The Silver Platter of the Yom Kippur War

By Zvi Harel | Israel Today | 09.18.2018

[su_note note_color="#fbfbec"]Dressed in battle gear, dirty,
shoes heavy with grime,
they ascend the path quietly.
To change garb,
to wipe their brow
they have not yet found time.
Still bone weary from days and from nights in the field.

From: The Silver Platter
A Poem by Natan Alterman
Written towards the end of 1947,
a few weeks after the outbreak of the War of Independence.[/su_note]

It would hardly be possible to relate the terrible story of the October 1973 Yom Kippur War – especially the dramatic turn of events that literally saved the State of Israel – without putting the 14th Brigade front and center.  This standing armored brigade, under the command of Col. Amnon Reshef, played a critical role that merits greater attention.  When the war broke out, the 14th was the only tank brigade defending the 200 kilometer long Suez Canal front.  The strongholds along the canal were manned at the time by reservists from the 16th Jerusalem brigade along with soldiers from the Nahal brigade.  As a result the 14th was virtually alone, holding the line against wave after wave of a massive Egyptian military crossing of 90,000 infantry soldiers and 820 tanks within the first 18 hours of the war on October 6th.

photographer: Yosi Zliger

The 14th brigade continued to play a critical – and heroic – role throughout the war.  It took part in stopping the Egyptian armored assault on October 14th; crossing the Suez Canal (Operation Stouthearted Men), breaking through the Egyptian deployment in the deadly battle of the “Chinese farm” (October 15th and 16th); and then battled on to the gates of Ismailiyah.  The 14th brigade took heavy casualties in these bitter engagements, losing 302 of its men, with hundreds of others injured.  82 were killed on the first day of battle alone.  Another 121 lost their lives in breaking through Egyptian lines at the Chinese farm.

Reshef was given command of the brigade about a year before the Yom Kippur War.  On the eve of battle, the 14th numbered almost 1,000 soldiers.  Two battalions with 56 tanks were under Reshef’s command and a third, deployed in the northern sector of the canal, was under the command of the 275th brigade.  Reshef had previously led the 52nd battalion and the 189th reconnaissance battalion.  He received his first battle experience as a company commander during a 1959 raid on a fortification in the Golan Heights, carried out jointly with a force from the Golani brigade. During the Six Day War he served as intelligence officer and Deputy Commander of the 8th brigade, where he fought both in the Sinai and the Golan.

Six months after the Yom Kippur War he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General and appointed Deputy Commander of the IDF armored division.  In 1979 Reshef was given command of the IDF armored corps and raised to the rank of Major General.  He retired from active duty in 1984.

In 2014 he founded Commanders for Israel’s Security, bringing together hundreds of former senior commanders from all branches of Israel’s security forces (the IDF, Mossad, Israel Security Agency and Police).  Reshef, who chairs the movement, opposes the annexation of Judea and Samaria, warning that Israel will be burdened with responsibility for the civilian population there.

Reshef argues that the soldiers from his brigade never received due credit for putting their lives on the line during the Yom Kippur War.  Even an official IDF study was riddled with factual errors on this point.  Protesting these inaccuracies, Reshef convinced IDF authorities not to publish it.  To set the record straight, Reshef conducted his own, painstaking research, reviewing untold quantities of documentation in the process.  The resulting, 640 page book, We Will Never Cease!, was published five years ago (Kinneret Zmora-Bitan, Dvir publishers).

He dedicated the book to the fighters of the 14th brigade, to those who gave their lives and their families.  We Will Never Cease! is meticulously documented.  Reshef consulted the brigade’s sources, including aerial photographs, eyewitness accounts of commanders, front line soldiers, men who served in the canal strongholds and Israeli POWs; transcripts of radio communication, captured enemy documents, and transcripts of the commission of inquiry headed by Justice Shimon Agranat, -- a commission in front of which Reshef testified twice (four hours each).

Now, 45 years after the war, Reshef agreed to an interview with Israel Today, sharing not only details of what happened on the battlefield but also his insights as he reflects on those momentous events.

I listened to his riveting story for hours on end.  Reshef told me about his struggle to survive the blood drenched battles of the Yom Kippur War, as bullets, tank shells and Sagger missiles shrieked overhead.  His performance won him the admiration, not only of his own men but of his commanding officers.  Thus, for instance, Major General Yisrael Tal, Deputy Chief of Staff during the war, says “Amnon’s experience was unique.  I don’t know of another commander anywhere who went through what he did that night.”

Reshef is a tall fellow (1.9 meters).  Heis speaks with a calm voice and displays a phenomenal memory.  “I didn’t think I’d make it,” he tells me as he describes an operation to rescue fighters trapped in the Purkan stronghold. “I was ready to pay the price.  Maybe it was the sight of so many dead and injured. I really thought I was next.”

After the fighting had ended, Reshef often looked back wondering what gave him the strength to battle on in the face of death.  The answer, he concludes, begins with a less than easy childhood, mired by his mother’s death when he was only 13.

Mentally Unprepared

Reshef, a father of five and grandfather to 16, was born in Haifa 80 years ago. His parents made Aliyah from Hungary in the 1920’s.  Before Hebraizing it, his family’s name was Izaak.  “When I was a year and a half old,” he relates, “we moved to Tel Aviv.  The family was poor.  The four of us – my parents, my younger brother and myself -- lived in a one room, cellar apartment.  My father was a tailor and our home was his workshop.  But despite the scarcity, we were happy.  We lacked for nothing.”

Reshef’s family was traditional.  “Mainly because of my mother,” he relates.  “We kept a kosher kitchen and I usually covered my head – not with a kippah, but with a beret.  I sang in a children’s’ choir that performed in synagogues around Tel Aviv. “

Reshef studied in the Tel Nordau elementary school.  At the end of WWII, his mother’s nephew -- a survivor of the Auschwitz death camp -- came to stay with them.  The family came up with a creative housing solution for him, placing a basic metal bed on the balcony and enclosing it with wooden boards.  Five months later, after the uncle found his own apartment, two of his sisters – Auschwitz survivors as well – came to Israel, taking his place on the balcony.  “We honestly didn’t feel crowded,” Reshef recalls.

When he reached the age of 13, the family moved to a two room apartment in Bat Yam – near the sand dunes, a kilometer outside the town’s built up area, adjacent to the industrial zone.  As a youth, Reshef worked in the nearby popsicle factory.  After his mother died, his brother was sent to a kibbutz and then to a boarding school.  Reshef stayed at home.  In light of the financial situation, Reshef was advised to study at the Shevach trade school.  His mother’s death was very hard on his father.  She had been the dominant figure in the family. Reshef lasted only a year at school.

photographer: Yosi Zliger

At 15 Reshef began working full time to support the family.  He remembers working at a milling machine in a dark cubicle in Jaffa.  “It wasn’t easy for a child to travel each morning to work in Jaffa and come back at 5 in the evening.   Our apartment had no hot water.  We used primitive methods to heat up water when we needed it.”

The turning point came at age 16, when Reshef decided to go back to school.  He registered to study mechanical metalwork at the Max Fein School in the afternoon, while continuing to work full time, starting his day at 5:00 am.  He maintained this exhausting routine until he was drafted into the army on the eve of the Sinai campaign, in August 1956.

Why did you chose to serve in the armored corps?

Reshef:  You’ll have to ask the folks who sent me.  I actually wanted to be a pilot, but I failed the vision exam at the Tel Nof base.  The tank commander’s course attracted young people from all over – city kids and kibbutzniks – from well to do families.  I personally didn’t choose tanks.  In fact, I wasn’t an outstanding trainee.  They just sent me to the armored corps training base and decided that I’d be an instructor.

As the years went by, Reshef never gave up hope of continuing his education.  He wanted to complete his matriculation.  Army officials made all kinds of promises, from a degree at the Technion to studying in the US.  But in the end, they never came through, appealing instead to his sense of duty.  Reshef blames the commanders of the armored corps, including Yisrael Tal and Avraham Adan, who failed to make good on their promises.  He recalls an emotionally charged meeting right after the Six Day War, when General Tal asked him to assume command of a tank battalion.  “I was tense going into the meeting.  I told him to forget about it.  I said it was time to deliver on what was promised.  Tal played on my sense of guilt, reminding me of our fallen comrades.  He promised that after this commission, all kinds of possibilities would open up.   ‘You can study in the US, whatever you want,’ he told me.  He put me in an impossible situation.  We all knew the guys who had lost their lives.  It was only after being released from military service, having reached the rank of major general, that I was able to study for a B.A. in history at Tel Aviv University.  I graduated with honors, despite never having completed my high school matriculation.”

Our discussion proceeds to the eve of the Yom Kippur War.  In June of 1973, the brigade conducted a challenging exercise – a night time assault, with no dry run.  We were at the peak of our training, ready for action.  A few days before the war, Reshef’s soldiers reported unusual Egyptian troop movements, along with the arrival of reinforcements.  He reported to the information to those responsible.  His unit was originally scheduled to leave the Bar Lev line (the Suez Canal front) on October 8th.  By that time, however, the war was in its second day.

“You have to remember Israel’s mindset at the time,” Reshef points out.  “We were drunk with victory after the Six Day War.  We were all guilty of hubris, and completely discounted the enemy.  ‘Who the hell are they?’ we thought to ourselves.  The image I had in my own mind was of Egyptian soldiers fleeing, barefoot, on the sands of the Sinai.  Don’t confuse technical preparedness with being mentally prepared.  No matter how many times we spoke with the troops, we could never convince them to take the possibility of war seriously.

“Shifting from one psychological state to another is difficult.  The sad truth is that the IDF had no defensive plan for the Sinai.  There were two schools of thought at the time.  Former Chief of General Staff Haim Bar Lev called for setting up fortifications.  Generals Tal and Ariel Sharon argued against fortifications and insisted that if they must be set up, they should be small.  In military terms, Bar Lev favored a static defense while Tal and Sharon advocated mobile defense.  As a field commander, I was clearly on the side of Tal and Sharon.  But IDF strategy at the time called for defending every inch of the canal front. I should also point out that the IDF failed to adapt itself to a number of developments that had taken place. First, after the War of Attrition, in the summer of 1970, Egypt violated the cease fire and deployed anti-aircraft batteries, thereby denying Israel control in the air.  Secondly, though we had obtained access to Egypt’s war plans, the IDF simply did not understand those plans and failed to prepare a response.

“When Egyptian President Sadat said he was ready to sacrifice a million men, we did not understand him.  He told his generals that he wanted to cross the canal and penetrate the east bank to a distance of ten kilometers.  He saw the war as a means towards political ends.  We acted as if the Egyptians wanted to reach Tel Aviv.  That thought never crossed his mind.  It is true that Egypt also had plans to take the entire Sinai, but they knew this was not realistic.

200 Planes Overhead

Where were you on the first day of the war, October 6?

“At 12:30 in the afternoon we were told with certainty that a war would break out.  I told my driver that  war was coming.  He replied ‘it is good to die for one’s country.’  I answered, ‘you fool, it’s good to live for one’s country.”

“At 1:47 pm we heard sirens on our radio frequencies, indicating that Egyptian planes had crossed the canal.  Simultaneously, 2,400 Egyptian artillery cannons opened fire and over 200 jets started bombing us.  The entire Sinai peninsula shook like and earthquake.  Our tanks immediately headed out to their firing positions.

“To give you a sense of how surprised we were, I’ll tell you a story.  After the war, I was told about a tank commander who, while the earth was shaking all around him, asked if he should load a shell into his cannon.  In some cases, Egyptian soldiers who had already crossed the canal fired on us even before we reached our positions.  Meanwhile, they launched Sagger missiles at us from across the canal, 3.5 kilometers away.  Three tanks under the command of Ronny Weiner were hit even before they reached firing position.”

Reshef relates that two and a half hours after the outbreak of fighting, 23,500 Egyptian infantrymen crossed the canal.  “Israeli forces, all told – those manning the outposts and our own two platoons (mechanized infantry and reconnaissance) – numbered only 500.  It was terrible.  The numerical imbalance is impossible to comprehend.  Within the first 18 hours of the war, 90,000 Egyptian soldiers and 800 tanks crossed the Suez Canal.”

“Let me illustrate,” he continues.  “Twenty kilometers separated the Purkan and Matzmed strongholds.  An entire Egyptian division crossed the canal in that gap, virtually unopposed.  The soldiers of the 14th brigade literally stopped the enemy with their bodies.  On the second day of the war, our brigade came under the authority of Ariel Sharon, commander of the 143rd division.  We were also reinforced by two battalions.  I reported to Arik that out of the entire brigade, we only had 20 tanks left.  But we kept fighting.”

In his book, Reshef he brings two different descriptions of his own meeting with Sharon on October 7.  The first is from Sharon’s autobiography, Warrior.  “After a long and bitter night Amnon was exhausted.  Still he kept his cool and had the presence of mind to offer a detailed description of his encounter with Egyptian infantry.”  The second account is from Uri Dan, the journalist who followed Sharon throughout the war. “Everyone is silent.  Only one person speaks:  Amnon, the brigade commander.   A young colonel, no more than 35 years old, the fatigue and tension is noticeable on his face.  Arik interrogates him quietly.  Both men keep their cool.”

Caught up in a major catastrophe, Sharon and Reshef – like the IDF as a whole – acted furiously from the very first minute to execute plans for evacuating the canal forts.  One of the strongholds Reshef spoke with was Purkan, manned by 33 reservists under the command of Maj. Meir (Meirka) Weisel.  A member of Kibbutz HaLamed Heh, Weisel would subsequently be awarded a citation from the commander of the southern front for his resourcefulness, initiative and outstanding leadership, in recognition of his success in preventing the capture of his soldiers by Egyptian forces.

Initially, Sharon had ordered Col. Haim Erez, commander of another armored brigade, the 421st, to evacuate Purkan on October 9.  As soon as Reshef heard this, he called Sharon and asked to evacuate Purkan himself.

Reshef (right) with Moshe Dayan and Ariel Sharon, at a lookout point during the Battle of the Chinese Farm. \\ 14th Tank Brigade’s archive

“I asked Sharon for the assignment because these men had served under me before the war, and because I had been the one to plan the evacuation route.  Sharon agreed immediately,” Reshef explains.  Reshef and Weisel agreed that the soldiers would march 10 kilometers under the cover of darkness, cross enemy lines and meet up with the evacuation force the next day.  Reshef instructed Maj. Shaul Shalev, commander of the 184th battalion, to organize a small evacuation force.  It would include two tanks, four armored personnel carriers, a doctor, medics and a mechanized infantry platoon headed by Maj. Shlomo Levine.  Erez’ brigade (the 421st) would provide cover.  Reshef decided to put his life on the line and personally lead the small evacuation force.  He told Weisel to fire green flares to help locate the soldiers.

At the critical moment, however, Reshef’s force came under massive fire of different kinds from all directions.  “It was madness.  The evacuation took place in broad daylight,” Reshef explains.  “I was really ready to die.  I thought I wouldn’t make it.  They’re firing rockets at us and we’re maneuvering zig-zag to avoid getting hit.  We were in a frenzy.”

At one point, Reshef relates, he came upon a group of soldiers.  Thinking they were his evacuees, he duly reported it over the radio.  When he reached within 100 meters of the force, however, he realized they were Egyptians.

“I opened fire with my own, 30 caliber tank mounted machine gun, while brigade communications officer, Maj. Shlomo Wachs, fired his Uzi.  We threw grenades and ran over them with our tank treads at zero range.  Suddenly, after the charge, I found myself alone on top of a hill.  I grab my binoculars and see what looks like a monster coming at me, with a cannon sticking out of it, and dozens of soldiers piled on top.  It turned out to be the soldiers from Purkan, who had climbed aboard Shalev’s tank and escaped unharmed.  I did not see the four armored personnel carriers (APCs) that were part of my evacuation force.

“I asked Shalev where the APCs were.  He said they had all been hit. I couldn’t believe it.  I asked him again, and he repeated that tragic report.  The evacuation had taken a heavy toll:  five dead and 28 injured.”

Several hours later Reshef suffered another blow.  Maj. Shalev, hero of the Purkan evacuation, had been killed while leading a charge to evacuate a stranded tank crew.

A damaged Israeli and Egyptian tank, one next to the other. \\ 14th Tank Brigade’s archive

As a result of the 14th brigade’s heavy losses and the reinforcements that had to be sent in, Reshef commanded no less than 18 battalions over the course of the war, 9 of them simultaneously (a regular brigade consists of 3 battalions).  On October 15 the brigade was ordered to lead Sharon’s division (the 143rd) in breaking through Egyptian lines and creating a corridor to enable Israeli forces to cross the canal.  Sharon had four brigades: Reshef’s standing brigade and three reserve brigades – the 600th armored brigade, under the command of Col. Tuvia Raviv, whose job was to create a diversion; the 247th brigade under Col. Danny Matt that would cross the canal on rubber boats and establish a beachhead; and the 421st brigade, under the command of Haim Erez, whose job would be to drag the bridging equipment necessary to cross the canal.  After being reinforced, the 14th brigade now numbered seven battalions:  four armored and three infantry and paratrooper units.  From the 20 tanks remaining after the first day of battle, the 14th now numbered 93.

Units assembled and reassembled almost spontaneously, as the following story illustrates.  Shortly after he left a staff meeting with Sharon, two officers approached Reshef’s jeep. One of them was Lt. Col. (res.) Micha Ben Ari, who had served under Sharon in the famous 101st commando unit in the 1950’s.  “He told me he had just come from the Golan Heights, looking for the war, and wanted to join up with a unit fighting in the Sinai. I asked Arik for permission to take his battalion under my command, and he agreed immediately.  This was one of two paratrooper battalions in my brigade.”

No one in the 14th brigade, however, could imagine the hell they were about to enter on the night of October 15.

Like Hail on a Tin Roof

The division as a whole suffered from a dearth of accurate intelligence about the inferno lay ahead.  Around 6:00 pm, the brigade started moving.  Their destination was a 50 square kilometer zone known as the Chinese Farm.  They entered the farm at night.  30 hours later the 890th paratrooper battalion, headed by Itzik Mordechai, joined the battle only, to suffer heavy casualties.

The “Chinese Ffarm” consists of 140 kilometers interwoven irrigation ditches, lined by mounds of earth.  For the most part, these were unpassable.  Some parts of the farm were covered in swamp where a tank could easily sink up to its turret.   As a result, several tanks from the 14th capsized in the course of the operation.  The objective was to break through the dense Egyptian line and create a four kilometer wide corridor for Israeli forces to pass through so as to cross the canal.

“We didn’t know where the enemy was,” says Reshef.  “I decide to cut right through the Egyptian lines, like a knife, opening fire as soon as I see the enemy.”   Under cover of darkness, Amnon’s forces proceeded for two hours without being discovered.  “At 9:12 pm, I suddenly come upon the enemy camp:  bonfires, burned out vehicles, trucks, tanks.  It was a logistical center for an Egyptian division.  Now I’m surrounded by dozens of Egyptian soldiers, just meters from my tank.  I find myself performing three jobs simultaneously:  I’m a brigade commander, a tank commander and a regular soldier.  The bullets hitting my turret sounded like hail on a tin roof.  I have one machine gun and dozens of Egyptian soldiers trying to kill me.  An enemy jeep lurches towards me.  I open fire and destroy it.  In the middle of the night five tanks approach me.  I think they are friendly.  At 30 meters I realize they’re Egyptian.  I order my crew to open fire.  In rapid succession we destroy them all with our cannon.  At 9:43 in the morning we took the Tartur-Lexicon road.  This was the first time I yelled “cease fire!”

