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Friday, July 09, 2010

Defensible borders mean we no longer 'know' what a final settlement will look like

Dore Gold has done the State of Israel a great service by forcing us to focus on concrete things that we want out of the 'peace process.' Dore is fond of pointing out that when you ask a 'Palestinian' what he wants from the 'peace process,' he will tell you that he wants a 'Palestinian state' in the areas that are outside Israel's '1967 borders' (for now), whose capital is Jerusalem. If you ask an Israeli Jew what he wants from the 'peace process,' he will tell you 'peace.'

Dore is changing that paradigm. One of the things he believes that Israeli Jews can and should be demanding from the 'peace process' is defensible borders. His organization, the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, has put together a collection of essays that sets out in concrete terms what defensible borders mean. The collection is called Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace. It's reviewed by Lee Smith in Tablet Magazine.
The book Israel’s Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace is a collection published this year under the auspices of the JCPA with essays about security and diplomacy by leading figures in Israel’s security establishment, like Maj.-Gen. Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former head of IDF intelligence, and Maj.-Gen. Uzi Dayan, former IDF deputy chief of staff and a former national security adviser to Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ariel Sharon. The volume’s findings represent a broad consensus across the Israeli political spectrum, and the fact that Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon—former IDF chief of staff and currently the vice prime minister—wrote the introduction is evidence that the ideas have won approval at the highest political levels.

The book pushes three common ideas, some likely to add to the friction between Washington and Jerusalem: First, Israel, must not withdraw to the 1949 armistice lines; second, Israel needs defensible borders; third, Israel must rely on itself to defend itself and not on foreign forces as proposed by U.S. national security adviser Gen. James Jones, who has talked openly about replacing the IDF with international forces in the West Bank.

The insistence that Israel must retain the ability to defend its own borders—a basic attribute of national sovereignty—is the least controversial element of Gold’s blueprint. The issue is not merely the inglorious record of U.N. peacekeeping forces—from Sinai to Bosnia and Lebanon—but also the fact that the international community rarely sends its blue helmets into the middle of a real shooting war, which is what the West Bank would become if an IDF withdrawal left Hamas and Fatah at each other’s throats and eager to gain credit for launching terror attacks on Israel.

The concept of defensible borders is closely tied to the drawing of 1949 armistice lines, commonly and incorrectly known as the 1967 borders. As Gold explains in his contribution to the volume, successive U.S. administrations since Lyndon Johnson’s have all recognized the danger in Israel withdrawing to those borders. George Shultz, one of President Ronald Reagan’s secretaries of State, explained that “Israel will never negotiate from or return to the 1967 borders,” and the Clinton Administration reaffirmed the Reagan White House’s concept of defensible borders. However, it was during Clinton’s Camp David negotiations that then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak abandoned the idea of defensible borders in the hope of a radical breakthrough with Yasser Arafat. With the outbreak of the Second Intifada and peace nowhere in the offing, the George W. Bush Administration pledged not to hold the Israelis to the Clinton parameters and returned to the traditional U.S. position. “It is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949,” reads an April 14, 2004 letter from Bush to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Gold, who was not officially in the Sharon government, was nonetheless employed in a number of missions and prepared Sharon’s presentation to Bush on the significance of defensible borders during their first meeting, in 2001. Gold sat in the Roosevelt Room as Sharon entered the Oval Office with the index cards Gold had written. “Years later, when Sharon completed negotiations over the Bush letter in 2004,” says Gold, “he instructed his team in Washington to call me in Jerusalem to say we got defensible borders into the letter.”

Even as the Bush letter applied regardless of who sat in the White House (it won wide bipartisan approval in the House and Senate, with both Hillary Clinton and Rahm Emanuel voting in favor), the Obama Administration has not yet clearly signaled if it intends to accept the commitments of its predecessor. Insofar as Israel sees the letter as “the foundation for the United States to accept new construction in the Jewish settlements that encircle Jerusalem,” it is yet another source of contention between Netanyahu and Obama.

Perhaps even more daunting is the prospect of any Israeli government having to explain to the Obama White House that many of the land swaps from Camp David are not plausible in the context of defensible borders. In other words, everyone in Washington who believes that they know what Israel’s vision of a final settlement looks like is in for a surprise. Israel will have to retain security control over the Jordan rift valley, which means not just the river bank but the eastern slopes of the West Bank hill ridge. It is important to remember that the West Bank overlooks Israel’s coastal plain and 70 percent of the country’s population. If the Hamas rockets fired from Gaza were launched from the West Bank on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, it could bring Israel to its knees, disrupting the country’s economic and social life on a massive scale and shutting down Ben Gurion Airport. Moreover, Islamist militants from all around the region would attempt to transit through Jordan into the West Bank to launch attacks against the Zionist entity, destabilizing the Hashemite Kingdom.

“The concepts in this book are very close to last Knesset speech of Rabin, given thirty days before he was assassinated,” says Gold. The rhetorical point is clear enough: For all the nostalgia in the United States for a visionary statesman like Rabin, a warrior and also a man of peace, he also articulated most clearly Israel’s need for defensible borders and said nothing about land swaps. If those ideas have been lost in the last 20 years, the Israelis are also to blame. “A lot of Israel’s biggest mistakes is that Israeli diplomats put forward plans and pushed it back to the military,” says Gold. “For instance, Oslo began with two academics, and later representatives of the Foreign Ministry came in. When it became official, that’s when the army came in, at the end. I strongly believe we have to reverse the sequence—to lay out Israel’s security needs and then come out with diplomatic process to protect them.”

There is no going back to Oslo, no matter what the Obama Administration believes or hopes.
And of course, the 'Palestinians' cannot be less 'Palestinian' than Obama.

The next two years look like they're really going to be fun, don't they?

Read the whole thing.

Jennifer Rubin has more comments here.

I don't recall who it was, but someone dropped a comment this past week about Dore going back into the government. I saw Dore on Thursday and mentioned that to him. He gave me a look that said "no way."


At 11:40 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - the basic larger problem is for a long time Israel's politicians and diplomats have been relentlessly pushing the Arab narrative that they have forgotten Israel's national interests and the Jewish State's rights in the process. So when one asks Israeli leaders and diplomats what Israel means by peace, they don't know what to say. Its like Israel has forgotten how to speak its own language.

Hopefully Dr. Gold's essays will help Israel to rediscover it and put its own interests and needs before the world. If Israel is not going to learn to stand for itself, no one else will. Peace is a long ways off but Israel must prepare for that day in the unlikely event the Arabs ever do undergo a change of heart. Now is the time to outline what kind of peace Israel wants to have and how Israel's sovereignty, security and cultural, economic, political and religious interests will be secured within it.

That time has now come.


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