Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Israel's Defensible Borders.

I have long been saying that you cannot expect Israel, a state that is so small and has so many enemies to simply withdraw to its original borders and hope that the many Arab states and terrorist organisations do not attack it. This is not a pro Israeli statement, it is a common sense statement. Furthermore, Israel was founded in the wake of the holocaust. It was founded so Jews could protect themselves so they would never again have to rely on the international community to protect them annihilation. It is therefore completely unrealistic to expect Israel to take security out of its own hand and place it the hands of an international body like the UN. In other words Israel will not, cannot, nor should it be expected to withdraw to its original borders until a comprehensive and workable peace deal is reached with the Palestinians. I very much hope this happens. But for Israel to do so without such a deal would be to itself in an exceptionally vulnerable position militarily whilst surrounded by enemies. No, I repeat no sane state would ever do such a thing. In the meantime Israel is entitled to to its own defensible borders.

Watch this brilliant video below. It explains with excellent simplicity the security situation that Israel faces and the minimum borders in must secure in order to defend itself.


Gary said...

The simple fact is that Israel is in an extraordinarily precarious military situation regardless of where it maintains it's borders. The difference of a border being 10 miles further away or even 50 miles further away, in the era of supersonic aircraft and missiles is just not significant -the extra warning is measured in mere seconds.
Having said that, however, I agree they should not give up one inch until there is a workable peace in place. The extra buffer still allows some maneuvering space in the event of a ground assault. Additionally, land is the most precious commodity in that region and is therefor their best bargaining chip in negotiations. Giving it away as a show of good faith would be to ignore that lack of good faith shown by their enemies and would give Iran a clear strategic advantage.

Anonymous said...

Hey Ted,

I understand your point about Israel needing to defend its borders and not moving back until there is a peace deal with the Palestinians. However, what about continuing to build settlements in certain places? This prevents pulling back in the future, as they will be entrenched.

While Israel might rightly talk of its need for defense, surely expansionism is high on Israel's priorities?

thesystemworks said...

Anonymous: There hasn't been a new settlement founded in Judea and Samaria in the last decade. Existing ones have grown, mostly the major blocks close to the pre-1967 ceasefire line and in or near the eastern part of Jerusalem. But these settlements, which contain 90% of the settler population, take up not even 4% of the land area of the disputed territories.

Anonymous said...


Thanks for your response. Sorry for lack of clarity, settlement expansion would be more appropriate of course.

90% of the settlers and 4% of the disputed land? Does this make it acceptable? They are illegal settlements. What is in place ensures there can be no viable Palestinian self determination. Do you honestly believe Israel is not pushing the boundaries (in many ways) and their policy is not to wear down the Palestinians over a long period of time so that a peace agreement in the future would yield less to the Palestinians. Am I that naive to think this?

My name is Dave by the way

Ted Leddy said...


Your point about super sonic aircraft is valid. However if the Israeli military were unable to control the hills around eastern Jerusalem then it would come within range of primitive rockets. Jerusalem would be vulnerable in the same way that Northern and Southern Israeli towns are vulnerable to Hezbollah and Hamas rockets respectively. And as you say, withholding the land until a proper peace deal is on the table is the best bargaining tool the Israelis have.

Anonymous said...

Withholding land and using it as a bargaining tool Ted? Can you not see the injustice of that? It's Palestinian land illegally occupied by Israel. You take something off somebody and then bargain it back? This is right?

thesystemworks said...

Dave: It can be right because Resolution 242 does not require the return of all the territory liberated in 1967, and allows for potential re-drawing. The pre-1967 borders were merely a ceasefire line from a previous war with Jordan.

