A two-state solution may or may not be achievable in the near future, but closing the door on it to accommodate extreme annexationists’ whims might close the door on the kind of Zionism we uphold.

In “Zionism is about being pioneers in the land” (Jerusalem Post, October 8, 2020), Prof. Hillel Frisch kindly credits me for what he described as having “heroically commanded the regiment that suffered the brunt of the Egyptian surprise attack,” and as leading “one of the first forces to cross the Suez Canal” in the Yom Kippur War. Astonishingly, he leaps from recounting this existential moment to describing the “strategic settlement plan” of the Palestinian Authority as “a challenge that Israel and Zionism never faced before.” Seriously?

Is a plan for civil construction in an area totally controlled by Israel, put forth by a weak, indeed hardly surviving Palestinian government, a greater challenge to today’s all-powerful Israel than the coordinated Egyptian-Syrian attack on that fateful Yom Kippur? Greater than the 1948 War of Independence, or the absorption in 1949-51 of some 650,000 Jewish refugees by a population of about equal size? Greater than the absorption of a million immigrants from the former Soviet Union in a single decade, or greater than the Iranian nuclear threat?

However, inflating a Palestinian plan to the magnitude of an existential threat is hardly the most bizarre feature of Prof. Frisch’s piece. Far more significant is his failure to appreciate the distinction between today’s reality and the pre-state struggle to secure a national home for the Jewish people where none existed. Then, land grabs were a primary mission. It was a clear prerequisite for securing a space for Jewish statehood. Today, the only existential challenge to Israel, the strong, thriving sovereign state of the Jewish people, is a program of further land grabs that ignores the three million Palestinian residents of the West Bank, whose absorption might spell the end of the Zionist enterprise.

Likewise, Prof. Frisch’s statement that pioneering settlements of the first half of the previous century, known as Homa Umigdal, are “as relevant [to Israel’s security – A.R.] today as they were in the 1930s” is odd at best. He must have missed a century of developments in national security and modern warfare. Without belaboring the point, it is not civilian presence that secures Israel from incoming missiles, infiltrating terrorists, or any security risk in between. It is the IDF’s troops and capabilities, certainly unmatched in the region, that keep Israel secure.

If anything, a score of Jewish families in remote settlements, deep in heavily populated Palestinian areas, present an added burden for national security. It imposes on the IDF the need to deploy in these areas and police the civilian population, at the expense of preparedness for its core mission of addressing threats to our security from the North (Hezbollah, Syria), South (Hamas) and East (Iran).

BORN AND RAISED here, and having fought for our country, I uphold our historic right to the land of our ancestors. However, ignoring the fact that between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea there is roughly an equal number of Jews and Arabs (including our some two million Arab citizens), leaves open the question how we assure the future of Israel as a secure, democratic, Jewish state. On the one hand, in any future agreement, we must insist on incorporating into sovereign Israel major Jewish settlement blocs as well as Jewish neighborhoods in east Jerusalem, where the overwhelming majority of Jewish settlers reside. On the other hand, we must free ourselves of controlling, policing and managing the lives of millions of Palestinians. This can only happen through a negotiated two-state solution.

Prof. Frisch also presumes to educate my Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) colleagues and me about our upbringing. Just as I never checked – nor ever cared about – the political orientation of my commanders, my subordinates or my troops, I have no idea what the political affiliations are of any of my CIS colleagues. Speaking for myself, he is dead wrong in attributing my position to alleged allegiance to some old Labor Zionism. Indeed, I was born and raised in a conservative religious family, committed to the Zionist-Revisionist stream. As a child, I sang in synagogue choirs. My late parents supported Menachem Begin. And during the curfew imposed by the British Mandate, at the age of 10, I plastered Irgun posters on Tel Aviv buildings while evading capture by patrolling British troops.

Prof. Frisch is right in accusing my 300-plus CIS colleagues and me of supporting separation from the Palestinians, eventually into a two-state reality.

His Zionism, that sanctifies land – however populated by millions of Palestinians – over the Jewish and Democratic future of Israel, is not our Zionism. Ours rests on the more than 10,000 years of cumulative security experience of CIS members, and our battle-hardened realism. These have taught us that, militarily, we are stronger than all our challengers. But it has also taught us the limits of military power: There is no military answer to demography and to the aspirations of our Palestinian neighbors.

A two-state solution may or may not be achievable in the near future, but closing the door on it to accommodate extreme annexationists’ whims might close the door on the kind of Zionism we uphold, that which is enshrined in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amnon Reshef is the former commander of the IDF Armored Corps. He is the founder, a former chair and a current member of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS).