Imbecility Squared – Part 2

JUNE 17, 2016 3:27 AM

A pro-Hamas rally in Ramallah. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

“A comprehensive Israeli policy declaration [a]ccepting, in principle, the Arab Peace Initiative (API), with requisite adjustments to accommodate Israel’s security and demographic needs, as a basis for negotiation.” — Key political measure in plan entitled “Security First,” proposed by “Commanders for Israel’s Security,” which claims to “Improve Israel’s Security and International Standing.”

“The Arab Peace Initiative does not need changing or adjusting, it is on the table as is…Why should we change the Arab Peace Initiative? I believe that the argument the Arab Peace Initiative needs to be watered down in order to accommodate the Israelis is not the right approach.” — Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir, Paris, June 3, 2016.

Last week, I began a critical analysis of a plan put forward by a group calling itself“Commanders for Israel’s Security” (CIS), comprised of over 200 former senior officers/officials from the IDF and other security services.

I argued that the plan, which purports to offer a formula “to extricate Israel from the current dead end and to improve its security situation and international standing,” is a deeply flawed policy prescription, both in terms of the political principles on which it is based and the practical details which it presents. As such, it is highly unlikely to achieve the objectives it sets itself. Indeed, it is far more likely to precipitate precisely the opposite outcomes, exacerbating the very dangers it claims it will attenuate.

To recap briefly, the major political components which comprise the plan call for Israel to:

(a) Proclaim, unilaterally, that it forgoes any claim to sovereignty beyond the yet-to-be completed security barrier, which, in large measure, coincides with the pre-1967 “Green Line,” adjusted to include several major settlement blocks adjacent to those lines; but,

(b) Leave the IDF deployed there — until some “acceptable alternative security arrangement” is found – presumably the emergence of a yet-to-be located pliant Palestinian-Arab, who will pledge to recognize Israel as the Jewish nation-state; and

(c) Embrace the Saudi Peace Plan — a.k.a. Arab Peace Initiative (API) — subject to certain, but significantly unspecified, changes which the Arabs/Saudis recently resolutely refused to consider.

Learning lesson of Gaza; ignoring lesson of South Lebanon

CIS claims (pp.28-29) that it has learned the lesson of the unilateral Gaza disengagement, when the IDF evacuated the territory, allowing the Islamist Hamas to take over. Accordingly, their plan “calls for the IDF to remain in the West Bank and retain complete security control until a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians ushers in alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements.”

So, while CIS may indeed have learnt the lesson of Gaza 2005, it seems to have forgotten the lesson of Lebanon 2000.

Indeed, as I underscored last week, the combination of the first two elements — the forswearing of claims to sovereignty over Judea-Samaria, on the one hand; and the continued deployment of the IDF in that territory, on the other — replicate precisely the same conditions that prevailed in South Lebanon until the hasty retreat by the IDF in 2000.  This unbecoming flight was orchestrated by then-PM, former IDF chief of staff and Israel’s most decorated soldier, Ehud Barak, under intense pressure from Left-leaning civil society groups such as “Four Mothers,” to extricate the IDF from the “Lebanese mud” and “bring our boys back home.” Thus abandoned to the control of Hezbollah, the area was swiftly converted into a formidable arsenal, bristling with weaponry capable of hitting almost all major Israeli cities.

Unsustainable political configuration

Today, after the poorly conducted military campaign by the mighty IDF against a lightly armed militia, left defiantly undefeated after five weeks of fighting, this arsenal has reportedly swelled almost 10-fold in quantity and improved immensely in terms of quality/precision.  Indeed, were not Hezbollah mercifully distracted by the need to support its erstwhile benefactor, the beleaguered Bashar Assad, it is far from implausible that this terrible stockpile would have already been unleashed against Israel.

For anyone with a modicum of foresight, it should be clear that CIS’s prescription of deploying the IDF for an indeterminate period in territory over which it lays no sovereign claim — and hence, by implication, acknowledges that others have such claims to it — creates an unsustainable political configuration, which sooner or later will generate irresistible pressure on Israel to evacuate it, leaving the country exposed to the very dangers the IDF deployment was intended to obviate.

Indeed, as pointed out last week, if implemented, CIS’s proposal would, in a stroke, convert Judea-Samaria from “disputed territory” to “occupied territory” and IDF from a “defense force” to an “occupying force.” Worse, it would do so by explicit admission from Israel itself.

