[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:
Someone not familiar with what has transpired in the immediate neighborhood
over the last decades reading the policy paper presented below by The
Council for Peace and Security would think that the only weapons of
significance in southern Lebanon and Gaza today are light arms held by
authorized security forces and licensed civilians.
They would also think that the companies in the world that manufacture tanks
have long ago retooled to produce something else as armies - including the
Arab armies - abandon ground invasion from their play books.
This and more.
Emphasis on "someone not familiar".
And that's the point.
The Council for Peace and Security is not comprised of ex-brass from Mars.
These are people who live in Israel.
That's what makes it so incredible when these ex-brass have no qualms to
tightly shut their eyes as they ignore reality in their earnest effort to
generate a position paper supporting withdrawal.
It would be one thing if they actually seriously addressed the challenges.
But they don't.
It is a troubling condescending lack of respect for the enemy.
Ehud Barak has been ridiculed for speculating as to what he might have done
if he had been born an Arab instead of an Israeli Jew.
But at least in his role playing he gives credit to the enemy.
Major Gen (Res). Shlomo Gazit and the others are bright people. If they
were Arabs they would most certainly be able to come up with a plan of
action to exploit the creation of the Palestinian state Gazit and his pals
are pushing in order to bring about the ultimate destruction of Israel.
It isn't smarts that stops them from engaging in this role playing to test
the efficacy of their policy recommendations. Its an ideological commitment
Which brings us to to my policy recommendation: Donít let the military
titles blind you when you review policy recommendations prepared by brass -
retired or active.
The irony: if anything, this piece explains why deploying forces in the
Jordan Valley cannot substitute for the current deployment that is only
possible thanks to the absence of another sovereignty this side of the
Defensible Borders and Strategic Depth
The Council for Peace and Security would like to bring to your attention
this document that analyzes the issues of strategic depth and defensible
These issues have re-surfaces recently in the context of potential
Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and therefore require close and
responsible analysis that addresses the relevant threat environment.
To this end, the Council for Peace and Security convened a working group
which produced the following document, as well as its executive summary.
The members of the working group are:
Council for Peace and Security member Major Gen (Res). Shlomo Gazit
Council for Peace and Security board member Major (Res.) Ret. Amos Lapidot
Council for Peace and Security Police Major Gen. (Ret.) Shaul Givoli
Council for Peace and Security board member Brig. Gen. (Res.) Shlomo Brom
Council for Peace and Security board member Brig. Gen. (Res.) Gadi Zohar
Council for Peace and Security board member Col. (Res.) Shaul Arieli
President of the Council for Peace and Security Major Gen. (Res.) Nathan
Managing Director of the Council for Peace and Security, Helit Barel
The document was authored by Brig. Gen. (Res.) Shlomo Brom.
It is our hope that this document might provide insight regarding the
security aspects of the debate and steer debate back to pragmatic and
Brig. Gen. (Res.) Nathan Sharony
Council for peace and security
Association of national security experts in Israel
Defensible Borders and
As a central issue in any forming agreement between Israel and the
Palestinians, the question of defensible borders and Israelís strategic
depth has recently come once more into the center of attention in public
discourse. This paper states that the formula of an agreement based on the
1967 lines with agreed upon land swaps is defensible in face of the relevant
threats facing Israel today and in the future and that control of the Jordan
Valley and the West Bank k is irrelevant in responding to these threats.
The current threat environment is substantially different than that faced by
Israel in the past and upon which the need for Israeli control of the Jordan
Valley was determined. The central threat Israel faced in the past was that
of a massive ground attack with air power support from a coalition of Arab
states. Clearly, the current reality of the military balance in the Middle
East renders this threat nearly irrelevant due to the collapse of the
pan-Arab movement, the peace agreements in effect with Egypt and Jordan, and
the eradication of Iraqi military forces. Therefore, the main threats Israel
must now prepare for are:
> Asymmetrical warfare vis-ŗ-vis non state actors using terrorist and
> guerilla tactics.
