As I have written in the past, CIS is an organization for which I would rather express respect than reproach. Indeed, I have great esteem—jointly and separately—for the huge effort and sacrifice its members have made to ensure the security of the nation and the safety of its citizens. Indeed, in the distant past, when I was considerably younger, and discernibly slimmer, some of its more vocal members dispatched me into harm’s way on operations in inhospitable environs.
That said, their illustrious past is hardly license to formulate and ferment a highly hazardous and harebrained, indeed borderline hallucinatory, scheme to handle the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs. Indeed, it is difficult to conceive of any greater irony than that of the spectacle of scores of ex-senior security officials, who spent most their adult life defending Israel, now promoting a political initiative that will make it indefensible.
In the interest of full disclosure, over the last few years, I have written several harsh critiques of CIS’s patently preposterous potpourri of poppycock, liberally peppered with internal contradictions and blatant non-sequiturs—see here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
However, in the most recent CIS campaign, there is one element that is especially galling.
This is a call from CIS to a number of senior government ministers to “look us in the eye and admit that you have no idea how one-sided annexation will end.”
Although CIS was not formed until 2014, none of it constituent members ever publicly demanded—individually or collectively—that the architects of the calamitous Oslo process or the disastrous disengagement ever provide such a forward-looking prognosis before embarking on those moronic misadventures—even though their ruinous results were both eminently predictable, indeed even predicted.
But even more infuriating than this blatant display of disingenuous double standards, which demands 20-20 foresight as a precondition for implementation of a political initiative, is that the ominous outcome of CIS’s own perilous and preposterous “plan” (for want of a better word) is virtually a forgone and foreseeable conclusion: The inevitable conversion of the entire “West Bank” into a giant South Lebanon—which will replicate both the realities and results that still plague that hapless region.
Indeed, only chronic myopia, moronity—or mendacity—can explain why anyone who purportedly has Israel’s interests at heart would possibly endorse and promote such a fatally flawed formula.
After all, it requires no special acumen to foresee—indeed deduce with almost mathematical inevitability—the untoward chain of events that the CIS’s ill-omened blueprint is liable to precipitate.
Disaster in a nutshell
Two of the underlying assumptions of the CIS are: 1) At present a two-state solution is not feasible, and 2) until it is, the IDF will remain deployed throughout the “West Bank.”
Thus their plan specifically states:
“…Although there is currently no feasibility for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel within the framework of permanent status agreement based on the principle of ‘two states for two people’…” (Page 10);
“…The situation on the West Bank requires the continued deployment of the IDF until satisfactory security arrangements are put in place within the framework of a permanent status agreement. …” (Page 11)
Those familiar with CIS’s proposal, which is nothing but a thinly veiled attempt to keep the terminally ill two-state formula on life-support, will recall that, in a nutshell, it comprises the following components:
(a) Forswearing sovereignty: Declaring that Israel foregoes any claims to sovereignty over territory beyond the security barrier in Judea-Samaria, including east Jerusalem, and, therefore, by implication admitting that some other party holds legitimate sovereign claim to it.
(b) Freezing construction: Imposing a freeze on all construction of residences, and halt all infrastructure development in Jewish communities beyond that barrier—thus effectively dooming them to shrivel up and die.
(c) Removal of Jewish residents: Encouraging the unilateral evacuation of all Jewish communities, located beyond the security barrier.
(d) Conversion of IDF into an occupying force: Leaving the IDF in control of security throughout the entire area over which Israel renounces sovereignty—thus, in a stroke, converting the IDF from a defense force into an occupying force, on territory over which Israel itself acknowledges that others have legitimate sovereign claims.
(e) Open-ended occupation: CIS envisages this IDF deployment continuing until some yet-to-be-identified 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.
Pernicious and puerile
As mentioned, the purported “rationale” for this policy prescription is to preserve the viability of the two-state principle for resolving the conflict with the Palestinian Arabs, something that CIS acknowledges is not feasible at the moment—as no prospective partner with the adequate pliancy-cum-authority can be identified.
This obsessive adherence to a hopelessly failed political paradigm creates patently perilous pitfalls, clearly visible to all but those blinded by political bias.
Indeed, it is a prescription that is, at once, pernicious—because of the predictably calamitous consequences it will precipitate—and puerile—because of the naive hope that it will not.
After all, by advocating ongoing and indeterminate Israeli military presence in territory over which Israel concedes it has no sovereign claims (thus implying that others do), CIS not only recommends labelling the IDF an occupying force rather than a defense one, but is, in effect, endorsing the replication of the selfsame conditions that prevailed in pre-2000 South Lebanon—where Israel’s armed forces were deployed in territory to which Israel laid no sovereign claims, and in which there was no Israeli civilian presence.
Accordingly, there is little reason to believe that this will not precipitate the selfsame results—a hasty and humiliating unilateral retreat without any final-status agreement or even agreed security arrangements.
Ensnaring the IDF into open-ended “occupation”
The path leading to this grim outcome is not difficult to foresee. After all, all the Palestinian Arabs need to do to ensnare the IDF in an open-ended “occupation” is … well, nothing.
