security fence 298 88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Avi Dichter's announcement this week that Israel would unilaterally disengage from large sections of the West Bank if Kadima won the upcoming elections, brought to surface one of the most current crucial arguments within the IDF General Staff over the security importance of settlements in Judea and Samaria.
While anticipating a second disengagement under the next government, some in the IDF were taken by surprise with Dichter's announcement that the disengagement would be a strictly "civilian affair" and that the army would still maintain its presence in the evacuated territories.
While the defense establishment prefers not to enter into political discourses and plans to leave the sensitive issue of which exact settlements will be evacuated up to the government, the general view is that control over the settlements themselves is no longer critical to security within the Green Line. The settler's claim that communities like Elon Moreh near Nablus and Psagot near Ramallah are protecting cities like Tel Aviv and Jerusalem was no longer the case since a Dichter showed how, even under a unilateral evacuation, the army could still preserve a presence but without the burden of having to guard the settlements.
While everyone agrees that a disengagement from the West Bank is different from a security standpoint than this past summer's withdrawal from Gaza, there are some high-ranking officers that support, from a tactical point of view, the creation of "short and tight defensible borders" while pulling the army entirely out of the territories.
Other officers agree with Dichter and maintain that while civilians should be pulled out of the West Bank, the IDF needs to preserve a presence deep within Palestinian territories to continue protecting coastline cities like Tel Aviv and Kfar Saba.
"More land creates better security," one officer said explaining the position. "This way we create buffer zones and prevent terror from spilling over into the Green Line."
The IDF Planning Directorate is busy at work coming up with different diplomatic and strategic alternatives now that Hamas has taken over the Palestinian Authority and Israel has already pulled out of the Gaza Strip. The soldiers working in the directorate's strategic section composed a paper entitled "Promoting Israel's interests Following Disengagement" several months ago while Fatah was still running the PA but with conclusions, IDF officers said Monday that were still applicable today.
While the paper lacked a "bottom line" it did provide an analysis of the current geopolitical situation in the Middle East and concluded that Israel's current presence in the territories was unnecessary and even detrimental. The chances of reaching a peace agreement with the PA, the authors further concluded, were slim to none and Israel, if interested in creating defensible borders, should consider a second unilateral withdrawal.