Paradoxically, indeed perversely, the policies of Israel’s peace laureates have not only made peace increasingly remote, but Israel increasingly untenable.
Poor Menachem [Begin]… I got back… the Sinai and the Alma oil fields, and what has Menachem got? A piece of paper. – Anwar Sadat, on the peace agreement with Israel, 1980
In the name of Allah…believe me, there is a lot to be done.The jihad will continue… together, shoulder to shoulder, until victory… till Jerusalem, to Jerusalem, to Jerusalem. – Yasser Arafat, on Oslo Agreements, 1994
In the last four decades, three Israeli prime ministers have won the Nobel Peace prize: Menachem Begin, Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres (who, at the time, was foreign minister). Paradoxically, indeed perversely, the geo-political situation that the policy for which the prestigious prize was awarded has not only made peace increasingly remote, but is making Israel’s existence increasingly untenable.
Failed formula of land-for-peace
In each case, the prestigious prize was awarded for undertaking a policy of land-for-peace – i.e. for embracing the doctrine of territorial withdrawal and political appeasement of despotic regimes.
Thus, Begin surrendered the entire Sinai Peninsula (won in a war of anticipatory self-defense) with all its strategic depth, mineral wealth and economic potential, for his co-laureate Anwar Sadat’s promise of “No more war, no more bloodshed.” In so doing, he also, in effect, surrendered any chance of Israel maintaining a land-based second strike capability against an unconventional first strike. (Today Israel is compelled to rely largely on its small, diesel-powered submarine fleet for this.) Likewise, Rabin and Peres abandoned, with great fanfare, Judea and Samaria, the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, and the Gaza Strip, to mendacious arch-terrorist Yasser Arafat, for his patently disingenuous “Peace of the Brave.”
Wherever, and whenever, it has been applied, the doctrine of land-for-peace has failed miserably. History abounds with chilling examples that underscore the futility of trying to assuage bellicose tyrants by complying with their territorial demands.
The most dramatic illustration of this was concessions made to the Nazi regime in the 1930s, which culminated in carnage on a scale unprecedented in history. Striking parallels are readily identifiable in the prize-winning policy initiatives of Israel’s Nobel Peace Prize laureates – with Judea-Samaria eerily reminiscent of Sudetenland, Gaza of the Danzig enclave, and Sinai of the remilitarization of the Ruhr. Due to dictates of time and space, substantiating that analogy must await a future column.
‘The greatest concession we can make, for full Israeli retreat…’
Attempting to implement the land-for-peace prescription has never brought Israel peace. At best, all that resulted was a period of uneasy, often prickly, non-belligerency.
This was stipulated by Sadat himself, who, barely a year before his historic 1977 visit to Jerusalem, declared that even full Israeli withdrawal would not result in full peace:
“The greatest concession we can make, in return for a full Israeli retreat from all Arab lands, to the borders of 1967 and for the full solution of the Palestinian problem and establishment of a Palestinian state, is the termination of the state of belligerency which has [prevailed] for the past 28 years.” (July 3, 1976)
He reiterated this in an address following Israel’s withdrawal from the strategic mountain passes in central Sinai, in compliance with the 1979 peace agreement. In it, Sadat rebuffed domestic criticism of the agreement, elucidating the historical context in which it should be viewed:
“Today, Israel is withdrawing beyond the passes and the agreement does not include peace or even the end of the state of belligerency… [Critics] will say ‘Indeed Israel has withdrawn from the passes, but it has not withdrawn to Tel Aviv…’”
He went on to concede candidly that it was merely a stage – albeit, a pivotal one – in an ongoing, generational struggle:
“… I have frequently said that each generation faces a responsibility it must fulfill, and there are fateful issues that cannot be… solved by a single generation…Since the Zionist movement began, more than seven generations have come and gone… [Arab] errors and misdeeds accumulated. When our generation faces up to this legacy, it cannot solve it in one day or one year… it will be quite enough if it succeeds in changing the situation from a state of continuing retreat to a state of advancement. (The public diary of President Sadat)
‘The jihad will continue…’
Begin’s co-laureate was not the only Arab “peace partner” to view agreements with the Jewish state as a mere interbellum interlude, in a long-term generational struggle, a respite during which the Arabs enhance their position for attainment of their long-term strategic goal.
Thus, Arafat, who shared the Noble Peace Prize with Peres and Rabin, apparently for deigning to temporarily suspend his Judeocidal crusade, made no bones about the fact that the Oslo Accords were no more than a prelude to a continued jihad. He compared them to the agreement Muhammad made in 628 with the Quraysh tribe that controlled Mecca, only to abrogate it on a flimsy pretext barely two years later, and conquer the city.
Thus, in an address in a Johannesburg mosque in May 1994, a year after the pomp and ceremony on the White House lawns, the brutal Peace laureate declared:
This has to be understood… this agreement… is the first step and not more than that, believe me. There [is] a lot to be done. The jihad will continue… Jerusalem is not for the Palestinian People. It is for all the Muslim Uma… It is not their [the Jews’] capital, it is our [the Muslims’] capital….
He openly confessed that just as Muhammad had reneged on his agreement, so would he:
“This agreement I am not considering it more than the agreement which had been signed between our prophet Muhammad and Quraysh. Muhammad had accepted it and we are accepting now this peace accord.”
Arafat then exhorted:
“… together, shoulder to shoulder until victory, till Jerusalem, to Jerusalem, to Jerusalem.”
Different rates, same results
Clearly then, land-for-peace was always a formula doomed to failure, no matter whether the territorial concessions were negotiated or unilateral. Invariably, territories abandoned became platforms in which to prepare, and from which to carry out, attacks against Israel and Israelis, and indeed, although the rate of failure has varied greatly from front to front, the results have been very much the same: Either increased bloodshed, or increased potential for increased bloodshed.
