'Defensible borders are key to Israel's safety'

Peace agreements to end military threats are 'messianic illusion'.

security fence 298 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
security fence 298 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
To defend itself against future threats, Israel must retain control of the Jordan Valley and all West Bank border crossings in any future arrangement - whether negotiated or initiated unilaterally - that defines the state's borders, a panel comprised mainly of former military men told the Herzliya Conference Monday. The panel's presentation on "defensible borders" stressed that Israel must assume there will be global and local threats that stretch decades into the future, and should not draw borders that compromise Israel's ability to defend itself from a ground- or air-based attack. "People talk about history, relations, water - but only some people think about the day after [borders are drawn] and how Israel will find itself in a defensible position," said Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya'acov Amidor, the head of the Defensible Borders project at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. While considerations such as relations with the Palestinians, demography and history were important in defining borders, Amidor argued that the 1993 Oslo Accords went too far in compromising Israel's security in hopes for peace, adding that one like it should not rise again. Though peace was a noble cause to strive for, the reality of the Middle East called for a cautious approach that assumed a constant threat to Israel, former chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. (res.) Moshe Ya'alon said. "The nonrecognition of Israel as an independent, Jewish state by elements around us has accompanied us since the dawn of Zionism and will be with us for years to come," he said. "In view of our bitter experience with the Palestinians, the assumption should be made in any border line, chosen or by agreement through a political move, that terrorist or other violent activities will continue." Ya'alon said those threats to Israel might emerge from Palestinian terrorists, a new generation of mujahideen fighters cutting their teeth in Iraq, the political emergence of Muslim Brotherhood parties in Egypt, Lebanon (Hizbullah) and the PA (Hamas), and the global jihad led by al-Qaida. Ya'alon also said more territory increased the ability of a state to "absorb" air-based attacks as well as conventional land invasions. That was particularly crucial, he said, given the panel's assumption that the range of crudely manufactured rockets such as the Kassam and the Katyusha would only increase in the coming years. All major Israeli population centers and Ben-Gurion Airport were already within the range of rockets fired from the West Bank, the panel reported. Despite the general premise that the pre-1967 borders were the line from which to negotiate future demarcations, former ambassador to the United Nations Dr. Dore Gold said international law and numerous agreements with the United States specified that Israel was not required to return to that line. Citing the April 2004 letter from President George W. Bush to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, UN Security Council Resolution 242 and other diplomatic correspondences, he said there was enough precedence in international law to support Israel's entitlement to "secure and defensible borders" that did not directly correlate to the pre-1967 lines. Gold also argued that Israel should never rely on other countries to provide for its defense, saying "secure" borders were different than "defensible" borders. "'Secure' means we are relying on someone else," he said. "'Defensible' means borders which can be defended by Israel itself." Though praising the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, the panel stressed repeatedly that peace agreements with the Palestinians and Arab countries would always be in danger of unraveling if the governments of those countries fell. Thus, the view that peace agreements would solve the military threats Israel faced was but a "messianic illusion," Amidor said.