Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Peace Impossible; Progress Needed

There are four fundamental dynamics to Israel's conflict with its neighbors.

The Jews have a sovereign state. The Palestinians don't. The West Bank Palestinians are occupied by Israel.

Significant numbers of Palestinians will never accept Jewish sovereignty and will act against it, including by violence.

Significant numbers of Arabs and Muslims will never accept Jewish sovereignty and will act against it.

Noticeable numbers of Westerners will never accept Jewish sovereignty and will agitate against it.

One can debate each and every one of the points endlessly; indeed, once could restrict oneself to dispassionate and intelligent discussion, and still keep at it indefinitely. This would result in nuanced and finely differentiated depictions; the fundamentals would still be the same four dynamics described above.

There is no way to achieve peace in our generation. No matter what agreements are signed and what changes made on the ground, there will remain significant numbers of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims who will continue to wield violence against Jewish sovereignty, and noticeable numbers of Westerners to support and aid them.
 Seen through soulless logic, the destruction of Jewish Israel would enable the peace of the graveyard. Likewise, were the implacable enemies of Jewish sovereignty to change their minds, peace would be possible. Seen in the historical perspective of centuries and millennia, either outcome might happen. Not anytime soon, though.

In October 1973, according to many publications, there was a moment when some Israeli leaders feared the military actions of Egypt and Syria might destroy Israel, and they mooted the use of nuclear weapons. There has never again been a concerted military action that could destroy Israel, and there's unlikely ever to be one for as long as Israel is perceived to have a strong nuclear option. Violence against Israel since 1973 has always been an attempt to break the Jews' willpower. The growing attempts to isolate Israel and deligitimize it have the same goal, of forcing the Jews to give up their obstinate determination to have sovereignty.

Compared to long periods of Jewish history, deligitimization is a reasonable problem to have. For that matter, deligitimization compounded with a low level of violence isn't an existential threat, either. Yet Jews haven't become one of history's oldest living nations by passively suffering circumstances. They have always tried to improve their lot, often with surprising success; Zionism is merely one of the more spectacular improvements. The Zionist tradition of activism requires we confront the present threat, rather than wait. The way forward is to disable the weapons of our enemies. Since the single most potent weapon in their arsenal is our occupation of the Palestinians, we must do as much as we reasonably can to end it.

Ending the occupation as a maneuver in an ongoing conflict is not the same as making peace. Making peace requires that all side to the conflict accept mutually agreed terms. There's a reason this hasn't yet happened, namely that the two sides cannot agree; even if they could, however, no Palestinian government could reconcile all Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims to Jewish sovereignty, nor convince the western supporters of ongoing violence to desist from aiding and abetting it. The aim of ending the occupation is to severely weaken the enemies of Jewish sovereignty by reducing the wind which currently blows in their sails.

As recently as 2006, a majority of Israel's voters felt it would be possible to end the occupation through the program Ehud Olmert called Hitkansut, which broadly meant Israel would move back to the line of the security barrier, and allow the Palestinians to do their thing beyond it. As the elections of that Spring approached, Olmert told us explicitly that was his plan, and he won the election. Since then however we have seen a number of unfortunate developments. First, the result of Israel's unilateral retreat from Southern Lebanon in 2000 proved to be war in Summer 2006. Second, the United Nation Security Council Decision 1701 - as solemn a guarantee as the international community can give - which promised Hizballah would not be re-armed, has proved totally useless. Third, the Palestinian response to Israel's evacuation of Gaza was to elect Hamas and go back to war with Israel. Fourth, the international community's implied commitment to support Israel when it disbands settlements and  evacuates Palestinian territory proved worthless. Fifth - and perhaps most serious of all - the decision of the Obama Administration to renege in 2009 on public commitments made by the President of the United States and ratified by both Chambers of the House in 2004, in return for Israel's evacuation of Gaza, demonstrated that even the United States cannot be trusted. Finally, we recently learned to our horror that regime change in Egypt may well mean harm to the peace we made with that country - not its president - 30 years ago. So even internationally acclaimed treaties only have temporary value.

