Saturday, January 23, 2016

Land for peace in the Middle East? - Yoram Ettinger

by Yoram Ettinger

If Israel had caved under U.S. pressure to retreat from the Golan Heights -- a site of Jewish battles against the Roman Empire -- the Islamic State group and other terrorists would be there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, traumatizing northern Israel and beyond.

U.S. Ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, echoes the Obama administration's pressure on Israel to retreat to the 1949 armistice lines: an 8-15 mile sliver along the Mediterranean, towered over by the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria. Thus, the administration -- unlike the American people and Congress -- ignores the centrality of Judea and Samaria to Jewish history, religion, culture and nationalism, and provides another victory to wishful thinking over the 1,400-year-old reality of inherent Middle East/Arab violence, unpredictability, tyranny, doublespeak and hate education.

If Israel would have caved under U.S. pressure to retreat from the Golan Heights -- a site of Jewish battles against the Roman Empire -- the Islamic State group and other terrorists would be there, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, traumatizing northern Israel and beyond.

The late Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban, known for his dovish views, stated in Der Spiegel on Nov. 5, 1969: "The map will never be the same as on June 4, 1967... [which for us is] something of a memory of Auschwitz." 

Mideast peace accords are as durable as Arab regimes, policies and accords, which have been -- since the seventh century -- shifty, intolerant, violent, volatile and treacherous, as currently reflected by the Arab tsunami (known to the gullible as the Arab Spring). The Arab tsunami yielded abrupt shifts in power and ideology in Egypt and Tunisia, transformed Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen into chaotic terror hotbeds, and it is a lethal threat to all moderate Arab regimes. A regime change in Jordan would traumatize the region, bringing Islamic terrorism in full force to Israel's most vulnerable border. 

Pressuring Israel to accept "land for peace" assumes that an Israeli withdrawal from Judea and Samaria would convince Arabs to accord the "infidel" Jew that which Muslim believers have denied one another for 1,400 years: peaceful coexistence and systematic compliance with agreements. 

"Land for peace" urges Israel to concede land in return for peace, while not allowing Israel to retrieve land after Arab violations of peace. "Land for peace" enhances security when the parties display long-term adherence to agreements, which is a Middle East rarity. However, it undermines the security of the land-conceding party, once agreements are violated. For example, the so-called "land for peace" agreements in 1993 (the Oslo Accord) and 2005 (uprooting the Jewish communities from the Gaza Strip) were summarily violated, intensifying terrorism dramatically.

"Land for peace" would bring the Arab tsunami into the hills of Judea and Samaria, which overlook over 80% of Israel's population and infrastructure, including Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Israel's only major international airport. It also overlooks the Jordan Valley, part of our longest border. 

The width of pre-1967 Israel (8-15 miles at its narrowest point) is equal to the length of Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport in Texas; it is the distance between JFK and LaGuardia airports, between Wall Street and Columbia University, between the Kennedy Center and RFK Stadium, less than the distance between downtown London and Heathrow Airport. The area of Israel (0.2% of the Arab world) is smaller than the gunnery range at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. While pressuring Israel to retreat to an 8-15 mile "straitjacket," the U.S. declared a 15-mile radius area in Bosnia as a "killing zone," in order to ensure the safety of its soldiers.

Israel's vulnerable dimensions, in the endemically unstable, unreliable, violent Middle East provide Israel with a minimal margin of error, requiring a uniquely high threshold of security in the face of reality-driven worst-case scenarios.

The late General Earle Wheeler, former chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told President Lyndon Johnson: "The minimum requirements for Israel's defense include most of the West Bank, the whole of Gaza and the Golan Heights." One hundred retired U.S. generals and admirals cautioned Israel against withdrawing from Judea and Samaria, stating that it would be impossible to demilitarize the area effectively. The late Admiral James "Bud" Nance once said, "The eastern mountain ridge of the West Bank is one of the world's best tank barriers. ... The western mountain ridge constitutes a dream platform of invasion to Israel's narrow [8-15 miles] coastal plain. Control of the West Bank provides Israel the time [50 hours] to mobilize reservists [75% of Israel's military], which are critical to Israel's survival during a surprise Arab attack." Most reservists reside in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv-Haifa area, which is overlooked by the Judea and Samaria mountain ridge.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, ground barriers are critical in the era of sophisticated missiles. According to the U.S.-based Institute of Land Warfare: "Land force [is] the cornerstone of deterrence. ... Ground units can both destroy and occupy. ... During the Afghan campaign of 2002, precision air strikes were critical, but they neither annihilated opposition nor finished the enemy." Marine Corps General (ret.) Alfred M. Gray said, "Military success requires more than a few hundred missiles. To defeat Israel would require the Arabs to deploy armor, infantry and artillery into Israel and destroy the Israel Defense Forces on the ground." 

In the 1973 war, the Sinai, the Golan and Judea and Samaria were the cushion that enabled Israel to overcome technological, intelligence and operational fallibility, sparing Israel from oblivion. Military high tech today will be low tech tomorrow, but high ground always remains high ground. Moreover, any technology can be jammed, but one cannot jam the mountainous topography of Judea and Samaria. 

Could the Sinai concession to Egypt apply to Judea and Samaria? Sinai borders the Negev, which is topographically similar to the Sinai and sparsely populated, thus serving as a platform for much of Israel's military. In contrast, Judea and Samaria borders the topographically inferior, densely populated and most vulnerable coastal plain. It would take 50 hours to undo Sinai's demilitarization (22,000 square miles of territory), but it would take only 10 hours in Judea and Samaria (2,200 square miles). Conceding Sinai was a calculated risk; withdrawing from Judea and Samaria would be a lethal gamble. The geographic depth of Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights and Sinai enabled Israel to survive the 1973 surprise Arab offensive. 

"Land for peace" is actually "land for the sake of appeasement," rewarding serial Arab aggressors and punishing the intended Israeli victim. It fuels belligerence, undermines stability and the pursuit of peace, undoing Israel's posture of deterrence. This posture is an irreplaceable life insurance policy in the most violent region in the world, which has never tolerated "infidel" entities.

Yoram Ettinger


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.

1 comment:

Eitan Arvats said...

"Land for peace" is the wrong solution, when the land is not the problem

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