A friend of mine, Aviva Preston, went to Israel after the Six Day War to work as a statistician. She was looking over her diaries recently and they are truly fascinating to read. The sheer amount of famous faces she met! She wrote at the time that the local Arabs, or Palestinians as they are often called, were thanking her and the Israelis for wresting the territory from Jordan. They were sick and tired of all the restrictions Jordan was placing on them. Despite the fact Jordan and Palestine were the same country until the early 1920s. This was a great missed opportunity for Israel and the Palestinians. It was a shame the Arabs had to meet in Khartoum and lay down their infamous 'Three Nos'. Palestinians expected things to get better for them. And they did, in terms of infrastructure and freedoms. But it didn't go far enough. And in the late 1970's things started souring over things like settlement policy.

Ted Leddy said...


Thanks very much for your comments and welcome to Gubu World.

I agree with you for the most part on the settlement issue. I have never bought the "natural growth" argument. I believe that the real motivation behind settlement expansion is to invalidate the future viability of a Palestinian state. We know that Israeli hawks want the land and consider it to be ancient and sacred Jewish land. Expanding Jewish settlements is the way to achieve this.

If there is ever to be a peace between Israel and Palestine many (realistically not all) of these settlements will have to be removed. But in terms of returning the land and in particular, military control of the Borders to Palestinian control, you could not expect the Israelis to do this until there is a workable peace agreement. I do not see this as an injustice Dave. I see it as a legitimate bargain. Remember, a peace deal would probably include the Palestinians getting some land from Israel itself as compensation for the larger Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem. Land for peace has always been the basis of any potential agreement. The Israelis conquered the West Bank in the 67 war. They returned much of it in return for peace with Jordan at the Oslo agreement. Hopefully more will be returned when peace is reached with the Palestinians. It may or may not be an illegal occupation and it may seem injust to bargain with something you took. But this does not change the harsh fact that in today's world Israel would be incapable of defending it's origional borders and I think we all know that if they were forced back to the pre 67 line, there would be no shortage of terror groups willing to take advantage of such a vulnerability.

Thanks again Dave. Feel free to contribute any time.

Apologies for my many grammar and spelling mistakes in the above comment. Responding to comments from my iPhone is not easy.

Anonymous said...

Ted and TSW,

Thanks for your responses. I'm relatively new to this topic and am still surprised by how hard it is to know all that there is to know. So many conflicting opinions on the history and current situation! And this is from scholars I respect.

A lot of my learning is coming from Chomsky and Finkelstein at the moment. I'm interested in what your opinions are of these scholars and also could you recommend some other pro Israeli reading I could get to try balance my knowledge out please. Not Dershowitz though please, I don't like him for other reasons.

Ok, I look forward to more debate and learning in the future,

All the best,


Ted Leddy said...


"There hasn't been a new settlement founded in Judea and Samaria in the last decade. Existing ones have grown, mostly the major blocks close to the pre-1967 ceasefire line and in or near the eastern part of Jerusalem".

I think you're kind of splitting hairs with that one. Settlement expansion unquestionably makes a peace settlement more difficult to achieve. I certainly hope that this is not the objective.

thesystemworks said...

Dave: I've read Chomsky, Dershowitz and even Finkelstein.

All of these writers have their merits and demerits.

However, Norman Finkelstein is an absolute paranoid scumbag and complete phony who makes his living attacking the organised Jewish community. 'The Holocaust Industry' is possibly the most evil piece of work I have ever read. He insults Elie Wiesel and tells such gross lies about many people, some of whom I've met, its absolutely ridiculous how he gets away with it. Don't believe all the self-righteous claims that he is being 'persecuted' for his beliefs, and Alan Dershowitz is ruining his career. Finkelstein was getting thrown out of universities long before Alan Dershowitz even knew about him. He was dismissed from NYU, his first lecturing post, for physically assaulting a student who disagreed with his views. Thats the kind of man he is. I can go into much more detail about his lies if you want.

From reading both Chomsky and Dershowitz, academia looks a bit dirty. Both misrepresent the other's position in their works, I think. But Alan is spot on about Finkelstein. In fact, I don't think he is hard enough on that fraud. I respect a lot of the work Alan Dershowitz has done in civil rights cases in America and the field of criminal law (I studied law myself) and I think its awful someone who has done such good work can be smeared to badly in a very well orchestrated campaign. Alan's books, especially the Case for Peace, is positive, life-affirming, and actually offers a good solution for a peaceful future.

