The Last Days of Greater Israel – A Response to Uzi Silber

by Maskil on November 9, 2009

Map showing East and West Jerusalem

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In my previous blog post, I looked at the last days of Apartheid South Africa, and the eerie parallels between the attitudes of White South Africans at the time, and the apparent mindset of much of Israel today. In both cases, there was/is the widespread belief that (a) we can stand alone against the world, because of a whole range of strategic and other factors, and (b) we can hold out/carry on this way indefinitely, for generations or centuries to come in need.

Despite the bravado, South Africa was eventually forced into a negotiated settlement with the ANC. Similarly, I believe that unless Israel uses the current opportunity to grab the best deal she can, she will eventually be forced to accept something far less favourable than what can be had today. Writer Uzi Silber took issue with the concept of a negotiated settlement, due to the absence of a credible partner for peace on the Palestinian side. I have no argument with that; a Holocaust-denier turned “moderate” would not be my choice of negotiating partner either. If not negotiation, then what?

In broad brushstrokes, this is my analysis:

For now, Israel is still largely in charge of her own destiny, not Abbas or Obama. Israel can take the initiative to move the so-called peace process along, and the other players will follow.

Israel has a decade or so at the most before the world completely loses patience with the running sore that is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, and imposes a solution that is unlikely to be in Israel’s best interests.

In the next few years, therefore, (e.g. by end of Obama’s 1st and hopefully only term), Israel should negotiate OR IMPOSE a settlement that the real key players can live with, if not actually like (the US would be seen as a key player, Saudi Arabia not).

Essentially what I’m suggesting is that Israel begin unilaterally implementing the best possible deal she could expect at the negotiating table, then wait for the other parties to catch up.

What are the outlines of a solution that Israel should be demanding, negotiating, unilaterally imposing, or all of the above?

  • No “peace at any price”, “land for peace” or “a price for peace”. Instead, “peace for peace”, and reasonable concessions where this is in Israel’s interests.
  • Not disengagement, but rather disentanglement. Any withdrawals would be of a civilian, not a military nature. This is about reducing points of friction, getting out of one another’s faces.
  • Set definitive borders between Israel and the remainder of Palestine. Only the major settlement blocs contiguous with Israel should be retained, and a contiguous Palestinian entity on the West Bank must be enabled.
  • Borders should be based more on Israel’s strategic needs than the present locations of settlements, which are in many ways a strategic liability.
  • The remaining settlements and outposts should then be formally abandoned by the Israeli government, and security and other services eventually withdrawn, once the inhabitants have been given the opportunity to relocate.
  • The security barrier must be rerouted to conform to Israel’s new international frontier.
  • Formal annexation of any retained territories once precise borders have been delimited.
  • The boundaries of East Jerusalem should be reduced considerably, to exclude as many predominantly Arab neighbourhoods and villages as possible, while still retaining the Old City and the central urban core.
  • The IDF would not be withdrawn from any area, and must retain complete freedom of movement within Israel’s security envelope (essentially, Western Palestine plus the Golan).
  • No power vacuum must be permitted to emerge in the West Bank. Power should only be devolved to a stable West Bank authority, or an Egyptian or Jordanian or combined authority. (Remember when we used to think that the worst possible thing for Israel was Egypt poking her in the ribs from Gaza, or the Arab Legion looking down from the heights of Latrun? How times have changed!)
  • The West Bank authority would remain demilitarised for the foreseeable future, with security services only being permitted to have small-arms/side-arms.
  • Any form of extra-territorial land bridge between the West Bank and Gaza should be ruled out.
  • While I am opposed to an exchange of territories, i.e. to compensate the PA for land lost to the Settlement Blocs, this may be unavoidable. (The right-wing fantasy of Israel shedding territories heavily populated by Israeli Arabs is just not on, unless we’re keen to rack up another violation of international law.)
  • Return to an emphasis on rights-based instead of a concessions-based diplomacy for Israel.

Israel should not anticipate a diplomatic round of applause, pat on back, greater understanding from the world, or any other rewards flowing from this process, as she did following the Gaza withdrawal. This is just something that needs to be done, in Israel’s own interests.