Reshef continues with a description of evacuation efforts.  Tanks, like that of Platoon Commander Rami Matan, went back and forth, evacuating the wounded and the dead.  After the war I interrogated him. Matan, in the tradition of modesty he learned at the military academy, gave a laconic description of events, and did not receive a citation.  The truth is he deserved no less than the Medal of Valor.  During a moment of calm I went up to battalion commander Amram Mitzna’s tank.  He had been waiting to be evacuated himself.  I kissed him on the forehead and went back to my tank.  Only later on did I discover, after analyzing aerial photographs, that the area had been covered with 3,000 Egyptian infantry fire positions.

During the bitter fighting at the Chinese Farm, the various units of the 14th brigade lost 121 men.  Sixty two were wounded.  Of the 93 tanks with which it entered the farm, only 36 were left at the end of the battle.  Two days later, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan visited the burned out wreckage of the battlefield.  He arrived in Sharon’s armored personnel carrier, while Reshef related what had transpired.  In his autobiography, Dayan described the horrors he saw that day.  “I’m not newcomer to war, but I have never seen horrors like this.  Not on the battlefield, not in a picture, not in the movies. One, vast killing field, extending as far as the eye can see.”

All Because of One, Small Jeep

Reshef criticism of military intelligence during the war is withering.  In his book he goes so far as to call it “criminal negligence.”  He emphasizes over and over again that the IDF did not provide sufficient support for the canal crossing effort that changed the entire direction of the war.  The air force, he says, made two flyovers per day to take photographs, but these photos never reached those who needed to see them.  The major failure of Israeli intelligence was its inability to understand that the main threat to Israeli tanks came from enemy infantry.   Reshef investigated and discovered that the photos never reached their destination because there were no jeeps available to take them.  “Idiots!” he proclaims.  “They should have brought us the photos by helicopter.”

Reshef has mostly praise for Sharon, with whom he worked closely during the war.  Sharon, believes Reshef, is responsible for the dramatic turnaround in Israel’s fortunes on the battlefield.  Still, he qualifies this by saying that Sharon also had some very strange ideas at the beginning of the war that would have only led to major casualties had they been carried out.

Until three month before the Yom Kippur War, Sharon had served as commander of the southern front.  He was replaced by Maj. General Shmuel Gonen (Gorodish) who was later deposed.  The Agranat commission concluded that Gonen “had not properly fulfilled his duties, and bears part of the responsibility for what happened.”

I asked Reshef if the Agranat Commission was not too hard on Gonen.  He begins his response by saying “We are all guilty” (a statement originally made by then President Ephraim Katzir, z”l).  Still, Reshef has his own words of criticism for Gonen.  He describes a meeting with Gonen in the war room of southern command.   “Gorodish sat on an easy chair.  I had thought that, as head of southern command (Haim Bar Lev replaced him on October 10) he would ask his own brigade commander what had happened on the battlefield, particularly since the 14th brigade had been fighting from the very start of the war.  You must remember that by this time, we had lost over 100 men.  Gonen, sitting opposite me, did not ask any questions or express the slightest empathy.”

During our interview, Reshef’s usually dispassionate demeanor betrays true emotion when praising the brigade’s officer in charge of wounded soldiers, Dina Zeltz, who received the Chief of Staff’s Citation for her dedicated efforts during the war.  He also is full of praise for his former wife Yehudit who, with five children to care for, helped the brigade’s wounded and the grieving families of its fallen.

Many painful visits are burned into Reshef’s memory.  He recalls, in particular, one visit to wounded soldiers at Soroka Hospital in Beer Sheva after the war.   Many of them suffered severe burns.  It was nevertheless heartening to see them proudly wearing the insignia of their unit on their pajamas.

He also remembers an awkward encounter during a visit to the Givat Shaul military cemetery a few months after the war.  By this time he was already a Brigadier General.  “As I took part quietly in the ceremony, someone I didn't know came up to me and said ‘I’m gonna kill you and Dayan.’  I told him I’d like to speak with him after the memorial service.  He answered ‘I have nothing to discuss with you.’  I subsequently was able to obtain background information on him.  It turns out that his son, a tank commander, had come to reinforce the brigade and was killed on the second day of the war.  I tracked down his address in Ramat Gan and made my way to his house one evening.  I politely asked permission to enter.  As our discussion proceeded, he opened a bottle of whiskey.  We ended up talking until two or three in the morning, taking leave of each other with tears and embraces.”

photographer: Yosi Zliger

I ask Reshef if he knows how many shell shocked soldiers the brigade suffered.  “At the time,” Reshef replies, “we were unaware of the phenomenon.”  He divides victims of shell shock into two categories:  those who remain in denial and refuse treatment for many years, and those who show signs of trauma only years after the events.  “No one who experienced the war has remained the same.  We have become purer, more open, more sensitive and emotional, more human.”

Reshef is convinced that it was the outstanding bravery and the willingness of IDF soldiers to sacrifice themselves that brought about Israel’s victory, a victory that ultimately “led to peace with Egypt,” as he ends his book.  It is a conclusion he cannot emphasize enough.”

[su_note note_color="#fbfbec"]The Brigade Commander’s Speech on the Eve of the Fateful Battle Reshef: It is a great honor to lead this brigade, and the IDF, to victory.

The 87th reconnaissance battalion was a reserve, armored battalion in Sharon’s division (the 143rd). It was set up six months before the war. Three days after the outbreak of hostilities, its commander, Col. Bentzi Carmeli, z”l, was killed by shrapnel from an artillery shell. Reshef immediately appointed Maj. Yoav Brom to replace him. Fifteen minutes before setting out for the battle to cross the canal on October 15 (Operation Stouthearted Men), at 5:45 pm, Reshef spoke to his troops. The confident tone of his words comes through clearly in recordings that can be found on the website of the 14th brigade. Reshef’s speech is often quoted in IDF commanders’ courses. The job of the reconnaissance battalion was to lead the attack force. After telling them about positive developments on the Golan Heights and in the Sinai, Reshef offered the following words of motivation:

“Yesterday we battered their armored division, causing major damage. We are now poised to launch a flanking attack, from the side and in the rear of the Egyptian army, after which two of our own armored divisions will enter Egyptian territory. We believe this wedge, which we will drive into the throat of our Egyptian enemy, will bring about their collapse. It will not happen overnight but it will cause the enemy to collapse, disrupt the existing balance and, slowly but surely, break the Egyptians. Yesterday, the reconnaissance battalion carried out a superb attack on the Egyptian flank, straight out of the literature of tank warfare. Today, your reconnaissance battalion – our battalion – is leading the way for the IDF as a whole. This is a great honor. I have served as a reconnaissance battalion commander, and I knew what people expected of me. I want you to know that we all expect the battalion to meet its objectives, carry out its missions and lead the brigade and the IDF to victory. Let me repeat: we will not defeat them in one day. But by this action, we will have set in motion the beginning of the end. This afternoon I spoke with the Chief of Staff and the senior generals of the IDF. I inspired them with confidence. I was able to do this after witnessing your fighting spirit on the battlefield. I am convinced that during this battle, we will prove that the hopes that are pinned on us will be realized.”

After the speech, Deputy Battalion commander Zvi Aviram, turned to the soldiers assembled and said, “To battle! Let’s do the job!” In response, men cried, “To battle. . . to battle. . . to battle!”.

Yoav Brom, z”l, led the reconnaissance unite for eight days before he was killed in the Chinese Farm, only ten hours after he and his men listened to Reshef’s speech. [/su_note]

The Ten Plagues

First plague – demographics

Seventy years ago, the democratic State of Israel was established as the national home of the Jewish people. It was founded on the basis of the principles of the Declaration of Independence and the idea of a solid Jewish majority.

Today, some in the political system are willing to undermine those ideals in pursuit of a dangerous experiment: the annexation of the West Bank; its millions of Arab inhabitants included.

The debate is not about statistics. It is about the future of our nation and what the home of the Jewish people will look like when incorporating additional three or four million Muslims.

This is the first plague of annexation. It will render us, the Jewish citizens of Israel, a minority in our own country.

Talk of ‘only’ partial annexation is deceptive as it will inevitably lead to a complete control of the West Bank. It cannot but undermine our solid Jewish majority.

This is the first, but by no means the last of the plagues. Stay tuned for the other nine.

Second plague – terrorism

Knesset annexationists owe the people of Israel an accounting:

  • What will terrorism look like once millions of Palestinians who do not want to live under our control become Israeli residents?
  • What will be the consequences of leaving the nation’s gates wide open to terrorists who are now prevented access by the security fence?

The vast majority of Palestinians oppose Israeli control of the West Bank, and the number of Palestinians favoring a violent struggle is growing.

It is not inconceivable that Palestinians would resort to violence in opposing annexation, only, once annexed, they would be free to travel throughout the ‘unified’ state, sporting Israeli ID cards.

We have witnessed a preview of this on an almost daily basis in Jerusalem over the last two years.

As the annexation plague results in bloodshed and the loss of Israeli lives, the hands of the Shin Bet will be tied once the territory they now operate in under rules of engagement applicable to occupation, becomes part of Israel.

Unfortunately, this is not the last of annexation’s plagues. Stay tuned for more.

Third plague – reinforcing BDS

The third plague of annexing the West Bank is undermining Israel’s standing in the world thus enhancing the potency of BDS-like hostile movements.

In an annexation scenario, Israel would have to decide if it is a democracy – with equal rights to the millions of annexed Palestinians, thus forfeit its Jewish nature, or maintain its Jewish nature by depriving the annexed population of civil rights.