You may be surprised, but I respect some of the work Chomsky has done and think he is one smart cookie. But he has done a lot to earn my distrust over the years also.

Ted Leddy said...


I also would highly recommend "The Case for Peace" by Alan Dershowitz.

thesystemworks said...

Ted: I'm not splitting hairs, but I am tired of all these anti-Israel clich├ęs about settlements popping up every minute making peace impossible to achieve, etc. The reality is peace is very possible, even with certain existing settlement blocs growing naturally like any other towns and cities.

That said, settlements cause many problems, especially more isolated ones deep in Arab territory, that cut between Arab towns and villages and make life awkward. Building settlements and protecting them end up restricting Arab use of the land. The naturally fertile plains of the Jordan Valley are under full Israeli military control, which is almost 30% of the West Bank area. But the number of settlers there is 20,000. It would not be difficult to relocate these people and give a significant portion of land to the Arabs, which would create contiguity in all Arab occupied Judea and Samaria. Ehud Barak agreed to this in Camp David. This is why Arab and leftist claims about the Camp David proposals in 2000 creating several 'bantustans' in the region are bogus.

Dave: The Case for Peace comes highly recommended from me and Ted. However, rather than just read about the conflict, its good to get to know the crazy society that is Israel on the ground. I would highly recommend visiting. If you can't do that right now, one very good book I read several years ago is 'The Israelis' by Donna Rosenthal. Its just a snapshot of the lives of the many different people that live in Israel. It gives the reader a 'day in the life' kind of format featuring Charedi Jews in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak, Israeli Bedouin, religious settlers, Russian immigrants and so on. Its as apolitical a book you can get on the subject. Highly recommended.

thesystemworks said...

Correction: There are fewer than 10,000 settlers in the Jordan Valley.

Anonymous said...

Ok great, I'll have a look for those books. Thanks again for the recommendations. Unfortunately visiting Israel won't be possible anytime soon TSW but it would be interesting to go in the future. Really enjoying your blog/site Ted.

All teh best,


thesystemworks said...

Good luck with your learning, Dave.

By the way, if you want to balance your reading, there is a great new book by Efraim Karsh of King's College London called 'Palestine Betrayed'. Professor Karsh would probably be described as a part of the politicval right. This book is very interesting. He puts most of the blame for the violence in the region from the 1920s onward on the Arab leadership, and claims in no way was the violence, or at least the extent of it, inevitable.

It also offers a fresh perspective on the origins of the Arab refugee problem, as well as exploring the massive corruption of the Mandate of Palestine's Arab leaders who led their people into disaster. Fascinating stuff, and its hard to put down in any sense of the term.

Ted Leddy said...

Thanks Dave

Glad you're enjoying the blog.


Thanks for the recommendations.

I agree with your assessment of the settlement issue. Palestine is still viable as a potential state, particularly given that the Israelis have expressed willingness to exchange territory from pre 67 Israel.

I'm glad you recognise that the maintenance and protection of settlements deep within the West Bank cause many problems.

You say that "It would not be difficult to relocate these people and give a significant portion of land to the Arabs". My understanding is different. Surely this would be an exceptionally difficult sell for any Israeli government. Furthermore, these settlers would no doubt resist their relocation with ferocity.

thesystemworks said...


Yes, my use of words mightn't be appropriate. Such an operation would have lots of potential problems and inevitable pain. But there is a precedent for it. I mean, the Jews of Gaza numbered almost 10,000 and that community was uprooted with no mutiny or casualties among the army.

Of course, the withdrawal was a mess. That wasn't 'land for peace', it was land for nothing, not even promissory notes. The results were to be expected. The withdrawal of the small, isolated communities in the Jordan Valley must be part of an ongoing two-sided peace proess, with moves reciprocated by the other side.