Remarks by Yuval Rabin at the Memorial Ceremony for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Even 21 years later, one cannot stand at this spot dispassionately.  The anger comes back.  The blood boils.  Here, at this very spot, a Jew took out a gun and shot the prime minister in his back.  There can be no acceptance.  And it all happened in the wake of a long campaign of incitement.  We cannot gloss it over.  Some people are trying to gloss over it.  There was incitement, there still is incitement. . .

It is beyond belief that the despicable murderer left here that night, standing on his feet, a smile on his face.

The gun that fired was but a promo for the horror film that we are living through now, and it continues to claim victims.  The gun that fired was but a promo for the horror film that we are living through now, and it continues to claim victims.

The IDF is a creature of your making, of your predecessors and successors.  There is no better crucible of leadership.  Which raises the question why you are virtually absent from positions of national leadership.  You, who were trained to lead the way – your voices are not heard, and you are not involved in leading the country.

There is no substitute for people like you in leading this country.

A call must go out from here to the prime minister and the head of the opposition, calling upon them to revoke the draconian, exclusionary law mandating a cooling off period, and allow someone who has spent years defending Israel to continue making a contribution and playing a role in national leadership.

This is the path and the legacy of my father, of blessed memory.

Remarks by Major General (Res.) Amnon Reshef at the Memorial Ceremony for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin

Remarks by Major General (Res.) Amnon Reshef, Chairman of Commanders for Israel's Security, at the Memorial Ceremony for Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, of Blessed Memory, on the 21st Anniversary of his Murder

We, members of Commanders for Israel's Security – hundreds of Generals in the IDF and their equivalents in the Israel Security Agency, the Mossad and the Israel Police – have come together this evening to salute the memory of Prime Minister, Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff, Lieutenant General Yitzhak Rabin, and to renew our commitment to his legacy.

We, who learned from – and taught – generations of commanders to lead the charge against the enemy, who have ourselves led soldiers in battle and lost many of them to the hellfire of war;

We, officers in the Israel Security Agency, the Mossad, the Israel Police and the Border Police who fought terrorism in Israel and abroad and stood guard over the security of Israel's citizens;

We, who know firsthand the terrible cost of war, who carry in our hearts the barren shell casing of pain and loss wherever we turn;

We, who remember the faces of our comrades, commanders and the men under our command as if they left us only yesterday;

We have come here tonight to pay our respects to Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who fought in all Israel wars but fell in the battle for peace.

We, his soldiers, those who follow the path he laid out for us, have come together to continue the battle he led. We seek nothing for ourselves other than to guarantee a future of peace and security for our children and grandchildren, in accordance with the vision of Israel's founders.

We, who faced and overcame difficult moments on the battlefield and other theatres of war; who never gave up; we vow here, today that we will never -- but never -- lose hope.  Even during these trying times, when "the storm is still mounting, our heads remain unbowed."

We will continue to help strengthen the State of Israel, to promote its security and strive to achieve peace with our neighbors.

We will fight to preserve Israel's character as the democratic state of the Jewish People, by guaranteeing its security and separating from the Palestinians.

Those who mistake our intentions as a sign of weakness we will strike mercilessly.  But it is incumbent upon us to sit down and speak with those who seek to compromise with us and reach an agreement.  This is our mission.

Though our sword is ever sharp and ready for battle, we do not wish to live by it alone.

Yitzhak Rabin was a fearless warrior and an admired leader.  His path is our path, his faith is our faith, his mission is our mission.

From this memorial site I call upon the Government of Israel to pull itself together, adopt Rabin's legacy and lead the State of Israel.  The fate of the nation is in your hands!  Launch an Israeli initiative!  Be fearless, and take the country forward instead of falling back on populist slogans!  An Israeli initiative that promotes our security and improves our standing in the world will serve to heal the divisions in Israeli society.

We have no other nation!  We have no other country!

Dear members of the Rabin family, we know how tragic is your loss, how deep your longing.  Even 21 years later, we still remember Yitzhak's voice, his laughter, the way he looked you straight in the eye, the way he cut to the chase when he spoke.

Your personal loss is our national loss.

Yitzhak's absence has been felt every single day since he was taken from us by a Jewish terrorist.

But with every passing day our commitment only grows: to his legacy;  to the path of peace and security.

Commanders for Israel's Security salute you, Yitzhak Rabin.  Friend, commander, leader.

May his memory be for a blessing.









A practical plan for an israel-palestinian peace

A freeze on Israeli construction activities east of the fence is proposed.



