'Present border line only plausible defense for Israel'

Former national security adviser Eiland: Golan withdrawal discussed in 1990s by Netanyahu, Barak was flawed.

eiland 248.88   (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
eiland 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Security arrangements for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights considered by prime ministers Binyamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak in the late 1990s would not provide Israel with sufficient security, a new paper being released by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) claims. The paper, authored by former national security adviser Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland and set for release on Wednesday, states that the "present border line is the only one affording plausible defense for the State of Israel." The JCPA is headed by former ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, who has served as a foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu and is touted as a leading candidate to serve as Israel's next envoy to Washington. In the paper, Eiland claims that the security arrangements discussed at the time were flawed and relied on "dangerous assumptions." There has been speculation that Netanyahu will seek to engage Syria in peace talks during his current term in office. The security arrangements were based on two components: that the ceded territory would be demilitarized and that Israel would retain an early-warning base on the Hermon to identify violations of the agreement. Eiland claims that neither of these components would successfully ensure the country's security, and that any Israeli movement westward - away from the Golan - "would create a considerable depreciation of Israel's defensive capability." In addition, Eiland warns that the major Syrian threat to Israel is no longer its ground forces, but its ground-to-ground missiles and large stockpiles of chemical weapons. During the talks Barak led in 1999-2000, Eiland writes, no attempt was made to degrade these capabilities. Eiland also casts doubt on the assumption that peace with Syria would isolate Iran, assist the Palestinian-Israeli track and weaken Hizbullah. "The greatest strategic threat to Israel is posed by nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran. The continued existence of such a threat will not be influenced at all by whether there will be a peace agreement between Israel and Syria," he writes. Iran, he continues, is the primary supporter of Hizbullah, and even following a peace agreement between Damascus and Jerusalem, it could transfer arms to Hizbullah via Syria, as well as via other routes. A forfeiture of the Golan Heights, Eiland says, would also create a situation where the IDF's assembly areas in the Hula Valley would be within the effective range of Syrian mortars and artillery. "We are no longer dealing with the Sagger missiles of Yom Kippur War vintage, but with advanced missiles with an effective range of 5 km., both day and night," he says. "Additionally, improvements in anti-aircraft missiles, and especially the existence of advanced shoulder-launched missiles, will allow the Syrians to conceal them in built-up areas prior to the war and launch them from the most forward line at the beginning of the war." The Israel Air Force, he warns, might also lose its upper hand, since the Syrian missile threat to the home front would compel the IAF to fight both in support of ground troops and to suppress Syrian rocket and missile fire at an early stage. "This stands in sharp contrast to the current security concept positing that Israeli ground forces can get along almost on their own during the first days of the fighting while the air force achieves air superiority," Eiland writes.