Formula for open-ended occupation

Moreover, by conditioning the end of IDF deployment on the emergence of “a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians [which] ushers in alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements,” what CIS is in fact promoting is a formula for open-ended occupation, whose duration is totally dependent on the Palestinian Arabs.

After all, according to CIS’s plan “the IDF [is] to remain in the West Bank and retain complete security control,” until some suitable Palestinian  interlocutor appears, sufficiently pliant to satisfy Israel’s demands for said “permanent status agreement and concrete sustainable security arrangements,” but sufficiently robust to resist more radical domestic rivals, who oppose any such agreement/arrangements.

And what if such an interlocutor fails to emerge? Clearly, CIS’s plan prescribes persisting with the Israeli military presence in the territory because, as CIS itself concedes: “The situation on the West Bank require …continued deployment of the IDF until satisfactory security arrangements are put into place within the framework of a permanent status agreement.”

Therefore, all the Palestinian-Arabs need to do to ensnare the IDF in what will inevitably become the “West Bank mud,” an easy target for guerilla attacks by a recalcitrant population backed by armed Palestinian internal security services, is…well, nothing. All they need to do is wait until mounting IDF casualties in a “foreign land” create increasing domestic pressure to “bring our boys back home,” and mounting international impatience with open-ended “occupation” create growing external pressure, which make continued IDF deployment no longer tenable — and withdrawal becomes inevitable, without any “permanent settlement” or “concrete sustainable security arrangements.”

Renege or replace?

But even in the unlikely event that some Palestinian partner could be located, who agrees, in good faith, to conclude a permanent status agreement and implement acceptable security arrangements that allows the IDF to evacuate Judea-Samaria, how could Israel ensure this agreement will be honored and these arrangements maintained over time? Clearly it could not!

Once the IDF withdraws, Israel has no way of preventing its Palestinian co-signatories to any accord from reneging on their commitments — whether of their own volition, due to a change of heart, or under duress from extremist adversaries. Even more to the point, barring intimate involvement in intra-Palestinian politics, Israel has no way to ensure that their pliant peace-partner will not be replaced — whether by bullet or ballot — by far more inimical successors, probably  generously supported by foreign regimes, who repudiate their predecessors pledges. Indeed, it is more than likely that it would be precisely the “perfidious” deal struck with the “nefarious Zionist entity” that would be invoked as justification for the regime-change.

But whichever of these outcomes emerges in practice, Israel is likely to be confronted with a situation where it no longer has security control in Judea-Samaria and a hostile regime perched on the hills overlooking the runways of Ben-Gurion airport, adjacent to the trans-Israel highway, and within mortar range of the nation’s capital.

It would be intriguing, indeed, to learn how CIS members, given their cumulative 6,000 years of experience in Israel’s various security agencies, see this situation as one that would  achieve their plan’s principle goal: “to enhance personal and national security.”

Resisting attrition; not repulsing invasion

To be fair, CIS do assure us that: The IDF [as] by far the most potent military force in the region… can provide effective security and address all challenges within … any future borderline as agreed-to by our government and endorsed by our people…”

But, of course, the question is not only whether the IDF can secure the borders, but at what cost in terms of both resources and casualties (both military and civilian).

It is of course true that, for over four decades, Israel has not faced a tangible threat of large-scale invasion by conventional Arab forces. However, today, with the changing pattern of Arab enmity, the major challenge to Israel’s existence as the Jewish nation-state is no longer repulsing invasion, but resisting attrition.
The Arab stratagem is no longer the cataclysmic annihilation of the Jewish state, but the ongoing erosion of Jewish will to maintain the Jewish state, by making Jewish life in it unbearable – both physically and psychologically.

Attrition vs Invasion (cont.)

Of course, the looming specter of a nuclear Iran may, on the one hand, reinstate the cataclysmic approach; on the other, it may “merely” provide a protective umbrella under which attrition can continue with greater intensity – and impunity.

Indeed, one of the most explicit expressions of this attrition-oriented intent came from Yasser Arafat in Stockholm, in an address to Arab diplomats, barely a year after being awarded the Noble Peace Prize: “The PLO will now concentrate on splitting Israel psychologically into two camps…We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare… I have no use for Jews. They are and remain Jews…”  This overt admission of malice, echoed repeatedly elsewhere by other Palestinian-Arab spokespersons, should have removed any doubt as to what lay ahead.