As President Barack Obama concluded his meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, his ambassador to Israel, Daniel Shapiro, told Israel’s Channel 10 News that “the question President Obama is asking himself is: Can the U.S. contribute to the effort to preserve the objective of two states for two peoples?”

The ambassador added: “This could be a statement we make or a resolution or an initiative at the U.N.…which contributes to an effort to be continued by the next administration.”

This interview was the most concrete reference by a senior administration official to the policy implications of the president’s statement the previous week while hailing the just-signed U.S.-Israel military aid agreement:

We will also continue to press for a two-state solution to the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, despite the deeply troubling trends on the ground that undermine this goal.

This sequence of statements reinvigorated expectations that the administration is preparing for one last go at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

We share the president’s desire for a two-state solution and are convinced that Israel’s parting with the Palestinians in a negotiated two-state arrangement is essential for Israel’s security and for maintaining its democratic and Jewish character for generations. Unfortunately, such an arrangement is not currently attainable. As Netanyahu’s and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’s speeches at the U.N. indicated, distrust between them and the peoples on both sides is strong.

But inaction is not an option. Moreover, seven attack attempts in Israel over the past weekend alone accentuated the urgency of tending to the conflict. Moments of relative calm are deceptive. The status quo is unsustainable.

For these reasons, Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), comprised of some 230 retired Israeli generals and heads of Israel’s security services, developed a comprehensive plan that addresses Israel’s current security challenges and improves conditions on the ground for Palestinians, while safeguarding conditions for a future permanent status agreement compatible with Israeli security needs and Palestinian aspirations for dignity and sovereignty.

Once implemented, it will also restore credibility to Israel’s commitment to the two-state outcome, which in turn promises to improve Israel’s standing in the region and elsewhere in the international community.

CIS leaders presented their plan to Prime Minister Netanyahu, Knesset members and the Israeli public. Israel Policy Forum (IPF), CIS’s American partner, is bringing it to the attention of U.S. policymakers and the U.S. public.

The plan, “Security First,” calls for Israel to cease merely responding and, instead, take the initiative by implementing specified security, civil-economic and political measures concurrently in East Jerusalem, on the West Bank and vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip.

While this interim plan calls for continued IDF military control over the West Bank as a security deposit until a permanent status agreement is reached, many of the security measures proposed will check terrorist infiltration into Israel, reduce friction between the two populations and complete construction of the West Bank security fence.

The CIS proposal also entails a freeze on Israeli construction activities east of the fence; legislating a voluntary evacuation-compensation law to enable settlers who wish to relocate west of the fence to do so; establishing an administrative council and funding a development plan for the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; and authorizing Palestinian infrastructure, agriculture and housing development in Area C (60 percent of the West Bank that is under full Israeli control).

Perhaps the most dramatic element is the CIS call on the Israeli government to demonstrate its commitment to the two-state eventuality by issuing an unequivocal statement announcing that Israel has no claim to sovereignty over Palestinian areas beyond the security fence (some 95 percent of the West Bank) and that East Jerusalem Palestinian neighborhoods will be part of the future State of Palestine.

The plan, which can be found at Two-State Security Project, undercuts the argument that progress toward a two-state solution is incompatible with security. To the contrary, the CIS senior security experts, with a cumulative service of more than 6,500 years, state unequivocally that security for Israelis (and Palestinians) can be improved today—even before negotiations—and in the future once a permanent status agreement is implemented.

If the measures prescribed in “Security First” are executed, they will change dynamics between Israelis and Palestinians, enable Israel to explore regional opportunities for cooperation with moderate Arab states against common adversaries such as Iran and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), and improve its standing in the international community.

Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and all who wish well to the two peoples—including candidates for national office in the U.S.—should embrace this plan. As always, endorsement and support by the American administration will be essential.

Amnon Reshef is founder and chairman of Commanders for Israel’s Security. David Halperin is executive director of Israel Policy Forum, a nonpartisan U.S. organization that advocates for a viable two-state solution

Israeli generals initiate own security plan, urge unilateral action

by Dan Pine, j. staff | Thursday, September 22, 2016 |


Reshef, along with 102 other IDF generals, wrote to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last year, urging him to take unilateral action to improve security for Israelis and Palestinians, and thus preserve prospects for a two-state solution.

He never received a reply, but from there Reshef, 78, launched Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), an organization that now includes more than 200 former Mossad, IDF, police and Shabak (internal security) senior officials. Their mission is to promote an initiative that will end the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians.

