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Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel addressed the United Nations General Assembly.

Benjamin Netanyahu UN General Assembly
Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the UN General Assembly.
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A Secure Israel - A Condition for Peace

January 15, 2018  |  Eli E. Hertz

A strong Israel is a vital asset to the United States and the rest of the free world. To be a strong and dependable friend in a 'rough neighborhood,' Israel must have defensible borders and military prowess capable of addressing multiple challenges, which can materialize suddenly in this unstable region.

There are observers who point to Israel's sophisticated armed forces and strong economy and cast Israel in the role of Goliath against a Palestinian David. This portrayal is sometimes motivated by the desire to demonize Israel; at other times it is adopted by well-meaning supporters of Israel who believe Israel can be more generous and can afford to take more risks with its security in hammering out an accord with the Palestinians.

In both cases, the reversal of the 'David and Goliath' motif is grossly myopic in scale, and reflects an inability to grasp the crux of the conflict. While indeed peace with the Palestinians is a core issue for both Israel and the Arab states, the scope of the conflict cannot be artificially minimized by ignoring that the Arab world as a whole continues to view Israel as a foreign irritant, an artificial, illegitimate and ultimately transitory entity that must ultimately be destroyed or disappear. The conflict is still between an Israeli David and an Arab Goliath, and the gross asymmetry between the sides bears this out:

      Over 300 million Arabs vs. 6.5 million Israeli Jews.

      One tiny Jewish state occupies less than 1/10 of 1 percent of the Middle East landmass with no natural resources vs. 22 Arab states that are 649 times larger and hold a partial monopoly on the world's oil supply.

      One Israeli democracy vs. 22 countries, most with autocratic governments that do not respect human rights and seething with social unrest and ethnic tensions - discontent that is often channeled into hatred of Jews and Zionism.

Israel's security concerns are further exacerbated by its objectively small size, both geographically and demographically. To say that Israel is a tiny nation does not begin to describe the state's predicament. Slightly larger than the Canary Islands, more or less the size of the state of New Jersey, Israel fits into Lake Michigan with room to spare.

The crux of its neighbors' hostility goes beyond conflicting claims to territory and recognized borders, rivalry or regional hegemony. The object of Israel's enemies is neither to dominate nor reach parity with Israel; it is to weaken Israel and at first opportunity eliminate it as a Jewish state. No other nation is the target of such a potentially genocidal threat.

One must keep in mind that Israel is located in a region of the world where the strong prey on the weak. Even weak Arab states such as Lebanon, Jordan and Kuwait are victimized by their neighbors. The Middle East, with its patterns of despots, coups, assassinations, civil wars, revolutions and lack of respect for human life, resembles Europe during its own bloody centuries of nation building. Realistically, for the foreseeable future, little positive substantial change can be expected in this regard.

When Hamas leaders met in mid-March 2006 to state their policy after winning two-thirds of the seats in the Palestinian National Council, they underscored that they would not be bound by the Oslo Accords or Arafat's 'recognition of Israel,' half-mouthed as it was.

Political upheaval in Arab lands will continue to threaten Israel's security. The magnitude and multiplicity of strategic threats it faces mean Israel must make its security assessments realistically based on a host of possibilities - to hope for the best but be prepared for worse case scenarios as well, and tie a secure future to far more than promises or 'pieces of paper.'

Israel's pre-1967 borders - the borders Palestinians want Israel to pull back to (in the 'first phase') - lacked rhyme or reason and reflect the deployment of Israeli and Arab forces when the 1948 armistice agreement was signed. This pre-1967 frontier with the West Bank is known as the Green Line simply because a green pencil was used to draw the map showing the armistice line in 1948, a demarcation that is neither 'sanctified' nor a border.

American military experts have recognized the importance of shoring up Israel's borders to provide some territorial depth. In a study published immediately after the 1967 Six Day War, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Earl Wheeler said "the minimum required for Israel's defense includes most of the West Bank and the whole of Gaza and the Golan Heights." The need for territorial depth has not decreased over time. Lt. General (ret.) Tom Kelly, who served as Chief of Operations during the 1991 Gulf War, said in the wake of the Gulf War:

"I cannot defend this land (Israel) without that terrain (West Bank) ... The West Bank Mountains, and especially their five approaches, are the critical terrain. If an enemy secures those passes, Jerusalem and Israel become uncovered. Without the West Bank, Israel is only eight miles wide at its narrowest point. That makes it indefensible."

This sentiment was echoed in the assessment of the late Admiral James Wilson "Bud" Nance, who told Congress in 1991 that there was:

" logical reason for Israel to give up one inch of the disputed areas. Quite to the contrary, I believe if Israel were to move out of the Golan Heights, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, it would increase instability and the possibility of war, increase the necessity for Israel to preempt in war and the possibility that nuclear weapons would be used to prevent an Israel loss, and increase the possibility that the U.S. would have to become involved in a war. The prospects of a new Arab state, a Palestinian state, on Israel's border have raised concern by U.S. policy makers, as well."

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was even more candid, remarking in a talk with Pentagon employees in August 2002: "If you have a country that's a sliver and you can see three sides of it from a high hotel building, you've got to be careful what you give away and to whom you give it." In the aftermath of the 1967 Six-Day War, after three Arab armies converged on Israel's nightmarish borders, even the United Nations was forced to recognize that Israel's pre-Six-Day War borders invite repeated aggression. Thus, UN Resolution 242 - which formed the conceptual foundation for a peace settlement - declares that all states in the region should be guaranteed "safe and secure borders."

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