> Strategic threats-mainly the use of ballistic missiles and means of
> mass destruction.
The Jordan Valley and the West Bank are irrelevant in the context of the
current threats because:
> Current missile and ranges allow for targeting of the entire territory
> of the state of Israel without the deployment of any launchers west of the
> Jordan River.
> The main factors in countering terrorist and guerilla threats are the
> reliability of the barrier between Israel and the future Palestinian State
> and the latterís ability to prevent the construction of terrorist
> Even in the unlikely scenario of the re-occurrence of classic
> conventional war, several point must be noted:
+ The Jordan Valley does not provide strategic depth. Since Israelís
width including the valley is only about 40 kilometers (about 25 miles),
non-territorial responses for current threats are necessary.
+ If the Jordan Valley is to serve in countering a ground attack then
the crucial area for force deployment is the slopes leading up to the Judean
and Samarian mountains. Force deployment on the slopes turn the entire
Jordan Valley into a "killing zone" of the attacking ground forces.
+ Any force permanently positioned in the Jordan Valley itself would be
vulnerable to encirclement.
+ The only significance the Jordan River line holds is in terms of
border-control and ongoing security tasks.
Relevant Military and Diplomatic Responses to Threats
In the military realm, responses must rest on five elements:
2. Early warning.
3. Passive defense (home front preparedness).
4. Active defense, i.e. the interception
of various ballistic projectiles.
5. Offensive capabilities that will reduce the quantity and frequency of
Israel is currently prepared to defend against a massive ground attack
(despite the low likelihood of such a scenario materializing). The IDF has
developed and absorbed extraordinary capabilities to destroy masses of
mobile and stationary targets with great precision. This means the IDF could
destroy expeditionary forces within Jordanian territory long before they
reach the Jordan River line. Moreover, in a state of emergency, the IDF
would be able to utilize the main roads leading to the Jordan Valley from
the north and the south, as well as its airborne capabilities to introduce
forces into the Jordan Valley and deploy in the slopes leading to the
In the diplomatic realm, peace agreements are meant to serve as an adequate
alternative to control of the territory by the former adversary, both by
reducing the motivation to use violence in pursuit of goals and by creating
security arrangements, such as those put in place as a result of the peace
treaty between Israel and Egypt, in case the state of peace is undermined.
Similar mechanisms would be created in a permanent status agreement with the
1. The Palestinian state would be demilitarized, with provision only for
domestic security forces.
2. Oversight mechanisms would be implemented and would include monitoring of
the border with Jordan and other border crossings, to ensure that
demilitarization is maintained.
3. The Palestinian state would be prohibited from forging alliances and
cooperation with states and movements that are hostile to Israel.
4. The Palestinian state would be obligated to prevent terrorist activity
and the establishment of terrorist infrastructure and to implement oversight
mechanisms to insure that such obligations are met. 5. An international
force would be deployed in the area of the Palestinian state.
In addition, the informal strategic alliance that already exists between
Israel and Jordan will be strengthened by the establishment of a Palestinian
state, as the common interests of both states will grow deeper. As long as
the strategic alliance with Jordan is maintained and grows stronger, in the
context of a massive ground attack Israelís security border will not lie in
the Jordan River line, but rather in Jordanís border with Iraq.
> The main threats to Israel's security today are ballistic projectiles
> and weapons of mass destruction. These threats are intended to erode
> Israel's national moral and international standing, and in countering
> them, the West Bank and Jordan Valley have no significance.
> Israel holds adequate military responses even to counter worst-case
> scenarios that are highly unlikely to materialize such as a massive ground
> attack by a coalition of Arab states.
> A final status agreement with the Palestinians along with its security
> arrangements and mechanisms will provide a more-than-adequate alternative
> to control of the West Bank and the Jordan Valley and will create a
> strategic reality in which Israel's de-facto border rests in eastern
The Question of Defensible Borders
In Israeli-American-Palestinian dialogue, the issue of Israelís strategic
depth and assurance of defensible borders has come up as a key issue in
discussions about the basis for territorial outlines of an agreement. In
this framework, the Israeli government demands Israeli control over the
Jordan Valley and the annexation of large porti ons of the West Bank to
ensure the defensible borders and strategic depth that will allow Israel to
deal with potential military threats.
