(photo credit: Courtesy)
Dr. Gadi Taub, a representative of the Zionist Left, which seeks to combine
dovishness with combating the post-Zionist drift, argues in his book, “The
Settlers” that it is intellectually dishonest for a settler like myself to
invoke the security argument since my primary motivations for keeping Judea and
Samaria under Israeli sovereignty are religious and historical.
therefore, before arguing that the 1949 armistice lines do not provide
defensible boundaries for Israel, I must first rebut the specious argument that
Taub, who teaches communications at Hebrew University, has advanced.
would my desire to stay in my home in Tekoa in the West Bank for religious
reasons somehow disqualify me from injecting the fact that Tekoa is a mere
10-minute drive from Jerusalem, our national capital? This is tantamount to
saying that a person who rejects a sales proposition for the Brooklyn Bridge as
fraudulent is barred from claiming that the proposition is exorbitant and
Yes, I do agree that it is a mistake to predicate Israel’s
case exclusively on security grounds. Sovereignty will always trump security in
any battle between them. For example, in the years between the two World Wars,
French foreign and security policy rested on the demilitarization of the
Rhineland. When the crucial test occurred, in 1936, French security folded in
the face of Nazi Germany’s assertion of sovereignty and the Rhineland was
The Rhineland example also anticipates the argument that
demilitarization agreements constitute an effective substitute for possession.
By withdrawing from Judea and Samaria, the cradle of Jewish history, Israel will
be undermining its own legitimacy. And make no mistake: Legitimacy and religion
are the crux of the Arab-Israeli conflict. By withdrawing from territories
liberated in 1967 following the attempts by the Arabs to exterminate its
existence, Israel would be reassuring its enemies that aggression entails little
cost and that they will always recoup their losses eventually.
arguments and the defensible borders argument are not mutually exclusive but
mutually supportive. In 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 called for
secure and recognized boundaries, implicitly recognizing that the 1949 armistice
lines were not secure. The US Joint Chiefs of Staff study during the Johnson
administration of Israel’s defense needs following the Six Day War called for
boundaries that included the Jordan Rift Valley, perhaps up to the mountain
ridge. If anything has changed since 1967, it makes the case for defensible
boundaries more compelling.
Few believe that peace in the region will elevate Israel’s borders to the same serenity as the Franco-Swiss
border. Despite generous and even irresponsible offers from Israel, the
Palestinians have resisted closure and adhered to their strategy of stages for
Israel’s liquidation. The much touted Israel-Egyptian peace has been reduced to
a substandard, non-aggression pact as even the insincere attempts to halt
weapons smuggling to Gaza from Egypt have been halted. Turbulence in Iraq
and the unstable situation in Jordan mean that a reconstituted eastern front
cannot be precluded.
In the event of a conventional war, missile arsenals
do not nullify the need for defensible borders – quite the contrary. Israel’s
small standing army is expected to hold out till the reserves have been
mobilized. With missiles striking mobilization centers and traffic arteries, the
reserves will be delayed. The Israel Air Force will be preoccupied by the
missile threats and will be unable to provide support for ground operations.
Deprived of the breathing space afforded by defensible borders, Israel will have
to either expand its standing army or interpret any enemy troop movements in the
worst possible light and immediately preempt to avoid a surprise similar to the
1973 Yom Kippur War.
I am old enough to remember Israel before 1967. On
my first visit to divided Jerusalem we were told not to make any sudden
movements in observation points overlooking the Old City that could trigger a
response from Jordanian snipers. The 1967 borders leave most of Israel’s
infrastructure – power stations, gas farms and the transnational highway –
vulnerable to terrorist organizations or the lone wolf pack. In 1967 the
shoulder- launched missiles that can bring down any airliner on takeoff from or
landing at Ben-Gurion Airport did not exist. But they do now, and when traffic
is interdicted from the overlooking hills of Samaria, how many of this year’s
3.4 million tourists will risk a return visit?
When the first airliner is downed
or when a school bus is incinerated, Israel will receive a profusion of sympathy
coupled with calls for restraint. An official Palestinian condemnation in
English of the Abu Whoever Brigade responsible for the atrocity may be
forthcoming while the populace exchanges congratulatory sweets. An Israeli
attempt to take out the threat will arouse the same criticisms of
disproportionality heaped upon Israel after Operation Cast Lead was initiated to
halt the missile barrage from Gaza.
It was suggested in a recent issue of
that an American peacekeeping force on the Jordan could serve as a
substitute for an Israeli military presence. This suggestion again reinforced
the fact that an Israeli military presence on non-Israeli territory is not
viable and one cannot divorce security from sovereignty. Such a suggestion,
however, runs counter to the prevalent trend in the US and Western Europe to
downsize their military forces and avoid overstretch in foreign
Secondly, peacekeeping forces can function effectively when
both sides have an interest in preserving the peace. When that is not the case,
as in Lebanon, these forces will come under fire and absorb casualties, if they
attempt to enforce their mandate. Casualties will then create an outcry for
their withdrawal. The peacekeepers are at best useless – at worst they can cause
friction between Israel and the countries deploying the soldiers.
democracy itself, the territorial status quo may have its problems but it is
vastly superior to all currently proposed alternatives.