In spite of the events of 2006-2011, the need to end the occupation or at very least significantly limit it is still there. Moreover, there are still measures Israel can make to promote this goal.

1. Stop building in settlements that will someday be dismantled or transferred to Palestinian sovereignty. I'm not drawing a line, but Israel needs to.

2. Pass a law that enables Israeli citizens of the settlements who wish to move back inside the line to do so without losing the value of their homes (significant numbers of settlers are eager to move but can't).

3. Have an election where the question of dismantling settlements is clearly on the agenda. I'm reasonably certain whichever party suggests this in an intelligent way will win, but let's have the election and see.

4. Dismantle those settlements.

5. Demand of the United States and Europe that they figure out a way to assuage our fears of relinquishing military control of most of the West Bank so as to enable the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state. This state will not be at peace with Israel, for the above reasons, nor will it have the borders the so-called moderate Palestinians insist they need. Still, let's change the dynamic. Rather than deligitimizing Israel for obstructing Palestinian independence, let's frame the discussion as a border conflict between two states. And let's put the responsibility for calm on the NATO nations. You want an independent Palestine? So do we. So you disarm it and keep it harmless.

6. Plan and apply practical policies to detach Palestinians from Israel: demand of them that they use their own currency rather than the Shekel, that they build an economy that doesn't trade 80-plus percent of its goods with Israel, and so on.

7. Promote the well-being of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Already today most of them prefer Israeli rule, and growing numbers of them are acquiring Israeli citizenship to replace the permanent residence status they already have. If the people of Jerusalem are Israeli citizens, it's hard to see how the land they live on can be defined as occupied. Concurrently, change the Israeli law that defines Jerusalem's municipal lines so that the 60,000 Palestinians beyond the security barrier (mostly in Kfar Akeb and Shuafat) are part of the West Bank, not Israel. Essentially, this means division of Jerusalem though not on the line the Palestinians hope for. Yet it would change the dynamic of the discussion: Israel would be able to demonstrate it's willingness even to hand over sections of Jerusalem.

So far I have spoken only of Israel's needs and interests. Ending the occupation, however, would be the right thing not only because it's good for Israel. The Palestinians really don't have their own state: they should. It will admittedly not be the one they want - this is true in any scenario - but they should have a state of their own. Zionism is about correcting the existence of the Jews, not preventing Palestinian's national existence. The two nations cannot each have their entire homeland for themselves, but they should each have part. The line of division will reflect more than a century of actions taken by each side, and the Palestinians will end up with the smaller part as a result of their actions; they should however at least have that part.


Silke said...

I wish your post had also described the possible Arab reactions to such a reshuffling of the cards.

Would the official and the pollable ones synch or would there be gaps?

Anonymous said...


Absolutely brilliant. I have been preaching along these reasonable lines for a long time (relatively speaking - I am younger than you).

We need to focus on us. We need to improve our lot and position. We have the initiative when we are in a position of political and practical strength, not just military power. This is Zionism.

A historical recognition of a communal attitude for the benefit of the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Not a 'feel good' communal attitude, not a socialist movement, not communism, no 5 year plans or flags of red, just a recognition of what is good for Israel.

Your outline is exactly spot on.

Silke, the reactions from our Arab counterparts do not matter. They will be negative from most quarters but it doesn't make a difference.


Aaron said...

Nice approach, though some of the details are a little bit unrealistic, especially number 5. (Europe and US: "Here, we're giving you a signed paper that guarantees your security. Problem solved!")

My main objection is to the idea that ending the occupation will seriously weaken the struggle to delegitimize Israel. Challenges to Israel's legitimacy are already often based on its being an "apartheid state" for its own citizens, within the Green Line. With the 1967 occupation no longer an issue, all the efforts at delegitimization will focus on Israel's "apartheid" character.

For Europeans, an ethnic nation-state where the Staatvolk is perceived as Western and the national minority as non-Western can never be legitimate. This is an increasingly common view in America, too. Ending the 1967 occupation will do little to help Israel's legitimcacy as long as the 1948 occupation remains in effect. As you said, the peace of the graveyard.