In examining this issue, four main questions must be answered:
> What are the main threats that Israel might have to face?
> How important are the Jordan Valley and the West Bank in affording a
> better response to these threats, in terms of strategic depth and
> defensible borders?
> What weight do diplomatic solutions and agreements carry in the
> response to these threats?
> What are the current and future military responses to these threats and
> to what extent do they hinge on territorial control of the Jordan Valley
> and the West Bank?
When the concept of the need for defensible borders was developed, including
the need for Israeli control over the Jordan Valley (as expressed, for
example, in the 1967 Alon Plan ), the main danger to Israel was a massive
ground attack with air support by a coalition of Arab countries, as occured
in 1948Ė9, in 1967 and again in 1973. Those threatened Israelís survival due
to the lack of symmetry between Israel and the Arab world, one element of
which was a lack of strategic depth.
Since that time, the strategic balance in the Middle East has been
transformed, and the threat of a massive ground attack has all but vanished
for the following reasons:
> Following changes in the world order, the Arabs have lacked the backing
> of a superpower that would provide them with material support for such a
> The pan-Arab vision has collapsed and the chance that such an Arab
> coalition will emerge is negligible.
> Israel has signed peace treaties with two Arab countries, Egypt and
> Jordan, removing them from the circle of war. At the same time, all Arab
> governments without exception, as expressed in the Arab peace initiative,
> have recognized the fruitlessness of attaining their goals vis-ŗ-vis
> Israel by other than diplomatic means. The vision of the struggle against
> Israel is now perpetuated by non-state players and a non-Arab country Ė
> Iraq, the key component of any eastern front against Israel, was
> defeated in the two Gulf wars, and its military power has been eradicated.
> It will be years before it can build significant military might, assuming
> it will be able to maintain sufficient internal stability and cohesion.
> The Arab countries have lost hope in their ability to face Israel on a
> classic battlefield. Therefore, other than the oil states, most of these
> countries have reduced their investment in conventional maneuver warfare
> and have moved on to investments in military realms they consider more
For these reasons, the principal threats that Israel will need to face now
and in the foreseeable future rest in two other main areas:
> Sub-military conflict, i.e., guerilla warfare and terrorism. This realm
> is sometimes called ďasymmetrical warfare,Ē a term that reflects its two
> main characteristics. First, it is not a war between states, but rather a
> war between a state and a non-state player. Second, it is conducted by
> other than conventional military means in order to counter the stateís
> technological and quantitative edge.
> Warfare against Israel with strategic tools, particularly ballistic
> missiles and means of mass destruction, i.e., chemical, biological or
> nuclear weapons. These are intended to counteract Israelís advantages in
> conventional warfare as well as in the strategic realm, in which Israel is
> perceived to possess military nuclear capabilities.
The main threat, therefore is not a ground attack that will threaten Israelís
territorial integrity, but rather the erosion of is peopleís spirits and of
its international standing.
These two realms share a number of commonalities. First, the main target of
both is Israelís civilian population. Second, in both cases, the main
weapons are ballistic projectiles, guided missiles and rockets of various
ranges that can reach any target in the State of Israel. Third, neither
realm seeks a decisive military victory, but rather attrition, damage to
national morale and media, image-related and political benefits.
The Jordan Valley and the West Bank as responses to threats
The Jordan Valley and the West Bank are irrelevant to the two main new
threats, because the ranges of missiles and rockets place the entire
territory of the State of Israel under massive rocket and missile threat
without deploying a single launcher west of the Jordan River.