Now, imagine if after forgoing sovereignty beyond the security barrier as per CIS’s prescription, the IDF pulled out of Judea-Samaria – whether pursuant to some accord or a combination of domestic pressure and international chagrin. Imagine, if in the absence of any agreement or despite prior agreements, this territory falls — as it almost inevitably will — to the control of some radical regime with no commitment to any understandings, implicit or explicit, with the “Zionist entity.” Imagine how much more ominous and onerous that attrition would be along the almost 800 km frontier, abutting Israel’s heavily populated coastal plain  and from the heights commanding its urban and commercial centers.

Capitulation masquerading as “initiative”

No less disturbing is CIS’s embrace of what is perversely called the “Arab Peace Initiative” (API), which prescribes: (a) Complete withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines including the Golan Heights; (b) a “just solution” to the problem of Palestinian refugees, a clear allusion to the “Right of Return”; (c) the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state on “the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital.”

Alarmingly, on its website, CIS declares: “We believe that the government of Israel can and should formulate a regional initiative based on an appropriate response to the positive potential encapsulated in the Arab Peace Initiative.”

Sadly, the growing acceptance of the API does not, as CIS would have it, reflect faith in military strength but rather psychological weakness. It is not a sign of confidence but a symptom of resignation, even desperation. Indeed, its acceptance is driven by the fact that the API is the only thing that the Arabs do not reject. Thus, to reject the API is to admit the unpalatable truth that there exists no path to a mutually agreed resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Indeed, for all intents and purposes, the API is a document of capitulation. It reflects acquiescence to virtually all Arab demands that successive governments, over a decade and a half, have rejected as unacceptably hazardous. It forgoes virtually all the gains of the 1967 Six Day War, and imperils some of those of the 1948 War of Independence. Willingness to agree to it, even as a basis for negotiations, is a clear signal that every Israeli “No,” however emphatic initially, is in effect a “Maybe” and a potential “Yes” in the future.

Reservations rejected

Apparently aware that, as currently formulated, the API is too pernicious to be approved by the Israeli public, CIS tries to preempt criticisms of its acceptance of the so called “peace initiative” by adding a proviso that it should be adjusted “to accommodate Israel’s security and demographic needs, as a basis for negotiation.”
But suggestions that “adjustments” might be made were rapidly and resolutely rejected by both the Saudis, who authored the initiative and the Arab League, who endorsed it. And why wouldn’t they? For as CIS’s proposal clearly shows, continued Arab intransigence is sure to engender further Israeli compliance…

To be continued.



Imbecility Squared – Part 1

JUNE 10, 2016 10:13 AM

An IDF team.Photo: IDF Spokesperson via Twitter.

“One does not have to be a military expert to easily identify the critical defects of the armistice lines that existed until June 4, 1967.” – Deputy PM Yigal Allon, former commander of Palmah strike-force, 1976.

…historians a thousand years hence will still be baffled by the mystery of our affairs. They will never understand how it was that a victorious nation, with everything in hand, suffered themselves to be brought low, and to cast away all that they had gained by measureless sacrifice and absolute victory…Now the victors are the vanquished…” –  Winston Churchill, in the House of Commons, 1938.

The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse… Then we will move forward.” – Abbas Zaki, PLO ambassador to Lebanon, 2009.

It genuinely distresses me to have to write this article — but I feel I have little option.

Despite my personal bias

I confess that I have a strong personal bias in favor of men who have devoted years of their lives to the defense of their country and endangered themselves to protect others. The members of the Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) certainly fit that bill — comprising a group of over 200 former high-ranking officers in the IDF, intelligence services and police.

Today, however, we are faced with the bitter irony of a spectacle, in which scores of ex-senior security officials, who spent most of their adult life defending Israel, are now promoting a political initiative that will make it indefensible.

Recently, CIS, an allegedly non-politically partisan organization, which ran a virulently anti-Netanyahu campaign in the run-up to the March 2015 elections, published what purports to be a “plan” to break the ongoing deadlock over the “Palestinian issue”, appealingly but misleadingly,  entitled “Security First: Changing the Rules of the GameA Plan to Improve Israel’s Security and International Standing.”

In broad brush strokes, the seminal elements on which the entire proposal is based are that Israel should:

(a) Proclaim, unilaterally, that it forgoes any claim to sovereignty beyond the yet-to-be completed security barrier, which in large measure coincides with the pre-1967 “Green Line”, adjusted to include several major settlement blocks adjacent to those lines; but,

(b) Leave the IDF deployed there — until some “acceptable alternative security arrangement” is found – presumably the emergence of a yet-to-be located pliant Palestinian-Arab who will pledge to recognize Israel as the Jewish nation-state; and

(c) Embrace the Saudi Peace Plan — a.k.a. Arab Peace Initiative (API) subject to certain changes which the Arabs/Saudis recently resolutely refused to consider.

