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Negotiating the Israeli security fence

01/18/2004

In an article which is otherwise critical, from a right-wing security-oriented perspective, of the Geneva Accord's security arrangements, IDF Maj-Gen (res) Yaakov Amidror, who commanded Israel's National Defense College and headed the research and assessment division of Israeli military intelligence, makes a statement which endorses the Israeli Jewish left's belief in the need for negotiating an agreement with the Palestinians over the route of the fence.

While there are several different forms such an agreement could take--e.g., an interim agreement over the fence route which declares that the agreed path does not represent a border, let alone a final border between Israel and a future Palestinian state, or an agreement on the fence route as representing an interim or final border between the two states--Amidror's statement is tantamount to a recognition that Israelis and Palestinians should negotiate the fenced border, since even an agreement which declares that a mutually acceptable fence path is not a border will be universally regarded as marking the border, or future border, between the two states. What is interesting, and new, is that another mainstream senior Israeli military figure is endorsing the strategy of the left on the need for an agreed border for Israel which would be the fruit of a negotiation with the Palestinians--which is the strategy of the Geneva Accord, and even more so of Yuli Tamir's Gold Line proposal. Second, the rationale Amidror provides for this need is strictly that such an agreement would better serve Israel's security--"significantly enhance it"--than a fence whose path is unilaterally drawn, as the current fence path is.

Amidror is not saying no negotiations until the terror stops or until the Palestinians become Jeffersonian democrats or show a true commitment to fighting and disarming the terror groups, as Sharon does, and as the Road Map requires. Instead he's saying that Israel's security would be best served by Israel entering into negotiations now over the fence path with the Palestinians, so that the fence will be built along an agreed line. Since the only possible line on which the Palestinians would agree for Israel to build the fence would be either the Green Line, or a Green Line modified in a way that would make it possible to reach a future final status agreement which allowed for a viable territorially contiguous Palestinian state, it follows that the only possible path for a fence route which will be agreed to by the Palestinians would be more or less along what Knesset Member Yuli Tamir has called the Gold Line, which is similar in turn, but not identical to, the borders specified in the Geneva Accord. (As I've acknowedged before, some alternate arrangements would have to be devised for Jerusalem, as an effective fence cannot be built along the Green Line there, or along some of the proposed Geneva borders for Jerusalem.)

Here is Amidror's statement, the hidden nugget in this article:

"While most see no need for a bilateral agreement regarding the fence--after all, it can be built unilaterally, as is currently the case--few take into account that unilateralism is a two-way street. It frees the other side to take certain actions that may be deleterious to Israel's security interests. In this respect, Israel's security would be significantly enhanced if it could reach agreement with the Palestinian side on construction of the fence. Such an agreement might commit Palestinians to take action to prevent, or at least not assist, efforts to destroy the fence and may even win Palestinian commitment to certain security measures that inhibit infiltration. Of course, such an agreement with the Palestinians would come at a price."

This quote is a useful antidote to the view one finds common among the soft-headed right (as exemplified by Right to Exist's William Choslovsky in the current issue of the Chicago Jewish News), that the Israeli Jewish left is "naive". Even if the most pessimistic interpretation of Palestinian intentions were true, it is in Israel's best overall security interests to unilaterally withdraw and remove settlements from nearly all of the West Bank and all of Gaza (even Deputy Prime Minister and Likud leader Ehud Olmert believes it is in Israel's best security and strategic interests to withdraw from some 90% of the West Bank, including the outer Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and from all of Gaza). And even if the most pessimistic interpretation of Palestinian intentions were true (i.e., that neither the Palestinian leadership nor a majority of Palestinians will "ever" make peace with Israel as a Jewish state or stop their war against it) it is in Israel's security interests even more so to negotiate the border with the Palestinians now, and to complete the building of the fence along the line that is agreed to. I needn't repeat here all the other reasons why the right is far more deserving of epithets like "naive" and "dreamers out of touch with reality", as Olmert himself has said, than the left--ranging from the refusal to understand the implications of the demographic realities Israel faces so long as it rules more than 3 million Palestinians in the occupied territories, the threat this poses to Israel's democratic and Jewish character, the likelihood that the absence of an agreement will insure continued radicalization and Islamicization of the Palestinians, along with an escalation of the terrorist war against Israel through alternative means, potentially including WMD, the increasing loss of support for Israel around the world and potential for international sanctions as a result of a fence path which annexes portions of the West Bank and causes so much harm to Palestinian livelihoods and living conditions, among others.

I won't dwell on responding to Amidror's criticisms of Geneva's security arrangements, but will suffice with a few brief points.