Moving Israelís borders to the East does not provide an adequate response
even when dealing with specific concerns, such as the protection of
Ben-Gurion International Airport. The airport is vulnerable to two types of
threats. One is ballistic missiles and rockets, to which borders are
irrelevant, as they are to any other target in Israel. The second is guided
missiles, which could strike planes landing or taking off. Here, too, moving
the border is irrelevant because of the continually increasing range of
In terms of the threat of terrorism and guerilla action, such as
infiltration of suicide bombers or a guerilla force into Israel, territory
is of very little relevance. The main factors influencing this type of
threat are the reliability of the obstacle between Israel and the
Palestinian state, and, most importantly, the ability to thwart the
development of terrorism infrastructures within the Palestinian state. In
the reality of an independent Palestinian state, the second point will be
influenced mainly by other factors: the extent to which the Palestinian
state is functioning and the security arrangements established in the
agreement between the two states, including cooperation on fighting
terrorism and the mechanisms by which these arrangements are monitored.
Although the likelihood and severity of classic military threat, the
likelihood and severity of which have greatly declined over past decades,
territory cannot be said unconditionally to have no significance. However,
some remarks are in order:
> ďStrategic depthĒ with regard to the Jordan Valley and the West Bank
> makes a mockery of the term. With or without the Jordan Valley, Israel
> does not have strategic depth; it is only about 40 km across, including
> that valley. Thus, regardless of control of the valley, this threat must
> also be countered with other responses.
> If control of the Jordan Valley is intended as a military response to a
> ground attack, simple military analysis shows that the pivotal issue is
> not military presence along the Jordan River and in the Jordan Valley
> itself. Any military force deployed in these areas will suffer from
> topographical inferiority and will be vulnerable to fire from both west
> and east. The critical areas are the passes leading from the Jordan Valley
> to the mountaintops. Deployment of Israeli defences there would make the
> valley the killing zone for an attacking force.
> Any military force permanently stationed in the valley would in any
> case be limited in size and would find itself in constant danger of
> The line of the Jordan River itself is significant only in the context
> of border control and ongoing security.
The Jordan Valley and the West Bank do not provide the responses to the main
threats anticipated following a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
The significance of diplomatic solutions and agreements
Peace agreements signed after wars are to a great extent forged in order to
create diplomatic solutions as an appropriate alternative to control of the
territory by the former adversary. Part of the solution is the state of
peace itself, which reduces the motivation of either party to use violence
toward the other. However, the basic assumption is that a state of peace
could be undermined, and agreements therefore include security arrangements
precisely for such circumstances. For example, the peace treaty with Egypt
returned the Sinai to it, but only after security arrangements were put in
place that included demilitarized and limited-force zones, an oversight
mechanism and an international force. These arrangements create a situation
by which the Sinai, though under Egyptian sovereignty, continues to provide
a degree of an artificial strategic depth for Israel.
Similar mechanisms would be created in a permanent status agreement with the
> The Palestinian state would be demilitarized, with provision only for
> domestic security forces.
> Oversight mechanisms would be implemented and would include monitoring
> of the border with Jordan and other border crossings, to ensure that
> demilitarization is maintained.
> The Palestinian state would be prohibited from forging alliances and
> cooperation with states and movements that are hostile to Israel.
> The Palestinian state would be obligated to prevent terrorist activity
> and the establishment of terrorist infrastructure and an oversight
> mechanism would be created to insure that these obligations are met.
> An international force would be deployed in the area of the Palestinian
From a broader strategic perspective, there is another diplomatic mechanism
that does not rely directly on the agreement with the Palestinians, but is
connected to it: the relationship with Jordan. An informal strategic
alliance already exists between Israel and Jordan. The establishment of the
Palestinian state will strengthen that alliance because it will prevent the
undermining of ties between the two countries due to friction with the
Palestinians and will create a strong common interest in preventing the
Palestinian state from becoming a subversive security threat to both
countries. As long as the strategic alliance with Jordan is maintained and
grows stronger, Israelís security border does not lie in the Jordan River
line, but rather in Jordanís border with Iraq.
A permanent status agreement with the Palestinians with built-in security
arrangements will offer a more than adequate alternative to the minimal
benefit of continued control over the Jordan Valley and the West Bank. Such
an agreement will create an advantageous strategic situation for Israel, in
which its de facto security border is in eastern Jordan.