Silke said...

Silke, the reactions from our Arab counterparts do not matter. They will be negative from most quarters but it doesn't make a difference.

if so then by consequence "western" reactions don't matter either because whatever discontent Arabs will come up with "westerners" will faithfully echo them.

and if neither Arab nor "western" reaction matter, what then will the exercise be good for? That Jeffrey Goldberg gets a chance to say ooops who would have thunk after the fact?

NormanF said...

I believe Israel should annex Area C and the Jordan Valley and let the Palestinians have a state in the rest on the condition they support themselves. Their demand for independence has consequences. They must live with what they have and either they build a self-sufficient state or they perish.

Israel must not concern itself with their fate. It must keep hands off the Arabs the same way Israel keeps the Arab World at arms' length.

Perhaps one day there will be peace. Until then what happens to the Arabs is strictly their affair.

Bryan said...

I'm confused. You said both that UNSC 1701 was an unmitigated failure of the international community and that Israel should trust the very same people to provide for Israel's security.

I'm also sketchy about why NATO would have any motivation to help. Palestine would not border any NATO state. Why would they care about a Palestinian state being overtaken by violent anti-Israel extremists any more than they care about the same happening in Lebanon? Many Westerners have no love for nation-building in bitterly anti-Western Arab states, so the mere suggestion that NATO troops be placed in Palestine in perpetuity (because how else would they keep it disarmed?) would be absurdly unpopular. At best, NATO would inefficiently hang around, half-assing its job, for maybe a decade, before NATO decides it's not worth the effort and the bad press and withdraws.

Sylvia said...

Just in (don't know if it made it to the papers yet):
Peace agreement signed between the PLO and Hamas in Cairo (unconfirmed yet).

This changes all the coordinates.

Yaacov said...

Sylvia -

I don't see why it changes much, even if it lasts. It changes the immediate picture, but none of the fundamentals.

Bryan -

You're right, but that's part of the point: rather than the Americans and Europeans (I used NATO as a shorthand for them) blaming Israel for the deadlock, Israel should position itself in a way that lays the responsibility at the feet of the NATO nations. "Here, we're dismantling settlements, we've recognized the Palestinians' right to a state even though it won't make credible peace with us, clearly the violence will continue, so what do you nations suggest? You're all so fervently in favor of the Palestinians having a state? What are you willing to do to make it happen?

Who knows: perhaps they'll come up with something worth considering.

rlevitin said...

Excellent Yaacov, I've been following the blog for a few months and I am quite a fan.

Just one problem with your proposal really stands out for me... #5, you say: "And let's put the responsibility for calm on the NATO nations. You want an independent Palestine? So do we. So you disarm it and keep it harmless."

Yet, only a couple paragraphs earlier you highlight the recent history demonstrating that the international community is excellent at failing to uphold their promises, especially when it comes to ensuring Israel's enemies remain harmless. (e.g. UNSC Resolution 1701)... That, to me is the biggest dilemma/challenge facing the Israelis relieving themselves of the West Bank.

Anonymous said...

You have the right premise. They should be made to understand that they have no power to determine our will. And it should be clear that even though we agree with them that the occupation fundamentally denies them rights that they should not be denied, they still have no power to determine our will.

But your actual prescriptions won't accomplish that, and they won't improve our diplomatic position internationally or among the Arabs, because there will always be the equivalent of Shaba farms, something they can use to maintain their state of war with us.

Frankly you admit as much. Which is what I find confusing. The only rationale behind your course of action is to end the state of war, while you seem to understand clearly enough that it won't even do that.

We are in a war, but it's just one that we've chosen not to fight. Delegitimazion can run both ways, and while we should always uphold their human rights, and in particular their right to be governed by a a government that is accountable to them, it's time to stop pretending that they have the same national rights as we do. They have themselves in the past sought various means other than statehood to relieve their statelessness, including looking at Jordon and looking at a one state solution in Israel. Their status as a people deserving of a state is not absolute, and we must begin to question it seriously, as the Abrams piece began to do.