As many Israelis value our Jewish character over our democratic values, Israel will turn into an apartheid state. This will find no support in the enlightened world, not even in Trump’s United States, nor among the overwhelming majority of world Jewry. The only beneficiary will be hostile movements such as BDS.

But it is not only young (and older) Jews abroad who will take offence at an Israel that no longer reflect their values. How many young Israelis will refuse to live in a non-democratic Israel?

Alas, this is not the full story. Stay tuned for more annexation plagues.

Fourth plague – the defense establishment

In recent years, the combined effect of our capable and dedicated security services; the security fence; and the cooperation of the Palestinian security services has prevented most acts of terror originating from the West Bank.

Annexation means no separation barrier and the end to security coordination with the PA (assuming the PA even survives such a unilateral Israeli move).

This new reality would force Israel to overhaul all aspects of its security at an unimaginable scope and at immense cost.

The police would have to increase its ORBAT and to be doubled in size. The IDF would have to keep some 120 companies on the ground at all times. Maintaining troops on such scale will have severe repercussions for the IDF’s training and combat readiness in both the regular army and in the reserves with regard to scenarios of armed conflict in other arenas – north (Syria, Lebanon) and south (Gaza).

What does this mean for us? Many more days of reserve duty devoted to routine security; less combat training impacting the preparedness of the reserves, and astronomical budgets coming out of our pockets.

Want to learn about the fifth, sixth, and seventh annexation plagues? Stay tuned over the next few days.

Fifth plague – health services

It is hardly a secret that Israel’s public health system is on the verge of collapse. The ERs almost always operate at well over 100 percent capacity; there are not enough beds in the wards; patients sleep in corridors; and doctor’s shifts often last 24 hours or more.

What does this have to do with annexing the West Bank?

Israel will be responsible for medical services for millions of annexed Palestinians. The limited health services will serve double the population. Our health will be affected. Our tax money will pay for it.

All of us will have to wait longer in the ER, wait longer for surgery, and receive fewer and less effective medical services. And, because of the economic gap between Israel and the West Bank, we will have to finance medical care extended to Palestinians through our medical insurance.

The harm to our health is by no means the last plague. Come back to this page over the next few days to learn about the rest of annexation’s plagues.

The sixth plague – allowances, pensions, and other payments

Annexing the West Bank means that Israel would bear economic responsibility for 2.5 million Palestinians, including allowances of immense proportions that would have to come out of the state budget, i.e. our taxes.

Here are some numbers to illustrate:

  • The cost of providing West Bank inhabitants with minimal income security is NIS 6.29 billion a year;
  • The cost of old age allowances – NIS 5.8 billion a year;
  • The cost of child allowances –      NIS 5.72 billion a year;
  • The cost of disability benefits –    NIS 3.2 billion a year.

All of us are familiar with the struggle of the elderly living on NIS 2,500 a month and the struggle of the disabled to raise their allowance to the ‘minimum wage’. Thus far, the Israeli government has found it difficult to meet even those modest objectives.

When it comes to annexation, an estimated NIS 48 billion a year might be paid out to Palestinians instead of to Israel’s disabled, elderly, Holocaust survivors, and children in needy families.

Annexation is an economic plague that will directly affect every Israeli pocket – in services we receive, in allowances to the needy, and in tax rates that will have to be adjusted to finance it all.

Seventh plague – the periphery

Even today, billions of shekels annually are earmarked for activities beyond the Green Line: defending Jewish settlements, developing infrastructure, and a host of other special needs related to the constant friction with the Palestinian population. These funds come at the expense of the Negev and the Galilee, as well as urban peripheries that are starved for government budgets.

But this will be like a drop in the bucket when compared with the sums that will be required for the West Bank’s 2.5 million Palestinians, once the West Bank is annexed.

The total sum Israel would have to expend on the West Bank is liable to reach NIS 67 billion a year; every year.

Imagine that impact were such a sums were earmarked instead for job creation in the Negev and the Galilee; for cultural activity in the periphery; for transportation infrastructure that would shorten distances between the north, the south and the center of the country.

Should we spend it all on annexation?

When you hear “annexation” remember that the territory they talk about comes with a bonus: 2.5 million Palestinians whom you and I will have to support.

These are the real meanings of annexation. Given the surreal proposal of those supporting this lunatic idea, it is our obligation to call their bluff.

Eighth plague – education

Israel’s school system have long been facing profound problems: overcrowded classrooms, low teacher salaries, and a lack of qualified personnel.

Annexing the West Bank would mean adding over 853,000 children to the school system at an estimated cost of at least NIS 3.8 billion a year.

Let us make this crystal clear: when you take a system that, for years, has faced complex problems and add to it hundreds of thousands of children coming mostly from a disadvantaged socioeconomic background, every Israeli girl and boy will be paying the price.

When you listen to annexation talk, remember that it affects every Israeli child entering first Grade. This is a tough plague for the educational system, one of many that annexing the West Bank would bring upon us.

Ninth plague – National Insurance

Annexing the West Bank and its 2.5 million inhabitants would mean an unbearable economic burden for the National Insurance Institute of Israel, which as it is, faces prospects of insolvency in a matter of decades. This plague would certainly accelerate this process. It will affect each and every one of us.

Here are some illustrative data: the unemployment rate in Israel is just over 4 percent. According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, in the West Bank the unemployment rate is 17 percent. Palestinian unemployment benefits alone would consume NIS 1.32 billion a year. This is just one example of the overall costs that would fall on the NIII’s budget. It could, in fact, hit as much as NIS 48 billion a year.

Make no mistake about it. That sum would come out of our pockets.

This is yet another plague, one of many, that would affect each and every one of us because of the nightmare notion of annexing the West Bank.

What is the tenth (though not necessarily the last) plague of annexation? Come back to the Commanders for Israel’s Security page in the next few hours to find out.

Tenth plague – the disintegration of democracy

Annexationists look for a “creative” idea to cope with the demographic predicament. Some find it in annexing the West Bank without giving full civil rights to its Palestinian inhabitants.

On its own, annexation is a disaster for Israel, its security, economy, and international standing. However, discriminatory annexation is even worse. It would destroy Israel’s democratic nature. We already witness an erosion in the stature of institutions which are key for a healthy democracy. It is no accident that the assault on these institutions – first and foremost the Supreme Court – originate with annexationists.

Remember the line from the Declaration of Independence “…it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex”. The State of Israel was not founded in order to create two classes of citizens – those who can vote and those who cannot.

A forced incorporation of millions of people, making them second-class citizens is a sure recipe for a constant civil war.

And we have yet to mention the severe international ramifications of this horror scenario, whereby Israel becomes a Pariah state.

Soon we will observe Israel’s Memorial Day and remember the tens of thousands of Israelis who gave their lives to secure Israel as a Jewish and democratic state for generations.

We must uphold this vision in the face of the bizarre and dangerous annexation schemes.

We owe it to them, ourselves, and to coming generations.



In West Bank reality, annexation is a pipedream

By SHAUL ARIELI and NIMROD NOVIK | 03.04.18 | The Times Of Israel

On the eve of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s visit to Washington, two sets of rumors are flying: Washington insiders speculate that the visitor will be welcomed either with the friendly unveiling of the Trump Initiative that is to secure the ‘ultimate’ Palestinian-Israeli deal, or by a less Netanyahu-friendly gesture to the Palestinians, designed to bring them back to the negotiating table.

Meanwhile in Jerusalem, the rumor mill is no less creative, with hopeful West Bank settlers intimating that Netanyahu intends to secure a Trump consent to the annexation to Israel of some West Bank territory should the Palestinians decline the Trump Initiative.

Not waiting for either speculation to materialize, Israeli opponents of a two-state solution have accelerated their campaign to bury it, not only by pressing for further expanding the boundaries of existing settlements, but also by a new wave of legislative initiatives calling for the “application of Israeli law” – the legal formulation of annexation – to various portions of the West Bank. The two-state opponents premise their efforts on the notion that the time for a two-state solution is over. They claim that the settlement enterprise is so entrenched in the West Bank that partition just cannot be implemented.

Separation between Israelis and Palestinians is feasible geographically and demographically.

But facts about Israel’s presence in the West Bank demonstrate that this claim is fabricated. Even after fifty years of trying, the settlement enterprise has failed to create conditions that prevent separation. The Trump team working on its peace plan must keep these facts in mind. The most fundamental one is that Jews account for only eighteen percent of the West Bank population and settlements occupy less than four percent of the land. Nor has the settlement program created a significant local economic base. At least 60 percent of the settler workforce is employed inside Israel; most of the youth study inside Israel; only about 400 Israeli households farm less than 1.5 percent of the land (utilizing Palestinian workers), and there are just two substantial industrial zones in the West Bank (where 95 percent of the workers are Palestinians).

And most significantly, of the 600,000 Israelis who live beyond the Green Line, which separated Israel from the West Bank until 1967, some 80 percent are residents of areas destined to be part of Israel in an agreed land swap. As discussed in numerous rounds of negotiations, the Palestinians would be compensated with land of equal size in Israel in return for West Bank areas which comprise the main Israeli “settlement blocs” and East Jerusalem’s twelve Jewish neighborhoods. Consequently, 80 percent of Israeli settlers will stay where they are and the land they occupy will be part of sovereign Israel. This land, which is adjacent to the Green Line, can be separated from the remainder 96 percent of the West Bank where Palestinians constitute 92 percent of the population

This four percent land swap can be made without causing serious damage to communities inside Israel or to West Bank Palestinian villages that will lose land in the process. Of course, the remaining 30,000 Israeli households that live outside the main settlement blocs, deep inside the intended area of the Palestinian state, will need to be relocated.