They call the initiative “Security First,” and though it includes provisions included in previous proposals, this one doesn’t require negotiations or international approval to move forward. Israel can go it alone.

“Israel doesn’t need a partner to conduct or implement this plan,” Reshef said during a visit to J.’s office in San Francisco. “It can be done independently without a second or third party. There are no more excuses.”

Working with the Israel Policy Forum, an organization that promotes the two-state solution, Reshef is touring the United States to tout the plan. He says the aim of “Security First” is to enhance the security of Israelis and Palestinians by taking unilateral steps in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Those steps include a freeze on Jewish settlement construction east of the security fence, encouraging Jews in the West Bank to relocate back to Israel proper, and for Israel to unambiguously renounce territorial claims to Palestinian lands.

If that sounds too accommodating to the Palestinians, the plan also calls for completing the entire security barrier between Israel and the West Bank (60 percent of it has been constructed) as well as sustaining Israel’s military presence in the territory until passage of a permanent status agreement.

Reshef blamed right-wing politicians aligned with the settler movement for preventing completion of the fence. A completed barrier would establish a de facto border with a Palestinian state, he said, which is unacceptable to those hoping to annex the West Bank or maintain the status quo indefinitely.

“When you speak in private with Palestinians, they would accept the security fence as long as it is part of a wider future plan,” Reshef added. “They don’t care about the fence.”

In Gaza, which is under the control of Hamas, “Security First” would increase the supply of goods Israel allows through the border, augment water and electricity service, authorize more Israeli work permits for Gazans and facilitate construction of a seaport under the auspices of the Palestinian Authority and not Hamas — which since 1997 has been designated by the U.S. State Department as a foreign terrorist organization.

Finally, in Jerusalem, the plan would complete the security barrier between the city and the West Bank, beef up law enforcement in Palestinian neighborhoods to reduce crime, smuggling and terror, draft a master plan for a Palestinian Jerusalem, and maintain the status quo of Muslim control of the Temple Mount.

These are only a fraction of measures called for in the plan (available at

“My colleagues were starving for a change,” Reshef said of the CIS. “They are as worried as me. We will support any leader who accepts our vision and plan. Israel can and should take the initiative.”

Reshef carries considerable weight in Israeli society. He is a war hero, having led the vastly outnumbered 14th armored brigade across the Suez Canal in the 1973 Yom Kippur War, including fighting in one of the bloodiest tank battles in history. “I lost 302 people,” he reflected. “I’m here because [the Egyptians] missed me.”

He rose through the ranks to become a major general, and later retired to private life though he remains in the reserves. Years later, the ever-worsening state of affairs between Israel and the Palestinians brought him back to public life.

Reshef believes the root of Palestinian terror is deteriorating economic conditions in Gaza and the West Bank. When asked about relentless Palestinian incitement against Jews and Israelis, he says that problem can be dealt with in a permanent status agreement. For now, he believes, security comes first.

“We concern ourselves with what can be done on the Israeli side,” he said. “We don’t want to blame the other party. Let’s see what can be done by us independently.”

So far, Reshef and his colleagues have presented the plan to several Israeli government figures, including Netanyahu and President Reuven Rivlin. In November, his group will launch a media campaign to win over the Israeli public to the “Security First” package.

And he stresses it is a package that should not be amended like a bill in Congress.

“If someone thinks he is clever enough to adopt just a part of it, we say you are not solving the problem, you postpone it,” Reshef notes. “But eventually you will face it once again and then it might be more terrible.”

Ehud Barak: Netanyahu’s reckless conduct endangers Israel

By Ehud Barak | September 14 2016 | Washington Post


During the past two years, a sense of gloom has taken over my country, as pride in Israel’s accomplishments and self-confidence grounded in reality have given way to fear-mongering, victimhood and internal quarrels.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu enabled a militant, nationalist minority to carry out a hostile takeover of his party, Likud; to form a majority in his cabinet; and thus to hijack our national agenda in the service of a messianic drive toward, as it’s often put, “a single Jewish state, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea.” This overarching ambition is bound to culminate in either a single, binational state, which, within a generation, may have a Jewish minority and likely a Bosnia-like civil war, or else an apartheid reality if Palestinian residents are deprived of the right to vote. Both spell doom for the Zionist dream.