Silke said...

I don't find Nato or any other "western" outfit including the UN trustworthy.

But maybe one could enhance that trustworthyness a bit, if one agreed on clear sanctions i.e. if for example the UN would have to pony up x-amounts of money to be paid to Israel to dispose of at will for any gun proven to have been brought into Lebanon south of the Litani.

Money may be too easy a penalty though, so how about a politician or a general having to offer himself up as hostage or for a bodyguard/guarantee free stroll around an area where the bad guys are in charge or any such other thing.

Or maybe just life in an expecially "well-liked" part of Sderot without a shelter and nothing but a flimsy roof and not for a day or two and including the obligation to expose oneself to Sderot-gossip about past incidents at least for one or two hours a day. Fear is a transmittable feeling.

But maybe best of all would be, if in case of violation, the top personnel would have to draw lots and the loser would have to take Gilad Shalit's place.

Just challenging without any sanctions agreed upon if they fail to honour their commitment leaves the bill with Israel and the honour with them.

Yaacov said...

Silke -

See what creative thinking can do? Let's maneuver into a situation where the leaders of the NATO nations need to suggest ideas that will reassure Israel, instead of chattering away about how Israel needs to take risks for peace.

Annonymous: the rationale isn't to end the war: we can't do that, only the other side can, and it won't. Not in a significant entirety. The rationale is to disarm them of their main weapon, to return the initiative to Israel, to put everyone else on the defensive, and generally to manage the conflict in an intelligent way. That's the most we can hope for, but it's a lot, and it's better than what we've got at the moment. Considerably better.

Anonymous said...

Ok. The goals are good. But why should it work now any better than it did in gaza? Won't we still have to take all necessary measures to prevent weapons smuggling, and won't we still be condemned when we do? Plus, we'll have less freedom of action and will have to resort to more dramatic methods, perhaps directly over the heads of NATO troops.

I just don't see how this reduces the opportunity for complex and often violent entanglement, every instance of which becomes a weapon in their hands.

Yaacov said...

If the settlers are gone, they can't be hit -this certainly happened as we left Gaza, tho we don't much mention it anymore.

If they've got a state, and they're attacking ours, the dynamic is different than if we've got one but they don't. Then it's border skirmishes between two sovereign states that disagree about their borders. Obviously, for all those that hate us in any case this won't make any difference. For those that basically accept our right to exist and even to live in security, however, while objecting to our occupation of the Palestinians, the dynamic will change, for the same reason.

If we get so far as an independent Palestine. If not, at least we're trying, unlike today where we're universally perceived as obstructing.

In all scenarios, the war goes on. But we've proven we can live with that.

Saul Lieberman said...

"The aim of ending the occupation is to severely weaken the enemies of Jewish sovereignty by reducing the wind which currently blows in their sails."
also known as: "then the world will really, really, really know that we want peace."

Silke said...

Maybe the settlers are making Israel more vulnerable than they would otherwise be but as to lots and lots being better of, I'd like to hear the people of Sderot first.

Anyway why budge on anything without getting something in return. I recently heard a talk with an American retired hostage negotiator. He stressed again and again that you never ever never ever never ever give anything for nothing.

And no matter how advantageous it may be for Israel to get rid of the settlements, if I were an Arab I would perceive it as "they have blinked" and where that came from there probably is more and more and more.

this Schwartz-guy I keep linking to suggests that Sahron evacuated Gaza because the settlements had gotten too encroached to be defendable. Is that true and if yes is that what has evolved in the West-Bank also?

and as to my creative thinking, you don't believe that Nato or whoever else is going to come up with any guarantee worth the paper it's written on and if I were Nato I'd mind like crazy to get called out on my powerlessness and whom would I make to pay for it?

one guess is allowed.

Yaacov said...

No Saul, that's not it, rather it's more differentiated. The broad parts of the world who couldn't give a damn what we say or do, will continue not to give a damn what we say or do. I'm suggesting we take seriously only those who fundamentally support us, but are having a hard time with the fundamental imbalance where the Palestinians live under Israeli occupation or something like it.