Can Israel take them in? Israel successfully absorbed one million immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, though some 2,000 households less successfully after the Sharon government relocated them from the Gaza Strip. These experiences show that the mission is possible, but proper preparations are vital. With the absorption process spread over several years, Israel will need to create approximately 4,000 new jobs a year over the transition period. This is reasonable, given that the Israeli economy has created some 80,000 new jobs a year over the past decade. Israel will also need to build some 6,000 housing units a year over the same period. This, too, should not be problematic, as national planning for new residential units over this period is approximately 120,000.

Israel’s strategic depth would no longer begin at the Jordan Valley, but hundreds of miles to the east, on the border between Jordan and Iraq

Thus, separation between Israelis and Palestinians is feasible geographically and demographically. What about the main challenge — security — which rightfully troubles most Israelis? While the Palestinians are too weak to offer the level of safety Israelis expect, Israel’s security establishment appreciates the professionalism of Palestinian security agencies and the contribution their coordination with Israel’s agencies makes to Israelis’ security.

In a two-state reality, security concerns on the Palestinian front can be met by demilitarization of the Palestinian state; arrangements allowing Israel to use Palestinian airspace, maintain a presence along the Jordan River for an agreed period, and operate early warning stations; as well as by US-supervised upgrading of Palestinian counter-terror capabilities. All these measures have been discussed during previous rounds of negotiations to strike a balance between respecting Palestinian sovereignty and meeting Israel’s security needs.

Regional security arrangements can buttress these local ones. The increasing confluence of interests between Israel and the pragmatic Arab countries — from Jordan and Egypt to Saudi Arabia and the UAE — in jointly addressing common threats posed by Iran, Islamic State and similar destabilizing forces creates an opportunity to craft a regional security structure.

Alas, these countries repeatedly convey the need for progress on the Palestinian front as a cover for going out in public with Israel. That is why, when The Washington Post and The New York Times both reported on February 3 that, in coordination with Egyptian authorities, Israel has been conducting clandestine airstrikes against jihadist groups in Sinai, Cairo prevented local media from reporting this and banned dissemination of foreign articles on this story.

Once progress toward an Israeli-Palestine agreement enables a regional realignment and cooperation, Israel’s strategic depth would no longer begin at the Jordan Valley, but hundreds of miles to the east, on the border between Jordan and Iraq. The same would apply to the south, once Israel’s security arrangements with Egypt are upgraded and can be made public.

We are both affiliated with Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), a network of more than 280 retired Israeli generals who are convinced that Israel’s security will be enhanced by these two layers of robust security arrangements that an agreement with the Palestinians would facilitate. Yet we recognize that a two-state solution may not now be within reach. In the meantime Israel must prevent a descent into Israeli-Palestinian violence and preserve conditions for separation until Israelis and Palestinians have leaders ready for the courageous, historic compromises needed to attain an agreement.

Our government and the Trump Administration should embrace the CIS Security First plan for enhancing security, reducing friction between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank, improving the daily lives of residents of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, restricting settlement construction to the already built-up areas in the blocs and Israel’s renouncing claims to territories beyond those blocs. The US administration is well versed in that plan. If it wishes to preserve conditions for its “ultimate deal” and to forge a regional security structure harnessing Israel’s and pragmatic Arab states’ resources to check Iran’s regional ambitions, it should encourage Israel to implement it – starting at the March 5th Trump-Netanyahu meeting.

Maintaining the viability of the two-state solution is vital for Israel’s security and important for US interests. Exposing the false claim that it is no longer feasible serves both.

Col. (Res.) Dr. Shaul Arieli, a former Head of the Negotiations Directorate under Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu and Barak, is a member of the Steering Committee of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS). Dr. Nimrod Novik, a former Senior Policy Adviser to Prime Minister Shimon Peres, Special Ambassador of the State of Israel and adviser to the Israeli National Security Council, is the Israel Fellow of the Israel Policy Forum and a member of the Executive and Steering Committees of CIS.

Survey: Most Likud Members Do Not Support Annexation, Favor a Peace Agreement

Survey: Most Likud Members Do Not Support Annexation, Favor a Peace Agreement


Tal Shalev | Walla | February 13, 2018

Recent right wing efforts to apply establish Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank have sparked a political storm. A new survey, however, shows that only 24% of the Jewish public believe annexation of territory in Judea and Samaria and continued control over the entire territory should be Israel’s political objective at this time; 55% think a peace agreement is the proper solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and 21% support unilateral separation. Prime Minister Netanyahu got into an awkward political row with the White House yesterday (Monday) after telling members of the Likud Central Committee that he was discussing the establishment of Israeli sovereignty with the US administration. The study reveals that even in his own party, most members support a final status agreement with the Palestinians while less than a third prefer annexation: 52% of Likud members favor a peace agreement, 31% annexation, and 18% unilateral separation.

The study, commissioned by Commanders for Israel's Security and carried out by Panel Project Sample, surveyed 602 Jewish voters.  It avoided using familiar and politically charged phrases such as “two states,” “disengagement,” “annexation” or “establishing sovereignty.”  Instead, it asked respondents “what do you consider the right political objective at this time,” and outlined three options.  First:  a final status agreement with the Palestinians including an agreed upon border, in which Israel is on one side of the line and a demilitarized Palestinian state on the other; Second:  civilian separation from the Palestinians and withdrawal of isolated settlements combined with an ongoing Israeli military presence in the area until a peace agreement is reached; Third, Israeli control over all the territory so that Israelis and Palestinians live side by side in Judea and Samaria – in other words, Israeli sovereignty.

The agenda of the governing coalition still includes a proposed law to establish Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish population of Judea and Samaria.  Consideration of the bill, sponsored by Yoav Kisch (Likud) and Betsalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) was postponed earlier this week at the request of Prime Minister Netanyahu, but the survey suggests that within coalition parties most people do not support annexation.

A breakdown of responses by party affiliation shows that even a majority of Jewish Home Party voters do not consider annexation to be the desired political objective.  Only 44% said they supported ongoing civilian control, while 35% preferred a final status agreement and 19% favored separation.  In the Yisrael Beitenu Party, 33% chose annexation as the preferred option, while 38% supported an agreement and 29% favored separation.  Of all coalition parties, support for continued civilian control was lowest in Kulanu.  Only 17% of respondents from that party supported it, while 57% favored a final status agreement and 26% chose unilateral separation.

The ultra-Orthodox parties, Shas and Torah Judaism, are split.  While only 26% of Torah Judaism voters think annexation is the preferred political option, 44% of Shas voters do, just like members of the Jewish Home Party.  48% of Torah Judaism members favored a peace agreement and 26% separation.  The figures for Shas were 44% and 13%, respectively.  In the opposition parties, an overwhelming majority supports a final status agreement:  67% of Zionist Camp voters, 63% of Yesh Atid voters, and 86% of Meretz voters.  A very small percentage support full, continued Israeli control over the entire territory:  4% of Zionist Camp voters, 10% in Yesh Atid and 7% in Meretz.  Since the survey was limited to Jewish voters it did not measure the views of Joint List supporters.

The chair of the organization that commissioned the survey:  annexation is pushing Israel down a slippery slope:

Commanders for Israel's Security is a non-partisan movement consisting of 250 former, senior officers in the IDF, the Israel Security Agency, the Mossad and the Israel Police.  The movement develops political and security initiatives.  Commanders for Israel's Security vehemently opposes annexation and the establishment of Israeli sovereignty on the West Bank, and believes that Israel must preserve conditions for a security-political agreement in the future.  Last year, a controversial campaign sponsored by the movement provoked a furor with billboards showing crowds of Palestinians accompanied by Arabic language headlines proclaiming “we will soon be the majority.”

The chair of Commanders for Israel's Security, Major Gen. (ret.) Amnon Reshef, told Walla!News “the annexation bill is a dangerous law that is pushing Israel down the slippery slope leading to a binational state and the end of the Zionist dream.  The proposed law is only 62 words long.  62 words that threaten to completely change the way we live, and bring the Zionist vision to an end.  62 words that fail to seriously weigh the implications of annexation on Israel’s economy, national security or strategic interests.”

According to Reshef, “you cannot hold an amateurish discussion on an issue of such dramatic significance.  We must have a serious debate and consider the very real and dangerous implications of annexation.  These 62 words carry with them 2.7 million Palestinians.  The Israeli government must make the responsible decision to take the issue of annexation off the agenda and set aside this populist and irresponsible legislation.”



Palestinians demonstrate for the 20th anniversary of closing Al-Shuhada' St. in Hebron

A Dangerous Course Israel Should Avoid


The signal came in two parts: As Mr. Pence reiterated America’s commitment to Israeli-Palestinian peace, every member of the governing right-wing coalition stayed silent while opposition legislators rose to applaud. More stunningly, the Knesset’s speaker, Yuli Edelstein, declared that Israel will “develop the whole of the country, including Judea and Samaria,” referring to the biblical names for the entire West Bank.

But none of the legislative initiatives toward that goal addresses the implications for Israel’s security that would come with them. That is a potentially fatal lapse, because what now seems to be under serious consideration would have disastrous consequences for Israel’s security and would undermine American interests throughout the Middle East.

It is no accident that none of the proposals suggests annexing the entire West Bank. Even the most zealous legislators realize that absorbing all of the West Bank’s 2.7 million Palestinians would threaten Israel’s existence as a Jewish and democratic state.

Consequently, those seeking to block prospects for separation from the Palestinians into two states look for a “luxurious annexation”: absorb as much of the land, with as little of the population, as possible.

Competing proposals put forward by the end of January included annexing all Jewish settlements in the West Bank without touching areas populated by Palestinians. Another would annex the Gush Etzion and Ariel settlement blocs plus the Jordan Valley. Yet another would create a region called “Greater Jerusalem.”

