Time to play defense

It seems that Israel''s luck has finally run out. For decades she enjoyed a relatively quiet southern and eastern border, allowing her the focus her efforts on neutralizing the problematic Lebanese front, managing Gaza and trying, however unlikely, to reach a peaceful resolution with the Palestinians. But the sea-changes now sweeping the Mideast may require Israel to formulate a new game plan. Israel''s defense establishment can no longer rely on yesterday''s working assumptions. Moderate Arab states that helped keep the status quo are now on shaky ground. The sudden abandonment of Egypt by Uncle Sam casts doubt on his reliability and trustworthiness. The "moderate" Palestinian leadership, which once drew strength and legitimacy from Mubarak, will be further weakened. And Iran''s influence in the region is on the rise.
The events of the last few weeks clearly illustrate just how volatile, unpredictable and unforgiving the Middle East can be. Lebanon, which lies at Israel''s northern doorstep, has virtually fallen into Iran''s orbit with very ominous implications. Jordan is also at risk of veering into Iran''s magnetic pull. Ditto for Turkey. And secular Egypt, heretofore Israel''s most stable and powerful peace partner is on the verge of going Islamic. If these seismic shifts prove to be not just a passing phase but a permanent reshuffling of the deck, Israel will need to rethink her game plan and adopt a more defensive position to hold her own in the years to come.
A good place to start would be for Israel to reconsider her willingness to concede her vitally important land assets for a dubious peace deal. Set against a now-toxic regional backdrop, a failed agreement could be disastrous. For the last two decades, Israel has optimistically remained in "hope mode" regarding her Palestinian problem. She has convinced herself, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that a lasting peace could somehow be bought with land. Not with illegally acquired "occupied land", mind you, but with huge chunks of the eternal patrimony of the Jewish People, Divinely granted to Abraham way back when and legally earmarked as the national Jewish home by international law following WWI.
A peace deal with the Palestinians will necessarily require Israel''s to give up the vast majority of her Judean and Samarian land assets, stripping her of most of the strategic height, depth and airspace she currently enjoys. The Samarian Mountain Ridge Shield, which runs parallel for 70 kilometers with Israel''s exposed and vulnerable coastal plain, protects and buffers this soft underbelly of Israel.  In wartime, when seconds count, troop and materiel mobilization could be delayed and severely hamstrung were a hostile force to control the Samarian heights. That alone could be game-ender.
Clearly, any Palestinian peace deal will leave Israel with indefensible borders, making unconditional Pan-Arab recognition and acceptance of Israel an absolute prerequisite. As such, no deal can be made in a vacuum; Israel must consider what the bigger picture would look like if a peace treaty would fall apart. If that picture shows a security-compromised Jewish state surrounded by belligerent and radical Islamic Arabs and Persians, then Israel should reconsider the Two-State solution and look for alternatives, at least for now.
When storm clouds gather and the seas get rough, ships batten down the hatches and wait for the tempest to pass. In the Mideast, a dark pall is descending on the horizon and the winds of war are picking up. Now is not the time for Israel to bet the ranch by conceding her highly strategic land assets to a dubious peace partner. Better to wait and see and live another day. The Two-State solution is yesterday''s news. In today''s Middle East, a good defense is the best offense.
The writer, an oleh from New York and former Wall Street professional, lives with his family in Samaria. He is the author of the Shomron Central blog which can be view at http://shomroncentral.blogspot.com/