Noxious brew of the fanciful, the false & the failed

According to the CIS folk (p.7), implementation of this so-called “plan” will:

– Enhance personal and national security.

– Preserve conditions for a future permanent status agreement with the Palestinians.

– Increase prospects of Israel’s integration into regional security/political arrangements with pragmatic Arab states.

– Improve Israel’s international standing and “pull the rug” from under BDS-like movements.

Sadly, little analytical acumen is needed to show that not only will the CIS plan fail to achieve the objectives it claims it will,  but in all probability, it will precipitate precisely the opposite results, exacerbating the dangers it was designed to ameliorate.

Admittedly this is harsh condemnation of the public positions of a large group of prominent figures. However, over the coming weeks, I will be at pains to substantiate my severe censure of their policy recommendations.

Indeed, as I read the CIS proposal my sense of despair and dismay deepened. It is a document so embarrassingly implausible, it seems inconceivable that men who boast of 6,000 years of accumulated security experience would allow – much less, wish – their names to be associated with it.

For what it presents is little more than a disturbing brew of the fanciful, the false and the failed—deeply flawed both in the political principle on which it bases itself and the practical details which it prescribes.

Attempting to eschew being labelled yet-another (and largely discredited) attempt to achieve peace, something which it concedes is “currently unfeasible” (p.10), the CIS plan is presented as focusing primarily on enhancing security — hence the title “Security First.”

Taking the name of “security” in vain?

Curiously, however, throughout its almost 70 pages (in the English version), the proposal deals only scantily with security, the professed forte of its authors, and then only in a very general manner, with virtually no stipulation of operational details. By contrast, it devotes much time to political assessments, municipal administration, water supplies, employment , even suggesting (see pp. 45-47) that Israel intervene in the internecine Palestinian feud between Fatah and Hamas.

These are, of course, issues of considerable importance in their own right, with pursuant impact on overall security, but hardly ones in which CIS, as an organization, can claim any special professional expertise, on the basis of their long experience in the military or the security services.

But it is precisely these accumulated years of service that CIS invoke for the authority they attribute to their policy prescriptions.

After all, however admirable it may be in its own right, the battle-tested experience of an intrepid armored corps commander hardly provides any professional edge in stipulating how Jerusalem should be administered, or determining why the Palestinians have not developed wastewater treatment plants, or in assessing the state of Palestinian agriculture — all of which comprise elements of significance in the CIS policy proposal.

Accordingly, one might well be excused for feeling a sense of uneasy suspicion that CIS just might be taking the name of security in vain — to further a political agenda, which they strenuously deny they have.

“Based on our cumulative 6,000 years of experience…”

Thus, on its well-endowed bilingual website, the fellows from CIS attempt to sweep aside any dissent from mere mortals, enlisting their formidable security credentials to launch into the promotion of a political initiative that has been rejected not only by successive Israeli governments — including some of the most Palestinian-compliant (PC) in the nation’s history — but also by a sound majority of the Israeli electorate.

Accordingly, they proclaim:

Based on our cumulative 6,000 years of experience in Israel’s various security agencies, we emphatically state that:

Political agreements and security arrangements with the Arab World, including the Palestinians, are vital Israeli national security objectives.

Local and regional realities make it mandatory and urgent to pursue these objectives. They also make them attainable.

The IDF [as] by far the most potent military force in the region… can provide effective security and address all challenges within the present or any future borderline as agreed-to by our government and endorsed by our people…

In terms of recommended policy elements, this translates (see p.8), among other things, into Israel:

-Accepting, in principle, the Arab Peace Initiative (API), with requisite adjustments to accommodate Israel’s security and demographic needs as a basis for negotiation.

-Reiterating its commitment to resolving the conflict through negotiations towards a permanent status agreement based on the principle of ‘two states for two peoples’.

-Foregoing claims to sovereignty over West Bank territories east of the ‘security fence’, but continuing to exercise control over them in a custodial capacity until alternative security arrangement are put into place within the framework of a permanent status agreement with the


– Freezing the construction of new settlements, the expansion of existing ones or the development of civilian infrastructures east of the “security fence”

The most glaring defect?