All they need to do is to 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/terror attacks by a hostile population, backed—in all likelihood—by armed Palestinian security services (which, unsurprisingly, 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 precipitous 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 will become inevitable—without any adequate political settlement or sustainable security arrangements.
But, even in the unlikely event that some Palestinian-Arab partner could be located who would, in good faith, agree to conclude a permanent-status agreement and implement acceptable security arrangements allowing the IDF to evacuate Judea-Samaria, the CIS prescription is no less risk-fraught.
After all, how could Israel ensure this agreement will be honored and these arrangements maintained over time? Clearly, it could not!
A change of heart or a change of regime?
Indeed, once the IDF withdraws, Israel has no way of preventing its Palestinian cosignatories from reneging on their commitments—whether of their own volition, due to a change of heart, or under duress from extremist adversaries.
Even more to the point, barring gross interference in intra-Palestinian politics, Israel has no way to ensure that their pliant partner will not be replaced—whether by bullet or ballot—by far more inimical successors, probably generously supported by foreign regimes that repudiate their predecessors’ peaceable pledges.
Indeed, it is more than likely that it would be precisely the “perfidious” deal struck with the “nefarious Zionist entity” that would be invoked as justification for the regime change.
Accordingly, no matter which of these outcomes—a change of heart or a change of regime—emerges in practice, Israel is likely to be confronted with a situation in which it no longer has security control in Judea-Samaria and a hostile regime perched on the hills dominating the coastal megalopolis—overlooking its only international airport, adjacent to its major population centers and abutting principal transportation axes.
In the face of all this undeniable risk, it is difficult to fathom the military logic on which CIS calls to contend with such political uncertainty.
Triumph of naïve optimism over bitter experience?
Indeed, if the IDF withdraws from the highlands of Judea-Samaria to redeploy within the route of the security barrier, which largely approximates the pre-1967 Green Line, this would in fact entail a violation of a host of cardinal military principles.
For example, it would entail:
- Exchanging a short, straight frontier of around 100 km. (62 miles), relatively removed from large urban population centers and commercial hubs for a long, contorted frontier of around 500 km. (310 miles) or more, virtually adjacent to major concentrations of civilian populations and economic activity/infrastructures;
- Exchanging overwhelming topographical superiority for perilous topographical inferiority;
- Exchanging minimal strategic depth for the deployment of the IDF for no strategic depth whatsoever;
- Exchanging the advantage of interior lines for the disadvantage of exterior ones.
Thus, should post-final-status-agreement conditions deteriorate, Israel would find itself, militarily (the field in which CIS claims indisputable expertise) in a situation significantly worse than that prior to the agreement.
This is hardly a scenario that is preposterously implausible or excessively pessimistic. After all, it was Noble Laureate Shimon Peres, the principal Israeli protagonist in the Oslo process, who once warned: “The major issue is not [attaining] an agreement, but ensuring the actual implementation of the agreement in practice. The number of agreements that the Arabs have violated is no less than the number that they have kept.” (Tomorrow is Now, Jerusalem: Keter, [Hebrew] 1978, p. 255).
Seen in this light, the CIS plan seems very much like the triumph of naïve optimism over bitter experience.
A political manifesto, not a security plan
Indeed, even a cursory analysis of the CIS plan will reveal that it is not a security plan composed by military experts, but a political manifesto drafted by amateur politicians. Significantly , the “plan” deals very sparsely with military matters (which are CIS’s area of expertise) and focuses a great deal on civilian ones (which are not).
Thus, with regard to the “West Bank” and east Jerusalem, virtually all the CIS recommendations refer to beefing up security arrangements along the security barrier and crossing points, and completing the barrier where gaps exist (page 22). By contrast, CIS enumerates a myriad of civilian issues (pages 24-5), which Israel is called upon to address. These include:
- Addressing the lack of building permits for the growing Palestinian population in Area C
- Spurring agricultural development in the West Bank
- Easing restrictions on the transport and export of goods
- Removing impediments to economic development (Computerizing VAT and SWIFT connectivity with Palestinian banks)
- Developing Palestinian industrial and employment zones
- Improving transportation infrastructures
- Supporting the establishment of another, new Palestinian city (in Area C)
- Issuing a large number of permits for work in Israel
Of course, this leaves one to puzzle not only over what expertise CIS claims in civilian administration, water management, agricultural methods, banking, taxation and so on, and how it envisions Israel being involved in all these fields, if all it has on the ground across the security barrier is military personnel; but also over why Israel should have to be burdened with building the socioeconomic foundations for a prospective independent Palestinian-Arab state—all this in absence of a viable peace process and peace partner.
Unrealistic altruism? Condescending patronage? Or the bigotry of low expectations?
In light of the dramatic and detrimental flaws in CIS’s political paradigm, the real call that it should engender is one directed at CIS itself: “Look us in the eye and admit. You have a very clear idea of how your proposal will end—in disaster.”
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