A broad security perspective must also include the worst-case scenario. As
mentioned above, the peace agreement itself will provide Israel with
numerous security advantages, but it bears consideration as to what would
happen in the event of the collapse of the peace agreement and the
diplomatic assumptions on which it rests. Would the peace agreementís
security arrangements and Israelís military capabilities provide a suitable
response to the threats in such a situation?
The answer is twofold. In terms of the most likely threats Ė terrorist and
guerilla actions on the one hand and the use of strategic weapons on the
other Ė our situation will be the same with or without control of the Jordan
Valley and the West Bank. At any rate we will have to find technological and
operational solutions to attacks by terrorist squads and suicide bombers, as
well as ballistic attacks. The responses to the second and most significant
threat, of strategic weapons, must be built on five elements:
+ Early warning
+ Passive defense, i.e., shelters; protective rear against chemical and
biological attack; firefighting capabilities; search and rescue; medical
capabilities and the ability to quickly treat affected population; and
+ Active defense, i.e., projectile and missile interception capabilities.
+ Offensive capability intended to reduce the number and frequency of
launches. In the context of an agreement with the Palestinians, the
demilitarization mechanisms greatly facilitate the offensive element.
With regard to the threat of massive ground attack, let us take the
worst-case scenario: An Arab military coalition is able to form following
regime changes in Jordan and Iraq. Iraq manages to reconstruct its
capability to dispatch a substantial expeditionary force. Jordan decides to
permit Iraqi, Saudi and perhaps Iranian expeditionary forces to enter its
territory. This scenario seems highly implausible in the current Middle
Eastern strategic reality, and yet, what could Israel do if it materialized?
Even under such circumstances, Israelís position is reasonably solid and the
main danger would still come from the masses of ballistic projectiles
targeting it rather than from the ground campaign. In the past decades,
modern warfare has been dramatically transformed. Fire capability has
improved significantly at the expense of maneuverability. The IDF has
evolved from an army based mainly on maneuvering heavy armored formations by
developing and absorbing extraordinary capabilities for long-range
destruction of masses of mobile and stationary targets using precise fire.
This means that the IDF has the ability, which will continue to improve, to
decimate expeditionary forces that enter Jordanian territory long before
they reach the Jordan River line.
Moreover, in an emergency, the IDF would be able to utilize the main roads
leading to the Jordan Valley from the north and the south, and its airborne
capabilities to introduce forces into the Jordan Valley and deploy in the
passes through its airborne capabilities. The demilitarization agreements
with the Palestinian state would allow for this with relative ease.
The transformation of the modern battlefield has also limited the ability of
the IDF to conduct mobile warfare. Accordingly, the gravest danger stems
from the possibility of the war becoming one of attrition in which ballistic
threats play a central role. However, as noted, the areas under discussion
are irrelevant as a response on this issue.
A permanent-status agreement with the Palestinians will improve Israelís
standing in the international community, while the stabilization of Israelís
relations with the United States will ensure a sympathetic international
atmosphere that will help Israel continue to develop the key military
capabilities it needs for dealing with worst-case scenarios.
The international legitimacy accorded to Israel as a result of an agreement
would allow it greater capacity to use force against threats that emerge
after the signing of the permanent-status agreement and withdrawal to the
Israel possesses suitable military responses for worst-case scenarios whose
likelihood declines considerably after reaching an agreement. The diplomatic
fruits of an agreement will ensure the perpetuation of military capabilities
An analysis of the key issues involving defensible borders reveals that in
the framework of permanent-status negotiations with the Palestinians on
permanent borders, it is possible to devise defensible borders based on the
1967 lines with limited exchanges of territory.
The comprehensive security package including all the diplomatic components
of the agreement, its security arrangements, strategic relations with
surrounding countries that would result from the agreement and concomitant
international legitimacy, will improve Israelís security situation over its
current state and will allow it to achieve security at a reasonable cost.