Netanyahu’s reckless conduct has also undermined Israel’s security. Israel has reached a new military-aid agreement for the next decade with the United States. The damage produced by Netanyahu’s irresponsible management of the relations with the White House is now fully manifest. Israel will receive $3.8 billion a year — an important contribution to our security, but far less than what could have been obtained before the prime minister chose to blatantly interfere with U.S. politics. Moreover, given the more than 20 percent cumulative rise in the cost of arms since the last 10-year agreement entered into force (in 2007), the newly agreed amount represents no greater purchasing power — and even these funds will be conditioned on Israel refraining from requesting additional funding from Congress. Accentuating the degree of mistrust, according to new details reported Wednesday, the administration secured an Israeli written commitment to return any additional money that Congress might provide. In the past, Congress has added — with White House consent — $600 million to $700 million every year for Iron Dome and other defense systems.

Additionally, Israel will have to accept a gradual reduction of more than $750 million a year in funds for our defense industries. Consequently, either vital security projects will be canceled or the same amount will be reduced from important domestic programs.

Expressing our opposition to the Iran nuclear deal was certainly legitimate. But instead of holding a candid dialogue behind closed doors with President Obama, Netanyahu went behind his back to deliver a speech to Congress, shaking the foundations of bipartisan support for Israel and dividing Jewish opinion.

Likewise at home, Netanyahu has consistently nourished fear of existential threats and unleashed ghosts of enemies from within, when domestic realities called for unity and confidence and regional developments required a sober assessment and steady hand.

The Middle East is a tough neighborhood. Hezbollah, Hamas, the Islamic State and a more potent Iran are not imaginary adversaries. Yet as a former prime minister, defense minister and Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, I state unequivocally: While never to be taken lightly, none of these forces constitutes an existential threat.

Despite seven wars, two intifadas and a host of military operations, Israel has emerged as the most successful nation-building project of the 20th century: powerful scientifically, economically and militarily with a vibrant culture. What made this possible is sorely lacking today: a vision that unifies; an action plan that is realistic; and bold, far-sighted leadership that navigates both while holding a compass, not a weather vane. Israel needs a policy that restores credibility to our relations with Washington; prioritizes the unity of the people over the unity of the land; enhances security via cooperation with like-minded nations; and promotes democratic values rather than messianic visions.

Our people need a policy that does not seek shelter in arguing over the availability of a Palestinian partner but rather takes the initiative by implementing the Security First plan recently presented by more than 200 of Israel’s most-respected former top commanders. The plan would bolster our security while preserving the two-state option and prospects for regional cooperation.

Under Security First, Israel would withdraw none of its forces and hold overall responsibility for security over the West Bank as a “security deposit” until an agreement with the Palestinians ushered in other security arrangements. It calls for completion of the security fence around the West Bank major settlement blocks; a freeze on Israeli construction activities east of the fence; legislating a voluntary evacuation-compensation law to enable settlers who wish to relocate west of the fence to do so; establishing an administrative council and funding a development plan for the Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem; securing the status quo in all holy sites; authorizing Palestinian infrastructure, agriculture and housing development in the 60 percent of the West Bank that is under Israeli control, and issuing an unequivocal Israeli statement reiterating its commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and announcing that Israel has no claim to sovereignty over Palestinian areas beyond the security fence.

An alternative policy would also welcome the opportunity for an international conference on Middle East issues with leading moderate Muslim countries and embrace the Arab Peace Initiative as a basis for negotiations, subject to certain essential modifications.

We are strong and should be self-confident enough to take the initiative. Failure to alter the current course will exacerbate the challenges to Israel’s security, well-being, international standing and domestic cohesiveness. On the other hand, acting decisively will secure the Israel we fought for and unleash the talent and resourcefulness of our people to attain as-yet-untold achievements.

If the government doesn’t steer away from its dangerous path, it will have to be replaced by a more responsible, attentive and courageous one — headed by whomever the people choose.

To Washington Post :


Robert Wexler presenting the CIS 'Security First' Plan

The Honorable Robert Wexler
President, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace


House Committee on Foreign Affairs
Financially Rewarding Terrorism in the West Bank
July 6, 2016

Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, Members of the Committee.

Israel is often coined the Start-Up Nation highlighting the Jewish State's economic miracle and technological and scientific achievements. Just as remarkable is another defining characteristic. Against all odds, Israeli military forces have successfully defended against an onslaught of hostile forces since 1948.

For those of us who are Zionists, the unprecedented security collaboration between the United States and Israel is a source of tremendous pride. The joint development of missile defense technologies, all-time high intelligence sharing, historic military training exercises, and the delivery of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, all demonstrate the unbreakable bond between us and Israel. American administrations and Congress after Congress have ensured Israel's qualitative military advantage. Israel's defense and intelligence coordination with Egypt and Jordan is unprecedented.