Even then, I only suggest ending the occupation when, and to the extent, that we safely can. As I suggest, however, there are lots of intermediate options, such as preparing and then dismantling settlements, without yet yielding military control. I'm also suggesting turning the dynamic on its head: we should stop explaining how our specific actions are defensible even when the fundamental one of occupation isn't, and instead demonstrate that we want to end the occupation; we're taking serious and painful measures towards that goal; now the world has to figure out how we can do so without another major war - which is what will happen if we retreat and are followed by violence.

Let the other sides (all of them) sweat, not us.

At the moment we're doing the opposite: we're making it look as if we haven't yet made up our mind about so-called Greater Israel; and that we're fundamentally in favor of subjugating the Palestinians.

Silke said...

just imagine for a moment it would have been Israelis who mis-shot and the injured had been Arabs:,1518,759224,00.html#ref=nlint

and also from der Spiegel another tale from the oh so talented Juliane von Mittelst├Ądt, actually a puff piece about the West-Bank which convinced me via implication that the only reason Palestinians haven't long out-classed Israel economy-wise are those check-points.,1518,759046,00.html#ref=nlint

That's what those who believe that taking sides is a bad thing get fed day in day out and that is going to stop if Israel insists that Palestinians behave like responsible citizens of a decent state and start by diminishing settlements?

If I were a Palestinian I would start to whine with each demand coming my way and would it be only to obey a red traffic light.

bacci40 said...

palestine and the palestinian are a myth

and making the west bank judenfrei wont make that myth a reality

and on may 15, when those mythological people begin the third intifada, the myth ends forever

and they already have a nation...its called jordan...and they can all move anytime they like

Yehudit said...

On one hand you want to entrust NATO and the U.S.
with assurances and on the other hand you (rightfully) accuse them of being unable/unwilling to live up to agreements if things get too messy.
I'm with bacci40. By playing into the myth of Palestine we have already placed our heads in the lion's mouth or up our proverbial you-know-what.

How's about the U.S. makes a deal with the Hashemites in Jordan to establish a semi-sovereign "Palestine" within their ample borders in exchange for holding on to their sovereignty? NATO troops can be stationed there as a peacekeeping force. See how that flies...

Silke said...

since you seem to want brainstorming - here is another one:

the ancients secured peace treaties by demanding an getting hostages. In today's PC climate probably not doable any longer but how about issuing powers of attorney for bank accounts i.e. that nothing can be done with those bank accounts without a second i.e. Israeli signature and no quid pro quo of course.

The bank accounts could probably be established in Switzerland. In case "they" ridicule the letter of the treaty Israel on top of its blocking payment rights is entitled to draw compensation for the cost of the investigation, the cost of protective measures necessitated and so on and so on.

I can go on with scenarios like that for hours provided I can tolerate this creeping sense of entering the realm of delusion.

Anonymous said...

Yaacov, I like reading your blog and usually find your comments well written and insightful, Alas this time I just fail to follow the logic. It feels like there is a gap, as similar effort yielded entirely different results on all account.

It could be my current inability to understand the dynamics difference of Palestine as a state. so let's leave it for now.

The main question for you is.
Shouldn't the risk be factored in as well ? Assuming you are wrong, once Palestine is recognized there is no going back.
All the International law advantages since San Remo that Israel enjoys will be erased, which will render Israel on the weaker side of future negotiations and Tel-Aviv, the financial, center at a missile range. without any Undo button nor any substantial benefits.

A leap of faith that if proven wrong may prove fatal.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. I hope there are mainstream politicians in both Israel and the U.S. who have reached a similar conclusion.

Y. Ben-David said...

Destroying settlements or even freezing them proves to the Arabs that Israel has no staying power and that if Israel is willing to give up the settlements, it will eventually give up Tel Aviv as well, it is just a matter of time. Giving up the settlements in Gush Katif did NOT make Israel any more popular, and the delegitimization campaign ACCELERATED after it, and that would be the case with Yaacov's plan as well. Non-Jewish friends of Israel can not understand these things, they will say "why should I stick my neck out for them if they are going to capitulate unilaterally anyway?".
Giving up ANY settlements is national suicide, and history has amply proven this.