The Geneva Accord shows that many Palestinian leaders, and a significant portion of the Palestinian public, are prepared to accept a robust multinational force with a strong US component to oversee Palestinian anti-terror efforts, as well as to oversee Palestinian border control. No Palestinian leadership would accept a final status agreement of the sort proposed by Amidror, which gave Israel the right to "take its own counterterrorism measures in the territory under Palestinian sovereignty." Since Geneva is predicated on achieving the Road Map's first two stages under which the Palestinians would have engaged in significant measures to disarm the terror groups--actions which would be far more likely if the Palestinians had good reason to believe that they would thereby gain a state in virtually all of the West Bank, as per the terms of Geneva, whose principles should be incorporated into the Roadmap--by the time a final status agreement is reached and a multinational force is introduced into Palestinian territory to monitor implementation and compliance by both sides, political and security conditions should be such that Palestinian forces, with the help of a sizable multinational force, can be counted on to do a significantly better job at preventing terror and drying up its sources than the occupying IDF, coupled with Israel's settlement enterprise, is doing now--even with a completed fence along a unilaterally drawn path. It is naive to expect that any security arrangement of any kind will stop all terror; but some arrangements clearly have a much better chance of substantially reducing it than others, and a political agreement which ends the occupation and removes Israeli military control of Palestinian lives, coupled with a multinational force, with a US contingent, overseeing Palestinian anti-terror commitments in an independent Palestinian state, will do more to reduce the motivation for Palestinian terror, and weaken the rejectionist Palestinian camp, than any other strategy.

Amidror also claims that "only Israeli border control can effectively prevent Palestinian efforts to smuggle weapons and munitions from neighboring countries...If Israel acceded to security arrangements that gave Palestinians control over their borders with Egypt and Jordan, it is safe to assume that weapons would flow freely into the West Bank and Gaza, with potentially catastrophic implications." But Amidror never offers an argument as to why a multinational force, operating under an agreement like Geneva, could not effectively oversee Palestinian commitments to prevent such smuggling through borders and international passageways like airports and seaports. Geneva includes an appendix which, when completed, would list precisely which arms were prohibited in Palestine which the MF would use in its oversight at border crossings. Since the composition of the international force is not yet specified in the current draft of Geneva, there is plenty of room for specifying a force of a size and deployment that could work with the Palestinian security forces in a way that was adequate to prevent such weapons smuggling. Egypt and Jordan would also be highly motivated to participate in such anti-smuggling efforts under a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians. Under the current difficult circumstances of the intifada, Jordan, at peace with Israel, already effectively works to prevent such smuggling and nearly all acts of terror against Israel, while Egypt has not acted against weapons smuggling from Egypt into Gaza. The ending of the intifada with a final status agreement would motivate Egypt to participate strongly in such efforts--Egypt would not want to see a final peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians fail or collapse into a new war--and the US could be expected, if need be, to put pressure on Egypt to do its part to prevent arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza or any other part of Palestine under a peace treaty.

Amidror also oversimplifies and misrepresents when he claims that the ostensibly terror-fighting PA police and intelligence organizations played an active role in terrorism during the 1997 Hasmonean tunnel riots and in the launching of the second intifada. With regard to the former incident, while some PA police did participate in shooting Israeli forces, many others acted to restrain and defuse the situation; moreover this incident took place after the election of Netanyahu, Oslo's chief opponent, and after Netanyahu allowed a highly provocative act which was perceived by Palestinians as threatening Palestinian and Muslim control over the Haram and as extending Jewish control over the holy sites--just the sort of act which is prohibited under the Geneva terms, and which would be prevented with the oversight of a multinational force in and around the Temple Mount under Geneva. (None of this is to justify the violent Palestinian response to these actions, but to explain the political context in which these things unfolded, and contrast them with the far better political conditions which would ensue from a final peace agreement like Geneva). With regard to the intifada and the PA forces' role in it, it's true that some elements of PA forces did perpetrate and abet terrorism, and engage in armed clashes with the IDF, while other Palestinian security forces did not--including Jibril Rajoub's Preventive Security Force in the West Bank. But this took place under conditions in which the final status talks had failed, after being long deferred, and after 7 years in which the Israeli settler population doubled, bypass roads and land confiscations continued apace, undermining Palestinian trust in Israeli intentions to withdraw or allow a Palestinian state to arise, sabotaging Palestinian support for Oslo and faith in a negotiated solution with Israel. None of this would be the case under a Geneva-like agreement, which would once and for all end the occupation, remove most settlements from the West Bank, and bring about a Palestinian state in the equivalent of 100% of the territory for the first time, but with third-party monitoring by multinational forces which were never introduced into the Oslo process.

Doni

Doni Remba
President
Chicago Peace Now
www.chicagopeacenow.org

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Original text copyright by the author and MidEastWeb for Coexistence, RA. Posted at MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log at http://www.mideastweb.org/log/archives/00000161.htm where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Distributed by MEW Newslist. Subscribe by e-mail to mew-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by email with this notice and link to and cite this article. Other uses by permission.

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