Despite these positive developments, the Middle East Quartet released its report last week asserting that the policies of both Israelis and Palestinians have distanced a two state outcome, creating a dynamic in which a one state reality has taken root. The Quartet calls on the Palestinian Authority to stop incitement of violence, bolster efforts to prevent terrorism and condemn attacks against Israelis. Likewise, the Quartet calls on Israel to cease settlement expansion, transfer civilian authority to the PA in Area C of the West Bank and bluntly questions Israel's long-term intentions.

With this backdrop of despair and lack of trust on both sides, a stunning development has occurred. The most compelling group now advocating for a two state solution is the Israeli security establishment. Two weeks ago, a group of over 200 retired generals or equivalent rank from the Israeli Defense Forces, Mossad, Shin Bet, and Israel Police redirected the political discourse. Boldly, Israel's most patriotic soldiers cast aside the question of whether Israel does or does not have a genuine partner for peace. Rather, these security giants demand that Israel once again determine her own destiny.

The Israeli plan, labeled Security First, assumes: a two-state final status arrangement is not currently feasible; it is impossible to eradicate terrorism through force alone; continuation of the diplomatic impasse will lead to further violence; and Israel is strong enough to offer an independent initiative that combines security, civil-economic, and political measures.

In the security realm, the IDF will remain deployed in the West Bank until a final status arrangement is reached and the security fence will be completed enhancing security within the Green Line and for 80% of Israelis living in the West Bank.

In the civil-economic realm, the welfare of Palestinians will be improved by establishing an international fund to rehabilitate Palestinian communities and increasing work permits. Importantly, the Knesset should pass an ‘Evacuation-Compensation Law’ encouraging settlers living east of the security fence to relocate west of the fence. What an impactful message that would send about Israeli intentions.

In the political realm, Israel should accept the Arab Peace Initiative, with adjustments to accommodate Israel’s security and demographic needs as a basis for negotiations; acknowledge that Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem will be part of the future Palestinian state, and implement a freeze on settlement expansion east of the security fence.

In Gaza, reconciliation with Turkey is an opportunity to hold the cease fire, address humanitarian needs and promote economic development including a sea port subject to Israeli security and PA control.

Mr. Chairman, why have Israel's most decorated security officials grown frustrated with their own government's lack of initiative? Israel's top military minds have come to understand the inescapable truth—that the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state is not a gift to the Palestinians. Rather, it is the only way Israel can remain a Jewish and Democratic state.

Demographic trends clarify the need for separation. The Jewish population from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River is now 52%; in 2020, it will be 49% and in 2030, only 44% Jewish. Separation into two states following the Security First plan is essential for Israel to remain a democratic, Jewish majority state.

Thank you.

Barak Endorses the CIS 'Security First' Plan

Agreements – OUT Arrangements – IN

By Ben Dror Yemini
Yediot Aharonot, June 3, 2016

The program of Commanders of Israel’s Security offers an a refreshing alternative for those of us who are tired with both the creeping annexation of the right and left wing illusions about a peace agreement. Agreements – OUT. Arrangements – IN. You don’t have to agree with every word of their proposal. Some ideas still need more ironing out. But it seems to be a plan that can extricate us from the interminable dichotomy of left versus right. There are, it appears, other options. And that is important.

In the midst of a round of shuttle diplomacy by US Secretary of State John Kerry in January, 2014, then Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman told the British Telegraph that “Kerry’s proposal is the best we can get. We would do well to accept it.” Details of the proposal were leaked to Thomas Friedman who published them in the New York Times on January 29th:

Two states for two peoples on the basis of the 1967 borders; the large settlement blocs to remain under Israeli sovereignty; a solution to the refugee problem that does not involve resettling them in Israel; unprecedented security arrangements in territories to be evacuated by Israel. After details were made public a few days later on February 7th, Lieberman reiterated his support for the plan. He also asserted – this time in Hebrew – that “the unity of the people is more important than the unity of the land.” He made exactly the same statement again this week. Lieberman also attacked cabinet minister Naftali Bennet for opposing Kerry’s plan. Netanyahu tended to support it as well, though he never said so publicly. The Palestinians rejected it out of hand. Even when the US administration put forward an improved version calling for dividing Jerusalem, the Palestinians – as usual -- turned that down too. Lieberman, meanwhile, didn’t give up. In the ensuing months he made more moderate statements, even criticizing Netanyahu when the latter sharpened his rhetoric against the administration.

