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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Follow-up on Defensible Borders

I blogged about the book  Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace recentlyIt turns out that the JCPA's new book on "Defensible Borders" is downloadable. The download is not working at this moment, but a great executive summary is available, which in seven pages pithily puts all the main points together. For example:

Until now, the Palestinians have only been asked for a “top-down” peace process, throughout which their leaders have held meetings, shaken hands, attended peace conferences, and even signed agreements with Israeli leaders. But when a peace process does not sprout from the grassroots of a society, it is both pointless and useless. Until three year- old children in Ramallah stop being taught to idolize “martyrs” who blow themselves up for jihad against Israelis and Jews, there will only be a “peace process” in the imaginations of the self-deluded.

If the West Bank were to fall into hostile hands, the resulting situation would pose a constant threat to Israel’s national infrastructure, including Ben-Gurion International Airport, the Trans-Israel Highway toll road, Israel’s National Water Carrier, and its high-voltage electric power lines.

A major problem Israel faces in dealing with a non-state actor such as the Palestinian Authority is that, unlike state actors such as Egypt or Jordan, classic principles of deterrence and punishment are far less effective, as there is no unified government that asserts control over people, weapons, and terrorist groups. This is illustrated by the split between Fatah in the West Bank and Hamas in Gaza.

In the past, prior to a planned Iraqi mission to carry out an aerial attack on Israel’s nuclear research compound in Dimona, Jordan permitted Iraqi combat planes to use its airspace and to fly on a route parallel to the Israeli border in order to take aerial photographs  of Israeli territory. Thus, despite the current relative calm, Israel cannot entrust its security  to the goodwill of the Jordanians or the Palestinians.

A Palestinian entity located on the central mountain ridge enjoys a topographical advantage compared to largely coastal Israel. A small Palestinian transmitter station on Mount Eival, near Nablus, for example, could jam virtually the entire communication system in  Israeli areas broadcasting on the same frequencies.

It would be a serious mistake to believe that Israeli requirements for verifying complete Palestinian demilitarization could be guaranteed by international forces operating in the West Bank. International forces have never been successful anywhere in the world in a situation where one of the parties was ready to ignore the fulfillment of its responsibilities.:
Just before the 1967 Six-Day War, UNEF, the United Nations Emergency Force  in Sinai, retreated from the area just before hostilities broke out. European  monitors stationed along the Egyptian border with Gaza in accordance with the 2005 agreement brokered by Secretary of State Rice fled their positions when internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah heated up.

UNIFIL in Lebanon has never caught any Hizbullah terrorists. When Hizbullah  moved its artillery positions to within 50 meters of a UN position and then fired on Israeli targets, UNIFIL did nothing. But if Israel employed counter-fire against the very same Hizbullah artillery, then the UN Division for Peacekeeping Operations would issue a formal diplomatic complaint.
Yaacov Lozowick sums up his skepticism nicely:
Since 1993 Israel has performed a series of concrete actions on the ground, changes in the reality, which have weakened its control over the Palestinians. Not one of them resulted in any advantage durable enough to survive two days of violence in September 2000, when the Palestinians launched the 2nd Intifada. Since 2000 the pendulum has swung both ways, with Israel reconquering the West Bank in 2002, and slowly lifting its hand since 2004; with Israel fully evacuating Gaza in 2005, then reconquering less than a third of it in 2009 and again relinquishing direct control and now, slowly, also indirect control. The wary recognition of having an independent Palestine next door, which was the expression of Rabin's position, has been replaced by a Likud prime minister publicly accepting the goal of a sovereign Palestine.

And in all that time, I dare you to find one single concrete step taken by the Palestinians to assure us they, too, are ready for partition. Not words, which can be uttered in English today and denied in Arabic today. Actions. Find me one. Because I could easily write a 10,000-word article about all the things they've done which prove the opposite; actually, I expect I could limit myself to the first half of 2010.

This is of crucial importance. Reaching peace with the Palestinians will mean Israel gives up all those essential security measures spelled out by the JCPA. It will require a gamble with our lives, in the immediate meaning that people we know will die if it goes wrong, if not we ourselves. There's nothing theoretical or hypothetical about this: it will be real people, really dead, just as it already has been. For this to happen the Palestinians need to convince us they can be trusted with our lives. At the moment, nothing comes to mind - nothing - to indicate they can be trusted.