The most popular among annexationists was perhaps the most extreme: Education Minister Naftali Bennett’s proposal calling for the annexation of “only” the 60 percent of West Bank land designated Area C (Israel’s major settlement blocs now occupy about 7 percent of Area C). The area surrounds 169 “islands” of Palestinian towns (called Area A) and villages (Area B). Spread throughout Area C and in isolation from one another, these disconnected 169 communities, which constitute the remaining 40 percent of West Bank land, would not be annexed.

That’s the plan. But how would it work? What would be the fate of the 300,000 Palestinians now living in Area C? Logic dictates that Israel would have to offer them citizenship or a permanent residence status equal to that of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. Either status would have to bring free movement throughout Israel.

Even though movement from the West Bank is restricted by a security barrier, a few terrorists even now manage to enter Israel. With Area C annexed, identifying the few bad guys seeking to kill Israelis among the 300,000 new Palestinian Israelis from Area C (who would have unfettered access to Israel) would be difficult and costly.

The physical barriers required to prevent residents of Areas A and B from filtering into Area C en route to Israel would be a security nightmare. The perimeter of each of the 169 Palestinian islands would have to be treated as an international border. To separate the annexed land from the islands they encircle, 1,200 miles of new barriers would be required, along with hundreds of security gates that would allow controlled Palestinian movement from one enclave to another or from their enclaves to land of theirs in Area C (where 75 percent of the land is owned by Palestinians). The cost of building such a barrier system would be about $10 billion, and constructing the gates, along with associated security measures, would cost far more.

Palestinians would view Israeli annexation as a game-changer, foreclosing the option of a viable Palestinian state. The Palestinian Authority would collapse, and Israel would have to impose martial law and provide basic services to all Palestinians in the West Bank. Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has estimated the annual cost of social security alone for Palestinians at $6 billion. The yearly cost of health, education and other government services could be $5 billion more.

With the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian-Israeli security coordination would vanish. Many of the Palestinian troops would turn their weapons on Israelis, and the Palestinian street would most likely explode. This would leave Israel’s military and its domestic security agency, Shin Bet, to take full security responsibility not just in the newly annexed Area C, but also for the millions of Palestinians in Areas A and B, where Palestinian security agencies now operate in close coordination with the Israel Defense Forces.

This, in turn, would necessitate an increase in the I.D.F.’s presence throughout the West Bank; the standing army could not do the job alone and a mobilization of reserves would be required. This, too, would tax the Israeli economy and severely diminish military preparedness for other security threats, most directly from Syria, where Iran seeks to establish a presence, and Lebanon, where Hezbollah has become more experienced at combat.

Arab governments might not be able to ignore potentially violent domestic expressions of outrage at Israel’s actions. Accordingly, Israel’s diplomatic and security relationships with Egypt and Jordan might not survive, and chances for additional relationships would vanish.

Israel’s relationship with the American Jewish community would also be jeopardized, with annexation attempts further alienating large numbers of American Jews and accelerating the alarming trend of Jewish youth distancing themselves from Israel — a trend that undermines a major pillar of Israel’s long-term national security.

And not only Israel would suffer. All of this would come back to haunt the Trump administration, by undermining its efforts to forge an American-led regional coalition harnessing the resources of Israel and moderate Arab states to check Iran’s hegemonic ambitions — a goal that serves the strategic interests of all.

We are both former Israeli generals, but we are not alone in these comments. They are based on the findings of a task force composed of members of a network of over 275 retired generals from all of Israel’s security services, who retain the view that an eventual two-state solution is essential to Israel’s security, as well as to its Jewish and democratic character.

A two-state solution may not soon be in the cards. But preserving conditions for an eventual separation from the Palestinians must remain a primary Israeli strategic objective. No annexation fantasy can be allowed to undercut it.
It is the height of irresponsibility for Israeli politicians to propose annexation and for Americans, if they care at all about Israel, to egg them on.

Danny Yatom, a retired major general who was the director of the Mossad intelligence agency, is a member of the steering committee of Commanders for Israel’s Security. Amnon Reshef, a retired major general who was commanding general of Israel’s Armored Corps, is the chairman of the network.

Some of Israel's Top Fighters Now Push for Peace

Daniel Gordis |

To judge by the news reaching the U.S., Israel is a country lurching inexorably to the right. The New York Times recently published an article with the headline, “Emboldened Israeli Right Presses Moves to Doom 2-State Solution.”

A week later, the Times ran an opinion column that asked, rhetorically, “Is Liberal Zionism Dead?” and analogized Israel’s conduct in the West Bank to the Jim Crow South. “It’s impossible to say how long Israel could sustain such a system,” Michelle Goldberg wrote. “But the dream of liberal Zionism would be dead. Maybe, with the far right in power both here [in the U.S.] and there, it already is.”

The Economist agrees. “Politics in Israel,” a headline proclaimed not long ago, “is increasingly nationalistic.”

It is true that Israel’s right, which is traditionally less inclined to make concessions to the Palestinians for a peace deal, feels little pushback from once powerful but now anemic peace-seeking political left. Politicians like Naftali Bennett, the leader of the religious Jewish Home party who serves as education minister, continuously advocate that Israel annex significant portions of the West Bank, in large measure because he thinks that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is vulnerable from the right in the next elections.

Yet to portray Israel as being in the grip solely of the right is to ignore signs that more moderate voices may be galvanizing. A year ago, Israelis driving along the major highway that cuts through Tel Aviv were startled to see enormous signs in Arabic covering buildings. It felt, for a moment, as if one were driving in Ramallah and not in Tel Aviv. That was the point. The gigantic posters in the colors of the Palestinian flag said, “Soon we shall be the majority.” They were the work of a large group of Israeli former security officials, embarking on a campaign to warn that annexation of the Palestinian territories, as proposed by Bennett and others, spelled demographic doom for Israel. Do that, they insisted, and you will, indeed, soon be seeing Arabic and not Hebrew on the way to and from work.

The group, Commanders for Israel’s Security, is largely the brainchild of Amnon Reshef, who retired from the Israel Defense Forces as a major general and is regarded as one of the heroes of the Yom Kippur War. CIS has gathered the support of more than 270 seasoned officers from the army, the Mossad, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the police, all of them from the rank of brigadier general and above. According to Reshef, that represents 80 percent of those eligible; those still in the employ of the government or the army are precluded, by law, from joining.

CIS goes to great lengths to stress that it is not a left-wing organization, and has tellingly called its program “Security First.” The point, as Reshef noted at a recent rally in memory of Yitzhak Rabin -- who was assassinated in 1995 and has become the politician most associated with pursuit of peace with the Palestinians -- is that Israel should not take any steps that would make an eventual two-state solution impossible. As he puts it, and as the second wave of the billboard campaign accentuated, the goal is “Separation, Not Annexation.”

Even Major General Yaakov Amidror, no dove and long publicly on record that Israel had no partner on the Palestinian side, has changed his tune. Amidror, once national security adviser to Netanyahu who served 36 years in senior IDF posts and is now a researcher at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, believes that CIS has it right:

Palestinian statehood is not the real question currently before decision-makers. Rather, the question is whether Israel aspires to leave open the possibility of future negotiations towards a two-state solution, or it will act towards closing this option by expanding isolated settlements and entering an unstoppable process towards a bi-national state situation. … Israel must not jeopardize its existence by embarking on rash unilateral initiatives that would radically worsen its security situation – just to please proponents of ‘forward progress’ at any cost. This risk is not worth taking.

CIS’s proposal is straightforward. Israel should preserve conditions for a two-state agreement and take steps to start separating from the Palestinians, even if a peace partner does not exist at this moment. The IDF should maintain absolute security responsibility for the West Bank, but make clear that the military’s presence beyond the security barrier is temporary, a “security deposit” pending an eventual two-state agreement. In the meantime, Israel should take economic and military steps to improve conditions and diminish conflictual interactions between Israelis and Palestinians. Israel should state explicitly that its goal is two states for two peoples, and should do nothing that would preclude that arrangement.

CIS’s most visible supporter is former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who had also been IDF chief of staff. Barak recently made no secret of his exploring a return to politics; many suspect he’s aiming to become minister of defense under another prime minister. He is trusted by Israelis on security matters, and has publicly endorsed CIS. In addition to improving Israel’s security, he argues, such an initiative would restore the country’s moral high ground in the international community and make it harder for the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement to press its case.

The looming question for CIS, of course, is how many voters will be convinced by its argument. Barak understands that the challenge is to get a younger generation, now feeling secure and comfortable, to understand that the status quo cannot last forever and that seeking to maintain it could ultimately destroy Israel’s Jewishness or democracy. A recent study by the Israel Democracy Institute showed that, as has long been the case, the IDF, Israel’s president and its Supreme Court are the most trusted institutions among Jewish citizens of Israel; trust in the army is almost three times as high as that in the government or the Knesset. If CIS can get across its message that an overwhelming majority of former senior security officials support its platform, there might be a chance to sway the electorate toward a more moderate government.

Reshef and his partners are optimistic that the public is pliable. After last year’s “scare campaign” with its Arabic billboards, polls found that within a week, some 8 percent of those hostile to the two-state idea reported either having changed their minds or having second thoughts. Many, of course, will change their minds once again; the poll merely bolsters their view that Israeli skeptics can be swayed when they are presented with serious arguments about Israel’s future. Indeed, this year’s Nov. 4 Rabin Memorial Rally, coordinated for the first time by CIS, attracted some 85,000 people, twice the average of the preceding decade.

Will CIS, along with Israel’s center and left-of-center parties, succeed in shifting the country’s direction? It is far too early to tell. But claims that “liberal Zionism is dead” or that Israel will inevitably doom the two-state solution radically oversimply what is a complex society in an exceedingly complex region.

