INTO THE FRAY: The perils of Palestine: A multi- dimensional menace to Israel

Little analytical acumen is needed to grasp that a Palestinian state will comprise a multi-dimensional threat to Israel. Whether one considers height, width, length, or depth, such a state would entail existential dangers for Israel

“It is difficult to imagine any other issue for which the international media have been so successfully exploited—from the point of view of the Arabs—as has the Palestinian issue. Not since the time of Dr. Goebbels [Head of the Nazi Propaganda Machine], there has ever been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has borne such great fruits…”– Prof. Amnon Rubinstein, in Palestinian Lies“, Haaretz, 30 July, 1976.

Support for a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea is driven either by malice or by ignorance: Either malice reflecting a desire to gravely undermine Israel’s national security and/or the personal safety of its citizens; or ignorance reflecting a gross lack of knowledge and/or appreciation of the consequences that such a state would have for Israel.

Lamentably, the specter of Palestinian statehood has once again re-emerged to occupy the forefront of the public discourse—not only with the ensconcing of the Biden administration in the White House, but also with the recent injudicious address to the UN by Israel’s interim Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Ironically, the perils entailed in a Palestinian state were articulated with chilling accuracy by none other than arch-architect of the Oslo Accords, Shimon Peres, who, almost half a century ago, warned: “The establishment of such [a Palestinian] state means the inflow of combat-ready Palestinian forces (more than 25,000 men under arms) into Judea and Samaria; this force, together with the local youth, will double itself in a short time. It will not be short of weapons or other [military] equipment, and in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria, and the Gaza Strip. Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security, which may drive the country into war, or undermine the morale of its citizens. In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel’s existence, to impede the freedom of action of the Israeli air force in the skies over Israel, and to cause bloodshed among the population… in areas adjacent to the frontier-line.”

Indeed, little analytical acumen is required to grasp that a Palestinian state will comprise a multi-dimensional threat to Israel. No matter which dimension is considered—height, width, length, and even depth—such a state would entail existential dangers for Israel.

Height—Topographic Elevation

Arguably, the most dramatic illustration of the unnerving vulnerability to which Palestinian statehood would subject the Jewish state is provided by a brief review of the topographic elevation.

The area designated for a future Palestinian state—in any conceivable configuration—dominates the heavily populated coastal plain, which extends below the limestone highlands that comprise much of that putative state. From those highlands, it is possible to control and oversee any, and all, activity—in terms of observation, firepower, and electronic surveillance in the coastal heartland of Israel—including:

  • Virtually all Israel’s airfields (civilian and military) together with the country’s only major international airport, Ben Gurion;
  • Nearly all Israel’s principal seaports and naval bases;
  • Centers of civilian government and military command and control;
  • Vital infrastructure installations and systems (power generation and conveyance, water production—desalination plants—and conveyance; major transport axes—road and rail—including the Trans-Israel Highway (Route 6); 
  • About 80% of Israel’s civilian population and commercial activity.

All of these will be hopelessly vulnerable to attack by weapons being today employed against Israel and Israelis by hostile elements deployed in territory transferred in the past to Arab control.

Length—Extent of the frontiers

Surrender of territory in Judaea-Samaria (a.k.a. “The West Bank”) for a Palestinian state would entail increasing the length of Israel’s eastern border at least fourfold—and possibly considerably more—depending on the parameters of the agreement reached. Indeed, the establishment of a Palestinian state would dictate dramatic changes in the contours of the frontier. Instead of about 75 km of a relatively straight border in the Jordan valley north of the Dead Sea, Israel would have to contend with a torturous and contorted frontier, hundreds of kilometers long, snaking perilously close to numerous population centers and transportation axes—see “Width” below.

Some proposals, which include autonomous enclaves, would enormously increase the interface between sovereign Israel and the Palestinian territories–to anything up to 1000 km., perhaps even more—making the ability to clearly demarcate and secure the the areas of Israel’s sovereign control virtually impossible.

Width—Resurrecting Israel’s narrow waist

Clearly, the establishment of a Palestinian state will entail Israel reverting roughly to its pre-1967 borders including a narrow 100 km long strip, in places barely 15 km wide, which comprises the country’s most populous area.

As Labor Party’s Yigal Allon, former head of the Palmach, and later Israel’s Acting Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs emphasized, the pre-1967 lines “extend along the foothills of the Judean and Samarian mountains and along the Mediterranean coastal plain—that is, flat territory without any topographical barriers. This leaves central Israel with a narrow area that comprises the Achilles heel of the lines prior to June 4, 1967.” On the significance of this, he warned: “[T]he innovations and sophistication in weaponry…that have taken place, therefore, not only fail to weaken the value of strategic depth and natural barriers but in fact enhance their importance. This is even more true given Israel’s difficult geographic position.”

