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Yoram Ettinger: Cost of applying Israel law to Judea & Samaria (West Bank)

Yoram Ettinger

By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger, “Second Thought: a US-Israel Initiative”
July 3, 2020, Mida magazine, https://bit.ly/2Z4nFW1

The suggestion that the application of the Israeli law to the Jordan valley and parts of Judea and Samaria would severely undermine Israeli interests, jeopardize Israel’s peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt and Israel’s overall ties with Arab countries, is divorced from the Israeli track record and Middle East reality.

Israel’s track record
The resurgence of the Jewish State from the ashes of WW2 to global prominence, technologically, scientifically, medically, agriculturally, economically, diplomatically and militarily – despite systematic adverse global pressure and Arab wars and terrorism – has demonstrated that there are no free lunches for independent nations, especially in the Middle East.

For example, in 1948, Prime Minister Ben Gurion, Israel’s Founding Father, did no wait for a green light from the White House, in order to declare independence.  He was aware that a declaration of independence would trigger a costly Arab military invasion. The CIA estimated that it could subject the Jewish people to “a second holocaust.”  However, Ben Gurion concluded that achieving a supreme goal was preconditioned upon the willingness to pay a supreme cost.  Indeed, the war against the Arab invasion consumed 1% (6,000) of the Jewish population (600,000).  Fending off the Arab invasion, Israel expanded its borders by 30%, and did not retreat to the suicidal 1947 lines, despite brutal global (including US) pressure.  The pressure on Israel dissipated, but Israel’s buttressed borders were preserved.

In 1967, Prime Minister Eshkol preempted a planned Egypt-Syria-Jordan joint offensive, in defiance of a strong red light from the White House (“Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone”), and despite prominent Israelis who preferred the venue of negotiation and mediation, and predicted a resounding Israeli defeat on the battlefield.  Eshkol was aware that Israel’s existence, in the violently intolerant and unpredictable Middle East, required a firm posture of deterrence, which could entail heavy cost. In the aftermath of the war, Eshkol reunited Jerusalem and renewed Jewish presence beyond the 1949/67 indefensible Green Line, in spite of a very heavy US and global pressure.  Consequently, while the pressure on Israel has subsided, the Jewish presence in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem has surged to 700,000 people.

In June 1981, Prime Minister Begin ordered the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, notwithstanding the menacing red light from the White House and the opposition by the Mossad, the IDF Intelligence and additional Israeli defense authorities.  The naysayers were certain that an Israeli attack had a very slim chance of success.  They feared that this would trigger a global Islamic assault on Israel; it would produce a European boycott of Israel; would create an irreparable rift with the USA; and would doom Israel, economically and diplomatically.  Begin decided that sparing Israel a traumatic nuclear assault justified even a traumatic cost.  However, the pessimistic assessments crashed against the rocks of reality, while the Iraqi nuclear threat (to the region and the globe) was uprooted.

In December 1981, Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, disregarding the brutal US opposition, which included the suspension of a major US-Israel strategic accord and the supply of advanced military systems.  While the heavy US sanctions were replaced by an unprecedented US-Israel strategic cooperation, the Golan Heights have become an integral part of the Jewish State.

The aforementioned Israeli Prime Ministers defied international pressure, and therefore were burdened with a short-term loss of global popularity.  However, they earned long-term respect for their willingness to defy the odds at severe cost.

They realized that succumbing to pressure yields additional, and heavier, pressure.

Their conduct bolstered Israel’s posture of deterrence, which has played a key role in enhancing Israel’s national security and regional/global standing, including its unprecedented military and commercial cooperation with all pro-US Arab countries.

Middle East reality (Israel-Arab relations)
Conventional wisdom is that an Israeli application of its law to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria would threaten the Israel-Jordan and Israel-Egypt peace treaties, and could abort the burgeoning relations between Israel and all Arab Gulf States.  Such a school of thought misperceives the Arab national security order of priorities, which has always demoted the role of the Palestinian issue.  It ignores the significant role played by

Israel’s posture of deterrence in the national security strategy of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman and Kuwait.

For instance, the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty (which sidestepped the Palestinian issue) reflects Jordanian national security priorities, much more than a Jordanian reconciliation with the existence of an “infidel” Jewish State in the “abode of Islam.”

Just like all Arab regimes – and especially since the 2010 eruption of the still raging Arab Tsunami – the pro-US regime in Amman is highly vulnerable, domestically and regionally.

Irrespective of its pro-Palestinian rhetoric, Jordan’s actions – since 1949, when it occupied Judea and Samaria and prohibited Palestinian political activity – have represented the overall Arab view of the Palestinians as a role model of intra-Arab subversion and terrorism.

Jordan’s Hashemite regime considers the proposed Palestinian state a clear and present lethal threat.  At the same time, it considers Israel’s posture of deterrence as its most effective line of defense against lethal threats, domestically (Palestinian, Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and hostile southern Bedouin subversion) and externally (Iran’s Ayatollahs, Iraq and Syria).

King Abdullah II is aware of the key role played by Israel’s posture of deterrence in forcing a retreat of the 1970 Syrian invasion of Jordan, when the US was unable to extend military help.

Jordan considers Israel a unique source of intelligence and counter-terrorism assistance.  Also, Israel supplies water to the 1.5 million refugees from Syria, provides Jordan with commercial access to the port of Haifa and price-discounted offshore natural gas.  Moreover, Israel is the most effective lobby for Jordan in Washington, DC.  In addition, Israel has accorded Jordan a prominent inter-Islamic plum: the custodian of Jerusalem’s Moslem and Christian holy sites.

Is King Abdullah II expected to cut off his nose to spite his face?!

Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states, as well as Egypt, regard Israel as a most reliable and effective ally in the face of mutual threats, such as Iran’s Ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Turkey’s Erdogan and potential tectonic spillovers from Iraq and Syria.

This Saudi-Israel congruence of national security interests eclipses, by far, the role played by the Palestinian issue in Riyadh’s order of national security priorities. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia appreciates the potential Israeli technological and scientific contribution to the diversification of its oil-dependent economy.

In fact, Riyadh considers the proposed Palestinian state a potential rogue regime, siding with its arch enemies. Hence, the effective Saudi opposition (contrary to its rhetoric) to the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Thus, the national security concerns of the pro-US Arab countries is advanced by a reinforced Israeli posture of deterrence.  On the other hand, a hesitant, appeasing and retreating Israel, which sacrifices its independence of national security action on the altar of overseas green lights, whets the appetite of terrorists and rogue regimes, which threatens the national security of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and all other pro-US Arab countries; thus, undermining vital US interests.

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