Daniel Gordis is senior vice president and Koret distinguished fellow at Shalem College in Jerusalem. Author of 11 books, his latest is "Israel: A Concise History of a Nation Reborn."

emek dotan


By Ben-Dror Yemini | Yedioth Ahronoth | September 27th, 2017

ידיעות אחרונות



There is something frustrating in the entirely predictable reactions to the terror attack. We once again received the same slew of clichés, the very same clichés, from left and right. Nearly all the representatives of the two camps are stuck in a division that long ago became obsolete. The left and the right are bankrupt. And the painful terror attack that was committed yesterday only prompted them to sink deeper into their own mud.

The left wants a “resumption of the peace process.” Did the peace process prevent terror attacks? Are the people who go out to commit terror attacks peace-seeking individuals who merely want to advance that process by slightly violent means? Lethal terror attacks were also committed while the peace process was alive and well. The largest wave of terrorism, the second Intifada, was launched after Israel crossed the proverbial Rubicon, and agreed for the first time ever to the establishment of a Palestinian state and to partitioning Jerusalem. That didn’t stop terrorism.

The right wants an “apt Zionist response.” In other words, it wants more and more settlement outposts that are misrepresented as being “new neighborhoods.” When the hell has mixing populations together ever solved problems? When has that ever worked? And when did making the PLO’s old dream of establishing one large and bi-national state become the Zionist goal? After all, that is precisely what the Palestinian rejectionist front wants. That is what the BDS activists want. So should the Israeli right wing make that dream come true? Should the response to terrorism be the enactment of the vision held by the terrorists?

We need to admit that there always has been and will be terrorism, with or without peace. Terrorism is also a problem in places where Sharia law is enforced; and terrorism is also a problem in Germany, England and France, none of which maintain checkpoints or an occupation. Terrorism has its own intrinsic logic, which isn’t directly related to what Israel either does or doesn’t do.

We need to remember and remind ourselves that Israel succeeded in the past at lowering the volume of terrorism. The second Intifada’s terrorism was defeated. The wave of knifing attacks has abated, even if it hasn’t completely ended. And terror attacks committed by lone assailants who aren’t affiliated with any particular organization have been and will continue to be a part of life on both sides of the Green Line.

But one thing is clear: the more that mutually-hostile populations—such as the residents of the settlement outposts on the one hand and Hamas supporters on the other—are mixed together, the higher the level of violence becomes. Anyone who wants more terrorism ought to approve establishing more settlement outposts near more and more villages. Separation won’t end terrorism, but it will reduce the volume of terrorism. The problem is that we currently don’t have a partner with whom we can reach an agreement about consensual separation. Even if Netanyahu were to offer the Clinton parameters to Abu Mazen tomorrow—and it’s a shame that he hasn’t—Abu Mazen’s rejection is entirely predictable.

All of which means that there is one plan that a good many people—from the non-dogmatic right and the non-dogmatic left— have been aiming for in the past several years: separation while retaining control. This is a plan that was drafted and is supported by many veterans of the security establishment. It’s known as the “commanders’ plan.” The Palestinians will receive [in the context of this plan] far more autonomy and far more self-government, on the one hand, whereas Israel will retain control over the border with Jordan and every other point that is vital for security, on the other.

There isn’t any magical solution to the problem of terrorism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But there is a path forward that will save us from the dream of a single bi-national state and will put us back on track towards a Jewish state. This path doesn’t have any of the starry-eyed utopia that is being sold to us by the people who bandy their clichés. But it does offer us the modest hope of more sanity and normalcy.


RETIRED GENERAL Amnon Reshef with the late Ariel Sharon during the Yom Kippur War.. (photo credit:RAMI BAR ILAN/IDF ARCHIVES)



Want to improve Israeli security, while making minimal, reversible concessions to the Palestinians, in order to keep a peace horizon possible someday when the stars align? Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS) has a plan – or, rather, several plans – for you.

The group of 270 ex-generals, Mossad, Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) and police officials have gotten together with the aim of seeking to improve Israeli security by offering minimal and what they see as reversible concessions to the Palestinians, to keep peace prospects on the horizon.

Ex-Maj.-Gen. Amnon Reshef, the leader of the group, has been advising Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and, most recently, the US peace team led by Jared Kushner and Jason Greenblatt.

In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Reshef says that both the Trump team and Netanyahu gave his group’s ideas “serious attention” in their numerous meetings and ongoing contacts, including as recently as about a month ago.

Since Reshef published a solo open letter to Netanyahu in 2014, offering political backing from people with top security credentials if the prime minister moved forward with consensus exchanges with the Palestinians toward peace, a nonpolitical group has formed.

Reshef served in the IDF in major wars and operations from 1956 to 1982, including a major 1960 campaign, the 1967 Six Day War and the 1970 War of Attrition.

He commanded a critical tank brigade during the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

At the outbreak of that war, Reshef’s unit was the only armored brigade on Israel’s defensive Bar-Lev Line facing Egyptian forces. His forces took heavy losses at the war’s outset then managed to maneuver so they could block a later Egyptian attack. Later they played a key role in breaking through Egypt’s defensive lines.

Reshef said he wrote his letter because he felt that Israel had failed to answer an Egyptian peace initiative in October 2014. The father of five and granddad of six said that “if I have responsibility for my kids and my grandkids, I must do something. The nation of Israel needs to be a light unto the nations and not be dragged, it needs to initiate” in the diplomatic arena.

When he and a friend discussed adding other supporters to their group, he thought 25 co-signers would be a success, with 40-50 a very high estimate.

He was shocked when 103 people swiftly added their signatures, and found himself fielding calls from journalists before he had contacted them or even published the letter.

Using the specific expertise of the former Mossad and Shin Bet chiefs alongside top IDF generals with every area of security covered, the group split up into committees. They put forward a list of down-to-earth plans called “Security First,” in 2016, then updated it in May and June. They plan to soon release another document they have already called their “List of Fundamental Beliefs.”

The CIS is flexible about ideology and tactics, focused on results, and remaining within a broad Israeli consensus.

Reshef said the group wants to achieve security by smart measures benefiting both the Israeli and Palestinian sides, and the main trick is “balancing shortversus long-term goals.”

Reshef said his group has “two simple messages: separation” from the Palestinians, and “keeping the nation whole.” The group’s ideas about a reciprocal negotiations process has evolved and changed since a wave of terrorism in 2015, when it called for Israel to take independent steps to calm the situation. “For people who say there is no partner, our basis is we don’t need a partner,” Reshef said.

But since the Trump administration has jumped into the game, the group has been ready to propose more mutual Israel and Palestinian steps.

Some of Reshef’s group’s ideas could be said to have been built on a security plan drawn up by US Gen. John Allen, a former special envoy for then-secretary of state John Kerry, to enable an IDF withdrawal from West Bank. The CIS has delved more deeply into the details than Allen’s plans, though, and adapted to fit evolving circumstances.

A June update to CIS’s plan proposed that Israel transfer and reclassify 10.5% of West Bank land from Area C to Area B, in three stages.

Under the Oslo Accords, which still function in defining the status of the West Bank, Area A is under Palestinian control, Area B is administered by the Palestinians, though Israel still has overriding security control, while Area C is under Israeli control.

Reshef’s proposed transfer called for reducing the number of isolated Palestinian villages in Area C from 169 to 74. Such a move would improve the lives of many Palestinians, afford freer movement and fewer checkpoints, without limiting IDF maneuverability in the West Bank, or withdrawing from any major positions or removing any settlements. The entire plan would involve yielding control of only 10.5% of the West Bank.

The three stages would be implemented on condition there were no surges of violence or terrorism, and in areas located at least 500 meters from the outer perimeter of the nearest Jewish settlement or barrier.

Reshef said the 500 meter figure was agreed to after detailed consultations with the group’s top West Bank security experts about how much warning time is needed for IDF forces to arrive to the scene of an incident.

The plan called for starting the transfers in quieter parts of the northern West Bank, then moving toward the central Ramallah area, followed by the tenser southern West Bank Hebron area at the last stage.

These transfers, followed by streamlined approval for more Palestinian building in areas likely to remain in Palestinian hands under any peace deal would freeup the Jewish settlement blocks to build more, he said. The thinking behind the idea is that Palestinians would see themselves as gaining ground, hence , more Jewish construction could ensue in areas seen as likely to remain in Israel’s hands under any peace deal.

Under the blueprint, Israel would fill in gaps of its West Bank barrier, in the Gush Etzion, Mount Hebron and Maaleh Adumim areas.

The Palestinians would commit to halting anti-Israel legal and diplomatic activities and start a serious process to reduce incitement against Israel, including a cessation of “martyr” salaries. Such ideas show his group is “not pro-Palestinian,” but rather pro-stability, Reshef said.

Another interesting idea CIS has is to build an interim Gaza port, instead of a permanent one which could take years to construction and prove a difficult fact on the ground to reverse.

Reshef’s group has spoken to Trump’s team “about how to translate our Security First plan into a negotiated process that is not merely unilateral,” said Reshef. There are informal contacts, Reshef said, adding that he wished to keep these confidential.

Israel Policy Forum fellow, former adviser to Shimon Peres and CIS steering committee member Nimrod Novik said that in two official meetings, Trump’s team “seemed…impressed since until then most people were either telling them ‘do not give anything to the Arabs’ or ‘do not trust Bibi, he will not do anything,’ but here was something” constructive and “they gave us very detailed attention.”

Novik mentioned a plan of normalization proposals which the US peace team brought to Israel from Sunni Arab states that would require two to three moves by Israel. “Now the prime minister needs to decide whether the strategic regional alliances” with those Sunni states justify taking certain risks, Novik said.

In multiple conversations with the Post, one of which was just days after Kushner’s August visit to Israel and the region, Reshef said he was impressed by Greenblatt and Ambassador David Friedman’s seriousness in reviewing issues up close. He said that their approach was “to come with a menu” of ideas to the sides “and not an edict” of what to do.

Reshef and CIS have also gotten serious attention from Netanyahu. He said that when Netanyahu met with the group that he at times had as many as eight aides assisting him in reviewing the materials.