(Speaking of Gaza, in this scenario, the withdrawal would have been of civilians only. Settlements contiguous with Israel’s border would have been retained and formally annexed. The IDF would have retained control of the Philadelphia Corridor and a much greater degree of freedom of movement. Last but not least, the IDF could have prevented Hamas from seizing power.)

With this process completed, I am confident that Israel will have neutralised at least some of its current existential threats, reinforced its place in the family of nations, and starved the current efforts to delegitimize her.  With the Palestinian threat now at least externalised, she can at last begin confronting her massive internal challenges.

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  • uzisilber

    Reb Maskil,

    You say that “No power vacuum must be permitted to emerge in the West Bank.” Rest assured there will be no power vacuum: Hamas will assume control of any areas Israel leaves. And then BG airport, Petah Tikva, JM's Kikar Zion, and the cafes on Dizengoff will be completely exposed to their missiles.

    And do you really think that the Jordanians and Egyptians would ever be willing even if they were able to assume military control of the area? You really think they would be motivated and happy to function as israel's 'defensive shield' (ah the irony…)'?

    Maskil: Zahal is really the only entity able, willing and motivated to protect israeli Jews. Don't you think that in the utterly unlikely case that Egyptians assume a military presence in the area they will turn the a blind eye to weapons smuggling across the Jordan River as they do now in Gaza?

    At minimum, you should include in your scenario (which will be completely unacceptable to any Arab at this point) Israel controlling the Jordan Valley. that would essentially be the Alon plan, and would block weapons smuggling. Again, such a unilateral plan would never ever be acceptable to any Palestinian when we see that the 'moderate' Abu Maazen just rejected a plan from Olmert that is more generous than even Barak offered, never mind yours.

    kol tuv and thanks for your earlier compliment,

    uzi

    PS: my latest piece can be found here…http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1127159.html

    Power should only be devolved to a stable West Bank authority, or an Egyptian or Jordanian or combined authority.”

  • Pingback: The Last Days of Greater Israel – A Response to Uzi Silber | Israel Today()

  • Welcome once again, Uzi,

    Your concerns are legitimate and well-founded (and I share them), so I’m not going to try to refute or address them here. These are becoming my “first principles” when it comes to the conflict, and I would be happy with any solution that addresses them:

    – Israel and rump Palestine need to disentangle from one another, with Israeli civilians on one side of (the best possible for Israel) line, and Palestinians on the other.
    – No hostile capabilities/intentions/threats permitted within Israel’s security envelope (Western Palestine and the Golan).
    – No power vacuum within Israel’s security envelope. The IDF to maintain a monopoly over force in the area until power can be handed over to a credible, legitimate (Arab) authority.
    – Pursue permanence, legitimacy and recognition for Israel’s new borders, from the world community, if not from its neighbours. (This can be achieved, in the same way the cease-fire lines of 1949 came to be.)

    Thanks for the stimulating debate.

    I enjoyed your latest article. Jüdische Selbsthass is a disease of minorities in the spotlight that I think will be with us indefinitely. We can only try to limit the harm it does.

  • Welcome once again, Uzi,

    Your concerns are legitimate and well-founded (and I share them), so I’m not going to try to refute or address them here. These are becoming my “first principles” when it comes to the conflict, and I would be happy with any solution that addresses them:

    – Israel and rump Palestine need to disentangle from one another, with Israeli civilians on one side of (the best possible for Israel) line, and Palestinians on the other.
    – No hostile capabilities/intentions/threats permitted within Israel’s security envelope (Western Palestine and the Golan).
    – No power vacuum within Israel’s security envelope. The IDF to maintain a monopoly over force in the area until power can be handed over to a credible, legitimate (Arab) authority.
    – Pursue permanence, legitimacy and recognition for Israel’s new borders, from the world community, if not from its neighbours. (This can be achieved, in the same way the cease-fire lines of 1949 came to be.)

    Thanks for the stimulating debate.

    I enjoyed your latest article. Jüdische Selbsthass is a disease of minorities in the spotlight that I think will be with us indefinitely. We can only try to limit the harm it does.

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