Akiva Eldar
Haaretz (Opinion)
September 27, 2011 - 12:00am

The main, if not the only, innovation in the prime minister's address at the UN General Assembly was the demand that the Palestinians house military bases inside their new state. This, of course, in addition to the need for "defensible borders," that is a result of Israel's narrow middle. In order to illustrate the sensitivity of this shape, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu "disclosed" to the world that a fighter jet could cross the width of the country in just three seconds.

Pilot Amos Lapidot, who was the air force commander for five years (from 1982-1987), does not think that moving the Green Line is the security solution to the problem of Israel's compact air space and land size.

Lapidot was among the group of military experts, all members of the management of the Council for Peace and Security, who prepared a position paper on the link between the country's borders and its security. They were headed by the council's president, Maj. Gen. (res.) Natan Sharoni, a former head of the IDF's planning division. The other members were Brig. Gen. (res.) Shlomo Brum, who was the head of the strategic planning division and deputy of the National Security Council; Col. (res.) Shaul Arieli, the prime minister's former military adviser; Col. (res.) Gadi Zohar, a former head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, and Commander (ret.) Shaul Givoli, the former commander of the Civil Guard.

The retired security officers noted that all the Arab governments despaired of being able to deal with Israel in the classic battlefield, as was evident in the Arab peace initiative. The primary military threats that Israel will have to face in the foreseeable future, therefore, are terrorism, ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. According to them, the use of the term, strategic depth, in reference to the Jordan Valley and western Judea and Samaria is mocking the poor. They point out that with the Jordan Valley Israel's width does not exceed 40 kilometers, and that as long as its strategic alliance with Jordan is preserved, its security border is not the Jordan River but the Jordan-Iraq border. One way or another, the military force stationed permanently in the Jordan Valley will be limited in scale and therefore will face a perpetual threat of being encircled.

According to the retired officers, an Israeli presence in western Samaria will not distance the threat of attacks on planes landing at and departing from Ben-Gurion Airport. They note that the range of the missiles and rockets makes it possible to cover the entire area of the state of Israel, without the need to deploy a single launcher west of the Jordan River (it should be noted that soon all El Al planes will have a state-of-the-art anti-missile system installed on them). These areas are practically irrelevant to preventing the infiltration of suicide bombers.

The officers' position paper stresses that the most vital defensive methods are the reliability of the barrier between Israel and the Palestinian state, and primarily the security arrangements to be determined in an agreement between the two states. The arrangements must include cooperation in fighting terrorism, demilitarization and deployment of an international force, supervision of the border with Jordan and the border crossings, and prohibiting the Palestinian state from making alliances and cooperating with countries and movements that are hostile to Israel.

The Council for Peace and Security therefore believes that Israel has the appropriate military responses to the most serious scenarios. In their opinion, the strategic advantages of a peace agreement outweigh the minor benefit of continuing to control the Jordan Valley and Western Samaria. They agree with the argument that the main threat is not from a land attack that will eat away at Israel's territory, but from an erosion of the spirit of the people and of Israel's standing in the world.

Selective reading

In his most recent speeches in Ramallah and New York, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas stepped on a few landmines. The grating tone, especially the overlooking of the Jewish people's connection to the land of Israel, ruined the transcript to a certain extent. Government spokesmen, led by Netanyahu and Minister Benny Begin, zeroed in on these mines eagerly, but they were not at ease until they also placed a roadside explosive device; they focused on Abbas' comment in Ramallah to the effect that the Palestinian people have been living under occupation for over 63 years. From this you can conclude that according to Abbas, there is no difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv.

Middle East scholar Dr. Matti Steinberg, who was the Palestinian affairs adviser to Shin Bet security service chiefs, wonders how it is possible to latch onto the interpretation of a single sentence and to ignore Abbas' specific remarks in that same speech, especially the distinction he made between the legitimacy of the state of Israel and the illegitimacy of the occupation. Either way, Steinberg stresses that Abbas did not speak of 63 years of occupation, but of 63 years during which (and not necessarily all of them ) generations of Palestinians are living under occupation and in refugee and displaced persons camps. If Abbas had spoken of just 44 years of occupation, would Begin have deemed his remarks acceptable?

As part of this same incitement battle, the director general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Yossi Kuperwasser, claimed in an interview with Dana Weiss on Channel 2, that Abbas said that UN recognition of Palestine is intended to pave the way to negotiations between one state, Israel, which is an occupied country, and a country that is under occupation. His conclusion: "In Abu Mazen's opinion, the settlement of Jews all over the land of Israel is illegal." Steinberg assumes that Kuperwasser, who was the head of military intelligence and research, knows the difference between muhtilla (an occupying country ) which is what Abu Mazen said, and muhtalla, an occupied country. The overall context and the adjacent sentences indicate that Abu Mazen was talking about negotiations between a country under occupation and an occupying country. Weiss gave Kuperwasser an opportunity to set things straight. The offer was declined.


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