Anonymous said...

The whole point of a state of Israel is that Jews cannot rely on others for protection. I think the history of the state has shown that to be correct. One only has to look at UNIFIL to see what the model would be for a Western "guarantee". I think it is unreasonable to ask Westerners to die for a cause they really have no strategic interest in. As for the idea it will lessen international pressure, did Oslo lessen international pressure? Did pulling out of Gaza? Did Israel have international support after it pulled out of Lebanon? Has easing restrictions on the West Bank eased restrictions?

I can't imagine how a "Unilateral pullout 3", will be anything except a vote loser in Israel.

Personally i would rather state if the PA is going to be antagonistic then so is Israel. State the economic links to "independent" Palestine will be cut, all security consultation will be. I would also make an annoucement saying that Israel wishes to accelerate the cut in US aid to zero, maybe in the next 2-5 years.


Silke said...

after having slept a night on it I'd summarize this morning my take so:

I am all for Israel taking the lead in opinion shaping/ action whatever i.e. what I guess is called playing offence in English and "die Initiative ergreifen" (grabbing the initiative) in German

but I am all against offering anything without very generous compensation and by that I mean things beyond words, resolutions, guarantees, slips of paper etc etc

I am of the above opinion not based on any knowledge of country and or circumstances but wholly based on comparing the situation with everyday experiences i.e. like Miss Marple would.

My justification for it is that I have witnessed from up-close that states (in minor matters) react just like everybody's neighbour does.

... and I think all this talk that one needs to have a deep understanding of the Middle East and its soul and culture and psychologial specialities like that Egyptian woman recently claimed at Jon Stewart is utter nonsense. The few sensibilities which need respecting can easily be figured out and remembered by even the dumbest.

Closely observing the goings on in any rivalries in a club or a village will teach you just as much, the rest is pretentious posturing which when used as assault of course alas demands/requires countermeasures on all levels from even the most sober minded on earth.

Jacob Arnon said...

I broadly agree with the aims of your post Yaacov.

I have always thought it was stupid to invest money in The West Bank since at some point the settlements will be dismantled.

Where I would disagree is the notion that Israel should abandon the West Bank completely.

Yes, take down most of the settlements deep in the West Bank but do not withdraw the military just yet. This was the mistake Sharon made in Gaza.

As long as Hamas is a player in Palestinian society Israel needs to be careful lest they would take power on the West Bank also.

By leaving the settlements Israel will not only signal to its citizens and friends abroad (I don't much care what the Jew baiters and haters think) that it does not intend to keep the land.

It's not an occupation if you are there only to protect yourself.

Once the Palestinians show in practice that they accept Israel and will not endorse violence against Jews, Israel will then be able to withdraw its military also.

the_raptor said...

Israel will never be allowed to un-occupy the West Bank. It's far too useful a tool to let go of. Every day, Israel is denounced for occupying the West Bank and Gaza as though Oslo and the Gaza pullout had never happened. If Israel follows Yaacov's plan to the letter, all that will change is Arab rejoicing: we got them on the run! can't last long now! Allahu akhbar!

Yaacov, you are still expecting a rational response from the Western powers, if not the Palestinians. It's not going to happen. You have to accept that. Every day I hear Leftists accuse Israel of occupying the West Bank and Gaza as if the last 18 years had never happened. It's the Big Lie, and it's working.

Silke said...

what about intelligence?

don't I remember from Yaacov's book that intelligence was a lot better (for Israel) before Israel left large areas of the West-Bank?

If the far out settlements will be gone will they not have to be replaced by IDF-observation units?

I heard one lecture where somebody convinced me that actual intimate knowledge of the ground, of its bumps and structure cannot be gleaned from drones, it has to have been marched on. The ground after provides not only 3D but lots of other additional info.

Jeffrey Goldberg has a post where the moral ones are moaning with respect to drone strikes on Libya that drones are the weapons of the rich against the poor and come at too low a cost for those who use them. It is carefully worded for once but it smells to me of something familiar nonetheless i.e. they want quid pro quo so they can sleep with a better conscience.

Am I totally wrong in suspecting that far out settlements are not only a burden but an asset also? i.e. has this man a point or not? and if not, where is the high-ranking military who says so?

Victor said...

Silke, that american interest piece is excellent. I seem to remember reading it last year, but this was a much-needed refresher. Yaacov, be sure to check it out if you haven't already.

Ariel Sharon's book "Warrior", which is discussed in the article, is on it's way to me. If he goes into such explicit strategy in his memoirs, then I'm supremely pumped to read it.

Y. Ben-David said...

All settlements are a strategic asset. They restrict the area that terrorists can operate and they keep an extensive road network open which the IDF can use to move troops around, particularly from the coast to the east frontier areas. The number of troops needed for direct security is pretty small and civilian contractors today provide a considerable amount of the security in the settlements.
This, of course, is in addition to the important role of proving to the Arabs that Israel is here to stay. The Arabs interpret a willingness by Israel to give up the Biblical heartland of the country, full of ancient memories for the Jewish people as a rootlessness that encourages them to keep up the pressure on Israel, no matter now "nice" Israel may think it is in giving up these settlements. No Arab would voluntarily ever give up his holy places and they think that if the Jews are willing to do so, they are nothing but a bunch of nihilistic weaklings.

Silke said...


since I first read it I am waiting for a high ranking military to tell me that it is nonsense. I haven't had the tiniest glimpse of it except for that one piece by van Creveld which Yaacov had posted and which didn't strike me as all that convincing when compared and measured against what veterans and/or historians tell me at the Pritzker Military Library. They all emphasize the importance of terrain, even those who are clearly enthusiastic about the possibilities drones offer (Bing West in his last appearance at the library)

The ancients who had to live with similarly unruly neighbors as Israel used to establish "settlements" beyond there "secured" borders - maybe we are to "modern" for all that but since we are not too modern to pay tribute (re-named aid these days) as they did, I want to know why one part is obsolete and the other is not. (just like in Sugar is bad for you but Honey is not ;D)

Yaacov said...

Victor, Ben David and Silke -

None of Israel's generals have been of the position that the settlements are a security asset, for decades. There is no unanimity on the question of how important an Israeli presence on the West Bank is, for that matter: There seems to be something of a broad agreement that there needs to be an Israeli military presence in the Jordan Valley, tho Netanyahu recently implied this might be possible even with Palestinian sovereignty, since the IDF presence there isn't directed against the Palestinians anyway. The demand for an IDF presence in the heavily populated central hills of the West Bank, however, is not regarded as essential by most of the security establishment, if an agreement could somehow be reached. The idea that the settlements have military value, however, has long since been laid to rest and is used by no-one except some strands of the hard right.

Anyway, if you read what I wrote, I was advocating a series of stages, the relinquishing of military control on the West Bank being near the end.

Silke said...

Benjamin Schwartz didn't strike me as hard-right.

As to stages: a taxi driver once told me that if he was in a hurry and the customer paid well he would approach a crossing where the other car had preference at high speed and if he saw the other car dip ever so lightly down in front he knew the other guy had the foot on his brake and so knew who could keep going safely.

Y. Ben-David said...

Yaacov- I must disagree with you.
Don't forget that to become a "high-ranking military expert" in Israel, you pretty much have to be vetted for having the "correct" (i.e. Leftist) political views. Amidror is an exception. I would be interested in hearing Boogey Ya'alon's position. I have heard many "lower level" security people who are in the know say the settlements ARE a security asset.
I have personally heard from people in YESHA that the IDF is VERY supportive of settlement IN THE MOUNTAIN AREA and have been active in supporting the setting up of many outposts, precisely for that reason.

Silke said...

further to Benjamin Schwartz - he gives in the piece a plausible (to me) explanation why Sharon vacated Gaza.

as best I know that is not something the "hard-right" would admit.