He said that Netanyahu even called for additional aides to join the group mid-meeting to discuss specific areas of expertise. Netanyahu had also initiated a follow-up meeting, and that there have since been additional follow-up communications between Netanyahu’s and Reshef’s teams regarding CIS’s plans.

Crucially, Reshef said that there were no tense debates with Netanyahu as there had been with former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s peace team.

The implication was that Netanyahu dealt with CIS and its ideas purely as a group of security experts and did not do battle with them over politics.

There was also an implication that Netanyahu was more comfortable with a conversation about goodwill moves on the ground, minus pressures for a permanent West Bank withdrawal.

Reshef and CIS have not taken a formal stand on how the IDF should fight the next war with Hamas or Hezbollah. But he said, “we should do everything to stop the next war…we think progress on the Israeli-Palestinian track can help our situation with Iran, Syria” and other adversaries.

Another upside of his group’s recommendations is that, “everything is reversible. Israel is strong enough,” Reshef said. He said that “the only existential danger is that Israel will lose its Jewish majority. The other risks are on a spectrum that Israel must be ready to struggle with.”

“The consensus of CIS is that our power today gives us the room to take chances… Taking action, obviously there are risks, but the risks of inaction are existential,” Reshef said.


The Time Has Come to Make a Choice

Speech by Tamir Pardo, former Head of the Mossad, at the 2017 Meir Dagan Conference on Security and Strategy, the Netanya Academic College, March 21, 2017

This past weekend we celebrated my granddaughter’s seventh birthday.  Watching her I thought to myself, “What will Israel look like when she is drafted into the IDF in another ten years?  What kind of country will we leave to our children when they grow to adulthood?”

To be honest, I’m concerned, and becoming more so every day.  After forty years of service in Israel’s security forces, I’m filled with apprehension.  Have our efforts served to promote the Zionist vision of restoring the Jewish People to its historic homeland, or will it all prove to have been a short term, tribal episode?

The establishment of the State of Israel was made possible, among other things, by feelings of guilt on the part of the allies in the wake of the holocaust, together with the global process of decolonization and the emergence of the cold war, whose first signs had already begun to appear.

Ben Gurion took advantage of these unique circumstances, taking a huge risk in the process.  A new and still unorganized state faced off against established countries with regular armies and an Arab population that saw the establishment of a Jewish state as a disaster that must be prevented at all costs.

Without getting into a lengthy chronical of events, let me point out that, once again, we find ourselves in unique constellation of historic forces, circumstances that offer us the chance to firmly anchor the Jewish State as an essential and enduring part of the Middle East.

Peace with Egypt and Jordan was achieved when these countries understood that Israel could not be defeated militarily no matter what combination of forces they brought to bear.

It was this understanding that led Sadat to make his historic choice.

From the very beginning, it was clear that the Palestinian issue is what stands between a temporary, provisional arrangement and peace.  At the end of the day, a peace agreement derives its strength from an understanding between peoples, not an accord between governments.

Popular hostility in Moslem countries resulting from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has made normalization with Jordan and Egypt impossible, and has rendered anything other than secret agreements with other Arab countries impossible.  The Palestinian issue serves as a categorical limitation on the establishment of formal relations between Arab states and Israel.

By all accounts, Israel is an unprecedented wonder

The IDF is the strongest military force in the region, and one of the most powerful on earth.  Israel has one of the world’s best and most effective security establishments, an economy growing at an unrivalled pace by western standards, an enviable debt-to-GDP ratio and constantly expanding foreign currency reserves.  The Shekel is considered one of the world’s strongest currencies.  Israel is an innovation leader in cyber, information technology, agriculture and the internet of things, robotics, medicine, space, industry and security.  All this has been achieved without natural resources (it will be a long time until natural gas discoveries begin paying off) and in the face of constant security threats and repeated rounds of warfare on an unprecedented scale.  Why, then, should we be concerned?

The Jewish State faces one, existential threat

Israel is sitting on a bomb that has been ticking incessantly over the years. Yet for some reason, we have chosen to bury our heads deep in the sand, feeding ourselves alternative facts and creating all kinds of new, external threats so as to avoid having to face reality.

Two religious groups of roughly equal size – Jews and Moslems -- reside between the Jordan River and the Sea.  There are 1.7 million Arabs in Israel, between two and 2.5 million on the West Bank and another two million in Gaza.

Israeli Arabs are full and equal citizens.  But the non-Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria have lived under Israeli military rule since the Six Day War.  We ourselves have determined that territory is subject to military law, and under the rule of the IDF.

As for the Gaza Strip, despite Israel’s complete withdrawal, we still bear responsibility.  Water, electricity, trade – all are subject to Israeli control.  Because of our blockade of Gaza, we are answerable for the humanitarian situation in that territory as well.

Three economies coexist between the Jordan and the Sea, all operating with Israeli currency:  the Israeli economy, with a GDP per person of $36,000; the economy of the West Bank, with a GDP amounting to some $3,000 per head, less than 10% of Israel’s; and that of the Gaza Strip, with a GDP per person of between $1,000 and $1,500, or just 3% of Israel’s.  The level of health, educational and welfare services in Israel is incomparably higher that of the West Bank and Gaza.

Back to my granddaughter’s birthday.  What, exactly, do we want?  What do we aspire to as a nation?  How do we imagine the State of Israel in another decade or two?

As I said, a unique constellation of forces offers us an unprecedented, one-time opportunity.  Upheavals in the Middle East have led moderate Arab countries, from Morocco in the west to the Gulf states in the east to see Israel as a strategic asset, a countervailing force to regional threats, an ally in promoting stability and prosperity.

The war against ISIS has shaped the Middle East agenda to a large extent, with various mutations of Al Qaeda fighting a war against the infidels – Sunnis above all.  Most theatres of war in the Middle East are today in Sunni areas.  The struggle against the remaining infidels – Christians, Shiites and others – is not currently their main objective.  The first coalition against ISIS led by the US included both Sunni states and western countries.  Negotiations on the Iranian nuclear deal were carried out at the same time.  The conclusion of those negotiations and the signing of an agreement made Iran a central player in the Middle East for the first time in modern history.

How we reached this point is another issue entirely. The fact is, however, that Iran is now a dominant power in the struggle against ISIS.  Bashar’s coalition, which includes Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, has turned Iran into one of the “good guys.”  What’s more, Iranian forces and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are fighting side by side with American-supported forces in the fight against ISIS in Iraq.  Iranian involvement in the war on ISIS is evident on virtually all fronts.

In cooperation with the Iraqi and Syrian governments, Iran is busy resettling Shiites in cities villages throughout the region, creating a belt of Shiite control from Teheran to Beirut.  Iranian influence is a palpable threat to the moderate, Sunni states.

On the one hand, these developments present a potentially unprecedented threat to Israel. On the other hand, a rare confluence of interests between Israel and the moderate Arab states has emerged.  Will we be wise enough to be incorporated into this regional effort for the first time?  It is worthwhile to remember that no opportunity lasts forever, and missed opportunity may not recur.

With the situation in constant flux, today’s balance of power affords Israel a rare chance to build relations with a number of Moslem countries.  Unfortunately, much of what has been published in recent years is misleading.

Secret relations that take place “under the radar” are by their nature transitory.  The key to regional integration is to build economic and social bridges between countries, facilitating trade and tourism.  None of this will happen without a resolution of the Palestinian problem.  The deeper, the more open and above board relations are, the better suited they will be to survive the inevitable shocks and disruptions that take place from time to time.  Israel’s regional integration is a key to its very survival.

Solutions that were creative 20 or 30 years ago are no longer relevant.  Yesterday is history. 

To quote a friend of mine who lives in the Middle East, “The Jews and Arabs have the same dream, only in reverse. The Jews dream they will wake up one morning and not find a single Arab between the Jordan and the sea.  The Arabs have the same dream, only in theirs, it’s the Jews who disappear.  We Arabs have awoken from our dream.  We know you are here.  You have tremendous advantages. Let’s join hands and make the entire a region a better place.  The Jews – you haven’t woken up yet.”

Israel must choose what it wants, and what is in its best interests.  Not just for today, but for the years ahead.  The time has come to take our heads out of the sand, look squarely at the demographic reality and face up to the question of what kind of country we want to live in.  Life in the shadow of alternative facts holds out only disaster for the future of the Zionist enterprise.

The writing is on the wall.  All we have to do is lift our eyes and read it.

The risk Ben Gurion faced when he declared the establishment of the State was ten times greater than the risks entailed in the decisions we face today.  Israel requires brave leadership to navigate a complex reality and guide the country down a new path.

Let me conclude with a quote from Alice in Wonderland that describes perfectly how Israel is being led today:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to."
"I don't much care where –"
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go.”

“–so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

The State of Israel has chosen not to decide, to shut its eyes and keep walking in the hope that the conflict just resolves itself.  Maybe the Arabs will disappear one day.  Maybe there will be some kind of miracle.  May the US or the international community impose a solution, making it easier for us to justify whatever measures need to be taken.  Or perhaps we’ll just end up in a binational state one day, unable to untie the Gordian knot that binds the two populations.  Who knows?  That’s what happens when you don’t decide.

Time does not stop.  Reality is constantly changing, and with it the conditions and alternatives for a solution to the conflict.

Palestinian autonomy, as envisioned in the peace treaty with Egypt, was never implemented and ceased to be relevant.  The Jordanian option evaporated as well.  As time goes on our options continue to shrink as we approach the point of no return in which the only remaining alternative is a binational state where all citizens share equal rights.

Is this what we want?  Is this the Zionist vision?  Is this the kind of country we want our children to inherit?

We are fast approaching “injury time” as the Middle East peace match comes to a close.   The clock is ticking away.  The time has come to take a hard look at the facts -- not the alternative facts – and decide.

The time has come to make a choice.