Maj. Gen. Amnon Reshef (res.)
Chairman of Commanders for Israel’s Security
Liberal | 01.07.2019
While IDF soldiers are destroying Hezbollah tunnels in the north and hundreds of rockets were launched only a few weeks ago from the Gaza Strip at nearby Jewish communities in the south, terrorism is striking once again in the West Bank. The developments in the last two fronts – the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – are a reminder of Israel’s tendency to focus on them only when there is a violent outbreak, while ignoring opportunities to change the situation during periods of relative tranquility.
Generally speaking, Israel’s overall security situation is reasonably good. The IDF and the other security agencies are coping well with these and other threats, and at this time, Israel faces no existential external threat. Under the radar, however, a threat to our national security and the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is emerging.
Israeli governments have neither formed nor articulated a clear strategy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘Creeping annexation’ has accelerated in recent years in the form of both actions on the ground and the setting of the legislative as well as administrative infrastructure for legislated annexation. Rightwing politicians are competing with each other over whose draft annexation bill is more attractive. The situation is bizzar: while a majority of the public supports a political-security solution by means of a ‘two states for two peoples’ agreement when the conditions are ripe for one, and civil separation from the Palestinians until then, nonetheless, a public minority, which is also a Knesset minority, uses its disproportional potency in the governing coalition to dragg the country towards an abyss.
Commanders for Israel’s Security, a movement whose 286 members are all former senior officers in the IDF, Israel Security Agency, Mossad, and Israel Police, has presented the Israeli leadership and defense agencies with detailed plans for Israeli initiatives, now available to the public: first, a plan which details the measures for civil separation while maintaining IDF security control in the West Bank. Second, a plan for changing the situation in the Gaza Strip. Third, an analysis of the devastating security and other consequences of annexing the West Bank.
This last study, which holds over 400 pages, assesses the implications of legislated annexation and presents its security, economic, regional, international, legal, and social consequences. The main insights are reviewed in the following five essays.
The study also shows that even the most knowledgeable advocates of annexation are making an erroneous strategic assumption: that they can ensure that annexation – even if limited to territory without a large Palestinian population (such as Area C) – will not set in motion a “domino effect”, forcing the IDF to take control of Areas A and B along with their millions of Palestinian residents.
If the Knesset passes an annexation bill, regardless of its territorial scope, this will be taken in the region and internationally as a national decision to slam the door on the possibility of future separation from the Palestinians. As explained in the following pages, this step will lead to the termination of security coordination with the Palestinian security forces and ignite a popular uprising, likely with armed Tanzim forces and Palestinian security forces taking an active part in the violence. Either in response to these developments or in an effort to prevent them, there will be no avoiding a renewed takeover by the IDF of all of the West Bank and its millions of Palestinian residents. This will trigger the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, contribute to the consolidation of Hamas at the helm of the Palestinian leadership, and we shall find ourselves responsible for managing the lives of millions of Palestinians.
In sum, what might start out as “luxurious annexation” – intended to incorporate as much land with as little Palestinian residents as possible, will inevitably end with Israel taking over the entire territory, assuming responsibility for the lives of millions of Palestinians, and coping with the ensuing destructive consequences for Israel’s security, economy, regional and international standing, and Jewish and democratic character.
This act will present the Zionist enterprise with the greatest challenge since Israel’s independence.