In Gaza, the illusion of greater security/stability was shattered almost immediately within weeks of Israel’s 2005 unilateral withdrawal. In Judea-Samaria, it took several months until the gory wave of terrorism hit Israeli streets, buses and cafes.
In Lebanon, following the unilateral flight ordered by Ehud Barak, it took only a few years for bloody fighting to erupt, after Hezbollah poured in to fill the vacuum left by the IDF and turned what was the security zone into a formidable arsenal, bristling with weapons of war.
In Sinai, which is now descending into the depths of depravity and unspeakable brutality, it took several decades, and with growing symbiosis reported between local jihadists and Gaza-based Islamists, it is rapidly emerging as a massive security nightmare.
In each case, sooner or later, whenever territory was relinquished, or abandoned, by Israel, the security situation that developed was far more menacing than that which preceded it. Indeed, the only areas from which Israel is not gravely threatened are those which Israel has not – yet – relinquished in its quest to attain peace – on the Golan, and in Judea-Samaria and the Jordan Valley.
Increasingly untenable situation
Past land-for-peace initiatives have gravely undermined the security of the country and the safety of its citizens.
Any further application of this fatally failed formula will seriously degrade them even more – creating a situation that will make the country’s existence virtually untenable.
As last summer’s fighting graphically underscored, Gaza, despite a land and maritime quarantine, has acquired enough weaponry to bombard extensive portions of the country, cripple large sections of the economy, endanger millions of Israeli citizens, and even disrupt the nation’s air contacts with the outside world.
It takes little imagination to envision the devastating consequences that would ensue if Hezbollah, now attempting to deploy on the Syrian-held sector of the Golan, were, together with Hamas in the South, to launch a coordinated attack on Israel from the north. The threat of their joint arsenals of rockets/missiles, and the new menace of tunnels on two widely separated fronts, could overwhelm Israel’s ability to protect its civilian population – including via the Iron Dome system, which is unlikely to be able to cope with the sheer volume of incoming projectiles.
Worse, if the Islamic State-affiliated elements now increasingly assertive in Sinai were to join in the attack, along Israel’s southern border stretching 200 km. from Gaza to the Red Sea, Israel’s defensive capabilities would be spread perilously thin. Virtually the entire fabric of civilian life in the Negev could be crippled, or at least critically disrupted – including cutting off the city of Eilat, closure of its airfield and cessation of tourism which is its life blood.
ISIS, Sisi & Sinai
As I pointed out in last week’s column, it would by extremely unwise for Israel to base its long-term strategy on the assumption that the current Egyptian regime will have the requisite resources or resolve to impose durable stability/security in Sinai. Even if it manages to hold on to power, the array of challenges, both internal and external, make it likely that it will have to siphon off resources from remote Sinai to deal will threats both graver and closer to home.
Even today, Cairo is not able to deal with the jihadist threat within the constraints of the peace agreement it has with Israel, and requires the introduction of weapons – including the use of combat aircraft – forbidden by its demilitarization clauses. Israel has agreed to these violations and only the hopelessly naïve can believe that this does not spell the death knell for the major Israeli achievement in the 1979 accords with Egypt, the demilitarization of Sinai, and herald its gradual remilitarization.
It is difficult to overstate the gravity of this development.
First, as mentioned, there is no guarantee (to grossly understate the case) that the regime will endure. If it does not, Israel may well face a situation in which a far more hostile rule is installed in Cairo and the armaments admitted to Sinai to combat the jihadists are used to threaten Israel – in concert with the jihadists.
But even if Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, or some like-minded successor, manages to retain power, there is growing skepticism as to whether Egyptian forces will be willing/able to withstand sustained assaults by Islamic State-affiliated militias, and – as happened in Iraq – all the equipment meant to confront them will then fall into their brutal hands, to be used against their adversaries – including Israel.
Mega-Gaza on fringes of Tel Aviv
Thankfully, relinquishing the Golan Heights is no longer an option being discussed. Sadly, this fortunate circumstance is not the result of sober reassessment by Israel of the foolhardy land-for-peace formula, but of the gruesome events in Syria. Indeed, one can well image the dread that would prevail in the country if Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliates were perched on the cliff tops overlooking Lake Kinneret, the city of Tiberias and the entire Galilee.
Yet no less chilling is the possibility that is still being discussed – the relinquishing of the heights of Judea-Samaria to Arab control. Clearly once relinquished, Israel cannot determine which Arabs would take control – and have no way to prevent having Islamic State and al-Qaida affiliates being perched on the steep slopes overlooking the Coastal Plain, Greater Tel Aviv, much of Israel’s vital infrastructure, 80 percent of the country’s civilian population and commercial activities. The result would be a mega-Gaza on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv, but unlike Gaza, one with total topographic superiority, a border about 500-km. long (compared to Gaza’s 50 km.) within mortar range of Israel’s only international airport and within tunnel reach of the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6).
Clearly, any Arab force on those slopes could disrupt at will, with weapons already used from other territories surrendered to Arab control, any semblance of socioeconomic routine in Israel. Yet incredibly, such surrender is still being proposed as practical policy.
The Nobel Price of peace
Israel’s Nobel Peace laureates have led Israel into an increasingly intractable position – both politically and militarily. They have left it with virtually no good options.
Indeed, soon it may well find itself in a situation where it must choose between losing the Negev and retaking Sinai; depopulating the South and deconstructing Gaza; inflicting massive civilian casualties and suffering them itself…
Sadly, that is, as someone recently quipped, liable to be the ‘Nobel Price’ of peace.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.org) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (www.strategic-israel.org)