New Efforts To Explain Israel's Vital Security Interests
by Sarah Ann Haves
Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have ended. The Palestinians blame Israel for not continuing the settlement moratorium. The Israelis blame the Palestinians for refusing to recognize Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. Despite U.S. pressure and demanding timetables, 2010 negotiations at the level of indirect proximity talks leading to direct talks, has gained little ground and accomplished almost nothing in moving the peace process forward. Instead, what has been emphasized, to an already skeptical global community, are the wide gaps that remain between Israel and the Palestinians.
THE FEAR OF UNILATERAL MOVES
The current threat, posed by the Palestinians, is the possibility of a unilateral declaration of statehood, which would be internationally recognized through a UN Security Council resolution. Adding to that is the threat of another UN resolution that would declare Jewish settlements illegal in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria). This declaration might also extend to Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem. Any such UN resolution would make it impossible for Israel to continue building for natural growth in order to meet the demands of its expanding population.
Israel has initiated a diplomatic campaign, through governmental and non-governmental channels, to educate the international community regarding its vital security needs and the importance of it retaining defensible borders. In this diplomatic campaign is an explanation as to why declaration of Palestinian statehood, without an Israeli-Palestinian agreement, would be a foolish undertaking.
NO MORE CONCESSIONS
Israel cannot provide further concessions to the Palestinians that would threaten the security interests of the Jewish State, and Jerusalem government leaders have now decided to emphasize this point in public statements.
According to Middle East analyst, Dan Dyker, who recently spoke to journalists in a conference call hosted by The Israel Project, Israel has moved from concession based diplomacy to a security based diplomacy model.
“Israel wants to be very clear about where it is going and what it needs,” Dyker stated. In his estimation, anything done by the Palestinians, unilaterally, will destabilize the Middle East, threaten U.S. interests in the region, and create a diplomatic war. He believes that there must be a bilateral agreement and not unilateral actions.
ISRAEL’S JEWISH IDENTITY
While Israeli citizens are willing to accept a nation state of the Palestinian people, sitting on its borders, the Palestinians are not willing to reciprocate. This has been a major point of contention in the peace process.
A critical component of Israel’s security is Palestinian acceptance of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. “Israel insists on this recognition today, because it reflects on the self definition of the Jewish people. It is a nation state that reflects on the destiny and the history of the Jewish people...There is no country in the world today that faces an assault on its national legitimacy,” declared Dyker.
Today, the Palestinian narrative, spread globally, undermines Israel’s ability to defend itself. Palestinian leaders, including President Mahmoud Abbas, look to de-legitimize Israel on a daily basis. Dyker said there needs to be a culture of peace where there is reciprocity, mutual respect and recognition. For example, Israeli citizens are concerned that the Palestinian Authority still educates its people in armed resistance, threatening the survival of the Jewish State.
Ideologically, there’s been little change in Palestinian education circles. Palestinian television programs still encourage young children to think about eventually taking over Israel’s major cities. The Palestinian narrative does not encourage a future end to the conflict. According to Dyker, Israel cannot race to finalize borders in a peace agreement if Jewish citizens are going to live next to a population that has indoctrinated its children to support terrorism.
SECRET NEGOTIATIONS REPORTED
Secret diplomatic talks, involving the highest level of U.S. and Israeli leaders, may be undermining Israel’s public relations efforts. Reports indicate that the two countries could be hiding what may already be major concessions on Israel’s part, because of U.S. assurances on paper. The question remains as to whether Netanyahu is currently conceding land for peace, and dividing Jerusalem, because of U.S. pressure, and without the general public knowing about it.
Without referring to these reports, Dyker expressed his disapproval of hidden agendas. “Let’s not fool ourselves in thinking we can negotiate away in secret.”
The Oslo Accords, which were finalized in 1993, were partially negotiated in secret between Israel and the Palestinians. After seven years, the Accords failed to produce lasting peace. Dyker doesn’t want to see another failure in any future peace agreement.
ISRAEL’S INDEPENDENT NEED FOR DEFENSE AND CONTROL
One of the sticking points in peace negotiations has been Israel’s insistence in having its own military presence in certain areas. Referring to the suggestion that Israel accept international forces in the West Bank, or anywhere between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, Dyker said this would not work. “Israel has never asked any foreign country to defend it,” he said.
He gave the example of how UN forces in Lebanon have been unable to control arms flowing from Iran to Syria to Hezbollah. This is occurring despite UN Security Resolution 1701, initiated after the Second Lebanon War in 2006. There are now more than 50,000 new rockets in Hezbollah’s possession, while UN troops live in fear of repercussions if they try to stop the flow of weapons to Hezbollah terrorists.
Speaking about the ineffectiveness of UN forces in Lebanon, Dyker acknowledged, “They don‘t have the political will to turn down forces like Hezbollah. They have to check in with Lebanon before they take action, and they want to stay neutral. There are many caveats that restrict what they can do.”
In this new public relations campaign, Israel is emphasizing what it needs in order to retain national security at the highest level, including defensible borders. One of the factors is the necessity for Israeli unified control of Palestinian air space.
Dyker mentioned that it takes four minutes for a plane to fly from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. “Any enemy aircraft has to be knocked down 9 miles from any major city,” Dyker said. He referred to Israel’s small land space, narrow width, lack of strategic depth, and topological disadvantages. This creates a situation where Islamic extremists with short-range rockets and advanced weapons could stand on a Palestinian hillside and shoot down on Ben Gurion Airport.
Israel needs control over Israeli and Palestinian airspace in order to defend all citizens from an intruding enemy plane. “It would have to be knocked down in an area that wouldn’t hurt citizens in populated areas,” Dyker explained. He added that the Jordan Valley creates a wall to the east. If there is instability in Jordan because of an American pullout from Iraq, or because of an intrusion into the Jordan Valley by a nation at odds with Israel, this area becomes vulnerable, especially to terrorist infiltration. “If they could get to the hilltops, they could easily fire on any Israeli city.”
As Israeli leaders contemplate how to explain Israel’s policies in a clear and concise way to the global public, the Palestinians continue emphasizing what they believe is the current impasse in the peace process. Recently, Palestinian leaders said they will not be able to return to the peace table with the current Israeli government in power. They blame Netanyahu for the impasse, and are looking to the U.S. to initiate a new peace plan, while they also pursue UN recognition of a Palestinian state. Furthermore, they have dismissed talk of temporary solutions or the establishment of a Palestinian state with provisional borders.
In conclusion, while the rhetoric on both sides continues, it remains to be seen whether Israel’s present public diplomacy initiative will work to bring greater understanding and sympathy towards the Jewish State’s essential security requirements, especially in the face of future Palestinian aspirations.
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me.” Psalm 35:1
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting from Israel on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues affecting the nation.
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