In similar vein, it was none other than Shimon Peres who, in the sternest terms, warned against reinstating the minuscule geographical width of the country that prevailed prior to 1967. According to Peres, “the lack of minimal territorial expanse places a country in a position of an absolute lack of deterrence, which in itself constitutes almost compulsive temptation to attack Israel from all directions He asserted that, in the modern era, “with the development of the rapid mobility of armies, the defensive importance of territorial expanse has increased.” Underscoring the dramatic vulnerability of pre-1967 Israel, Peres cautioned that Israel’s “‘thin waist’, which constitutes Israel’s most densely populated area,” would be indefensible against the range, firepower, and mobility of modern armaments. Ominously he observed: “Without a border that affords security, a country is doomed to destruction in war.”

Similarly, Allon warned that Israel’s “narrow waist” would serve “as a constant temptation to a hostile army in possession of hilly Judea and Samaria to attempt to inflict a fatal blow against Israel by severing it in two in one fell swoop. Moreover, this weakness would permit …an [Arab] army not only to strike at Israel’s densest population and industrial centers, but also in effect to paralyze almost all of Israel’s airspace…”

Depth—Water: The Dry facts

The western slopes of the hills, designated for a prospective Palestinian state, overlie important ground water sources—known as the Yarkon-Taninim Aquifer in the West and the Nablus-Gilboa Aquifer in the North— that for decades were a crucial component of Israel’s water supply. Excessive extraction and pollution in these aquifers could gravely—indeed, irreversibly degrade the supply of water to Israeli consumers.

Just how gravely this danger was viewed, even by elements on the Left, is clearly conveyed in a report by the late Reuven Pedazur, military correspondent of the far-Left Haaretz daily (Apr. 24, 1989): “Anyone who controls the water sources of the West Bank can, quite simply, dry out the coastal plain in Israel. Control of the two major aquifers, drilling of deep bore-holes, and subsequent intensive pumping in Western Samaria and in the Jenin and Tubas area are liable to leave the Jewish farmers of the Sharon without irrigation water, and the fields of the Jezreel Valley devastated.”

Indeed, over a decade (Nov.7, 1999) later, Aluf Benn, today editor of Haaretz, wrote an article entitled: “A Recommendation to PM Barak to retain Israeli control over the water in the West Bank,” expressing skepticism as to the viability of any agreement with the Palestinians regarding water. In it, he warned: “The principal danger is rooted in the feeble ability of the Palestinians to implement an agreement [as to the operation of shared water sources] consequently the proliferation of “wild-cat” drilling and excess extraction that will reduce the quality and quantity of the aquifers’ water.”

Of course, today, with the incorporation of large-scale desalination installations into Israel’s national water system, the country’s dependence on natural water sources has been considerably reduced. This, however, has not eliminated the hydro-strategic importance of the aquifers of Judea-Samaria. Indeed, a comprehensive survey–commissioned by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies (today INSS)—by two senior hydrologists of TAHAL (then Israel’s Water Planning Authority), warned that for various hydrological and ecological reasons”Even when desalination becomes a significant source of supply, the importance of the Yarkon-Taninim aquifer will not decrease as a seasonal and long-term reservoir.” (p.105)

 Indeed, even today, excess extraction, unsealed (or poorly sealed) municipal garbage sites, and untreated flows of urban sewage or industrial effluent in the areas designated for a Palestinian state can gravely imperil Israeli water sources—including subterranean storage areas in the aquifer. Without Israeli presence –and authority—in the western slopes of Judaea-Samaria, Israeli would be powerless to contend with these impending menaces.

With the two-state solution… Israel will collapse”

In view of the preceding analysis, it is intriguing to discover what senior Palestinian figures think of what really lies behind the two-state principle. In a 2009 article, headlined “Palestinian Official Says Two-state Solution Will Destroy Israel,” the Palestinian Ambassador to Lebanon and member of Fatah’s Central Committee, Zaki Abbas, candidly asserted: “With the two-state solution… Israel will collapse… What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? … The Jews consider Judaea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse. It will regress of its own accord. Then we will move forward.”

Things could hardly be clearer!

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Dr. Martin Sherman spent seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli defense establishment. He is the founder of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a member of the Habithonistim-Israel Defense & Security Forum (IDSF) research team, and a participant in the Israel Victory Initiative

 

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