Monday, September 05, 2005

Awright, awright, I know it's been a while since I promised an official report on civil rights violations in the withdrawal affair. The legal eagles are still dotting and crossing and all that stuff so bear with me.

The main damage has already been done: 10,000 people are out on the street. Now it's time for a realistic assessment of the consequences for Israel's security and its social cohesiveness, respectively.

The main elements of security (at least in Israel's case) are defensible borders, preparedness of the defense forces, deterrence and effective alliances. The second of these is closely tied in to the question of social cohesiveness, so I'll leave it for that discussion.

The definition of defensible borders is not clear cut: it involves topographic considerations (controlling the high ground) and demographic considerations (keeping hostile populations out), in addition to the obvious desiderata of maximizing controlled area for maneuverability while minimizing the length of vulnerable borders. It should be borne in mind that in determining optimal borders considerations other than defense are also relevant: the empty country is perfectly defensible but probably not what you're after.

The main claimed advantage of the reshaping of the borders to exclude Azza are the exclusion of approximately one million Arabs from areas nominally under Israeli control and the shortening of defense lines. The hallucinatory left (which now includes Ehud Olmert, who is making his case for Shinui voters since he knows he's dead in Likud) also believes that Israel's deterrence is enhanced as a result of the reduction in Arab hostility that the withdrawal will bring. In addition, the mere fact of Israel's having made concessions is claimed to have strengthened the quality of its alliances.

The reality is, unfortunately, somewhat different. It is true that defense lines have been shortened, mostly as a result of withdrawing civilians from Netzarim, Kfar Darom and Morag, which were inconveniently situated. Gush Katif could have been secured at little cost in terms of defense lines, if the refugee camp in Rafiach had been properly dealt with. The Arabs in Azza have not been under Israeli civilian control for ten years and they will remain under Israeli military control as soon as the IDF is forced to return there to control rocket fire.

With regard to deterrence, well, no country has ever improved its deterrence capability by withdrawing under fire and permitting unfettered importation of artillery into an area from which it is already being attacked. And as for diplomacy, by withdrawing right back to the '67 borders (including withdrawal from Elei Sinai which clearly results in less defensible borders), Israel is merely inviting pressure for its withdrawal to the '67 borders in Yehuda and Shomron as well. And this is the nub of the problem because those borders are certainly not defensible.

So what is to be done? First, to restore its deterrence, Israel must respond to artillery fire from Azza by -- let's not bother phrasing this too diplomatically -- bombing the shit out of them. We do now have the advantage of there being no Israelis there to suffer from the fallout. And artillery fire from another country -- which Azza now effectively is -- certainly constitutes causus belli. Second, to prevent the extension of the withdrawal principle to Yehuda and Shomron, those areas of Yehuda and Shomron that lie within whatever borders are deemed defensible must be physically secured and possibly annexed. (Annexation is just a paper event and is less important.) Third, the precedent of removing inconveniently situated communities in the context of political realignment of borders must be presented in a manner that is sufficiently broad to include eventual application to the Arab populations in those areas. (This last sentence has been REVISED in response to the cogent comments of kaspit and zalman.)

Two final comments:

In case, you're thinking that Sharon is in fact doing exactly what I'm claiming should be done, think again. There is a simple test: choose a parcel of land that everyone agrees is critical for Israel's security but has not yet been physically secured and that the rest of the world wishes to see Israel relinquish. Let's see if Sharon does what needs to be done or backs down to pressure. Well, there is such a parcel of land -- called E1 -- that connects Jerusalem to Maaleh Adumim and here is how Sharon is dealing with it. Neither Bush's phantom promise nor the supposed goodwill generated by the withdrawal have bought us the tiniest advantage in this respect.

Finally, if you supported the withdrawal from Azza but find my third point above (about expelling Arabs) morally repulsive (as opposed to just difficult), you might be part of the problem. I hope to post on this next as part of a discussion of the effects of withdrawal on Israeli society.


Anonymous kaspit said...

"some of the lessons the IDF just learned in how to expel inconveniently situated populations should be carefully studied for eventual application to the Arab populations in those areas."

The IDF only demonstrated its ability to remove a group of its own people, who were remarkably non-violent and non-hostile (in a military sense), and who had relevant social and economic pressures (incentives) on their conduct. Given the much smaller number and the comparable civility of the Gaza protests/disobedience, I don't see many lessons that can be applied to a large non-Jewish population.

9:57 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

Of course, you're completely right. I was simply using delicate language to make an indelicate point.

12:09 AM  
Anonymous zalman said...

Re: B’TSOOT (bombing the shit out of them)
“And artillery fire from another country -- which Azza now effectively is -- certainly constitutes causus belli. “ I assume you are referring our ability to make our case to the rest of the world. If so, you are naïve.

It is a shame that we have already dismantled out military installations in Aza. After Abbas’ proclaimed refusal /failure to take action to disarm Hamas and the post-disengagement rocket being fired on Sderot, we should have taken the opportunity to condition the transfer on disarmament. We might have been able to say “we are serious about the disengagement – we’ve put 10,000 people out on the street and reduced their homes to rubble – now show us you are serious about disarmament.” Now I am being naïve.

(And why didn’t we plan the disengagement in stages? The initial plan included stages but Sharon blew right past them – which only shows how poor our position has become and how low our expectations really are.)

Re: the “E” word (expel)
We should draw lessons from the disengagement so that we may best present it as a precedent for a political realignment of borders and communities i.e., “transfer”). The military lessons are secondary. And we should not use the “E” word.

Today, Israel’s High Court orders Sharon "to determine whether there is room" to formally appeal to the Palestinian Authority with a request that it safeguards the synagogues in Gush Katif after the final withdrawal of Israel Defense Forces. Sharon doesn’t want to do this as the PA will certainly refuse and embarrass him.

3:03 PM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Regarding the synagogues of Gush Katif, I heard that the SHABAK has urged the government to destroy them because if they continue to exist they will serve as a focus for future Jewish aspirations to return to Gush Katif (shocking, isn't it?), sort of like Jews remembering Jerusalem at the Pesach seder nite. Apparently, the Israeli establishment views the Jews and Eretz Israel like Roman Emperor Hadrian who changed the name of Jerusalem to Aelia Capitolina and Judea to Palestina....both the Israeli establishment and Hadrian feel it is to their advantage to erase any "primitive" Jewish connection to its historic homeland in Eretz Israel.
Uri Dan, Sharon's lickety-spittle Journalist/pal once wrote that "Sharon's every waking moment is devoted to the welfare of the Jewish people" (when did he have time to meet Martin Schlaff and Cyril Kern?). I guess destroying Jewish homes, throwing their residents into the street, blowing up their synagogues and attempting to eradicate the people's memory of its homeland "are for the Jew's own welfare".

3:38 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

kaspit, zalman,
You win. The offending sentence was poorly written. I've revised it. Thanks.

5:27 PM  

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