Clearly, then, this is not a non-partisan ,apolitical position but a clear endorsement of the longstanding predilections of the concessionary Israeli left, which have failed so dramatically over the last quarter-century, and now are allegedly “justified” anew by ongoing changes in the region, which, if anything, make them more implausible, irresponsible and inappropriate than ever.

As I noted previously, CIS’s plan is so deeply flawed, both in principle and in detail, that it would require far more than a single opinion column to expose and analyze them all. Accordingly in this week’s column, I will limit myself to a far-from-exhaustive discussion of what is, arguably, its most glaring defect, postponing debate on further flaws and faults for the coming weeks:

This is the a-priori (read “unilateral”) renouncing of any claims to sovereignty over the territory beyond the security barrier.

CIS wish to sidestep criticism of their plan, that could be ascribed it, given the dismal failure of the unilateral evacuation of Gaza (and South Lebanon), and the consequent emergence of a Jihadi-controlled enclave, with an arsenal bristling with weapons capable of reaching virtually the whole of Israel.

Accordingly, they claim (pp.28-9): “In contrast [to] the unilateral withdrawals Israel carried out in 2000 (from South Lebanon) and 2005 (from Gaza), the ‘Security First’ Plan calls for the IDF to remain in the West Bank…until a permanent status agreement with the Palestinians ushers in alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements.”

This, of course, raises the intriguing question of how CIS imagine events would have unfolded in, say, Gaza, had their plan been adopted, and the IDF remained deployed there, waiting with bated breath until some Palestinian emerged to “usher in alternative concrete, sustainable security arrangements.”

Unilateral withdrawal in principle

Indeed, despite all the semantic acrobatics, the unilateral capitulation inherent in the CIS proposal cannot be camouflaged by rhetoric. For whichever way you spin it, the CIS prescription comprises a unilateral acknowledgement, without any commensurate quid-pro-quo, of Arab sovereignty over the territory east of the “security barrier.”

In effect, this constitutes a “unilateral withdrawal in principle,” entailing the abandonment of positions long held by successive Israeli governments’ for over a half-century and a clear admission that Israel has been unnecessarily and unjustifiably intransigent for decades. Even if this is not CIS’s intention, there can be little doubt that this is how it will be eagerly interpreted by a hostile international community — and an affirmation that the anti-Israel campaigns against Israel were, in fact, justified.

Indeed, for all their 6000 years of accumulated security experience, CIS seem to have lost sight of a recurring lesson of history: Giving in — or at least pledging to give in — to the demands of despots will only whet their appetite, not satiate it.

It requires little imagination to envision the pernicious political predicament such an injudicious move would create for Israel, were it to heed the CIS counsel of an open-ended deployment of the military in territory over which any claims to sovereignty are eschewed.

A giant South-Lebanon

In a stroke, Judea-Samaria would, by Israel’s own admission, be converted from “disputed territories” to “occupied territories”, and the IDF from a “defense force” to an “occupying force.”

This reality would replicate — only on a much larger scale and much closer to the urban center of the country — the realities that prevailed in pre-2000 South Lebanon when the IDF was deployed in the security zone, despite the fact that Israel made no claims to sovereignty over it.

The manner in which that episode ended — with the ignominious flight of the IDF — should provide a sobering reminder of what CIS measures are liable to lead to.

(As an aside, it might be edifying to note that both the situations in South Lebanon and Gaza, which CIS apparently wish to avoid, were the result of policy decisions made by men with “impeccable security credentials”… Ariel Sharon, and Ehud Barak.)

Of course, under the CIS plan, the time that IDF will be required to deploy in Judea-Samaria will be entirely determined by the Palestinian side, until they agree to “acceptable alternative … security arrangements”—something which is highly unlikely, since less pliant competing factions could plausibly point out that, if the Jews are confronted with sufficient resolve and violence, they will concede all for nothing.

Thus, the IDF will be ensnared in the “West-Bank mud” as it was in the “Lebanon -mud”, subject to increasing attack from a hostile alien population, and unsympathetic international opinion with increasing domestic pressure to “bring our boys home.”

And so the unilateral withdrawal in principle will inexorably become a unilateral withdrawal in practice — with no agreement with the Palestinian side and Israel exposed to all the dangers CIS hoped to avert.

Imbecility squared

As readers might sense – I have barely scratched the surface in my endeavor to expose the myriad of internal contradictions, non-sequiturs and grave errors in the CIS formula “to extricate Israel from the current dead end and to improve its security… and international standing.”

But from what I have written they may already understand why I chose to entitle this and coming columns – “Imbecility squared.”