Netanyahu, so it appears, is now on the same page as Lieberman. This week he even said that he “finds positive elements in the Arab peace plan.” Netanyahu praising the Arab peace plan? Normally this would have been grounds for another “big bang” on the Israeli right, but nothing happened. No expressions of joy on the left, no anger on the right. As Amnon Abramovich said this week, the left is not impressed because they don’t believe him, and the right is not impressed because they don’t believe him.

On second thought, maybe something real is changing, not just the rhetoric. Housing Minister Yoav Galant said this week at a meeting of the Conference of Presidents in New York that the government is not building in the settlements. This is the policy that Netanyahu has difficulty stating publicly. To be sure, the truth of the matter is a bit confusing since building is taking place. It continues under the auspices of the Settlement Division, controlled by Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel. Galant warned against the mixing of populations and the creation of a one state reality. We know what happened in the Balkans, he said, and we therefore need an arrangement, even if the Palestinians do not want one.

Even if nothing comes of the French peace conference or the Egyptian-Saudi initiative, Israel’s willingness to compromise is valuable in and of itself. The possibility that none of these initiatives will lead to an agreement should not be cause for despair. There’s a one-sided arrangement in the wings, and it is attracting new supporters, as Nahum Barnea points out in his column.

Hundreds of former security officials have published “a plan to improve Israel’s security and political situation.”

Some members of the group have well know positions. They took part in a variety of initiatives and organizations in the past, mainly on the dovish side of the political spectrum. Their experiences, however, have led them to recalibrate their direction. They no longer place their hopes in a Palestinian partner who continues to insist on the right of return. Today they ask themselves what Israel can do to extricate itself from the current impasse.

The surprising answer is that there is no alternative to continued Israeli military control in the territories. But ongoing control does not mean more settlements, increased friction or inaction. The plan evaluates the situation on the ground, providing concrete suggestions to improve the lives of the Palestinians and deal with points of friction.

The proposal also contains some good news. Despite the creeping annexation, all is not lost. Of the 570,000 settlers living over the Green Line, 200,000 live in East Jerusalem and another 260,000 live on 4.6% of the territory of the West Bank, adjacent to the Green Line. Taken together they represent 80% of all settlers, and will continue to be part of Israel in any future arrangement. Construction and development will continue in these areas. The main problem is the 108 settlements, containing 110,000 settlers, located in areas densely populated with Palestinians. These settlements are the main source of friction. They are the heart of the problem.

Regarding Gaza, the plan calls for Israel to allow increased transport of goods and state its willingness to establish a Gaza port. Israel’s condition will be acceptance of a list of security measures. What the plan lacks is a description of these measures. Will Hamas object? Maybe. But a proposal to improve the situation that includes construction of a port will enhance Israel’s standing. A basic element of the plan is a public statement of support by Israel for an agreement based on the principle of two states for two peoples, alongside practical measures such as completion of the security fence (which will place most of the settlers on the Israeli side), along with a cessation of settlement expansion beyond that line of separation.

The program of Commanders of Israel’s Security offers an a refreshing alternative for those of us who are tired with both the creeping annexation of the right and left wing illusions about a peace agreement. Agreements – OUT. Arrangements – IN. You don’t have to agree with every word of their proposal. Some ideas still need more ironing out. But it seems to be a plan that can extricate us from the interminable dichotomy of left versus right. There are, it appears, other options. And that is important.

To the full Article »

Winter is Coming

Yedioth Ahronoth (p. B3) by Nahum Barnea

I met four concerned Israelis this week in a Tel Aviv café: Maj. Gen. (res.) Amnon Reshef was commander of the armored divisions and commander of the 14th Brigade in the Yom Kippur War; Maj. Gen. (res.) Danny Rothschild was director of the IDF Intelligence Research Department and coordinator of government activities in the territories; Aryeh Felman was the deputy director of the GSS; and Roland Giron was a senior Mossad official (Giron let his friends speak on his behalf).  The four of them are members of a movement called Commanders for Israel’s Security, which is due to issue a new political-security plan to the public on Monday.  The plan is entitled “Security First.”

They are not alone.  While we are preoccupied with the Netanyahu family’s airline tickets, many parties, both around the world and in Israel, are searching for a plan to break the stalemate.  “Winter is coming,” the protagonists of the series Game of Thrones warn repeatedly.  The diplomatic winter is expected to begin in November, on the day after the US presidential elections, with a last initiative of the Obama administration; the next stage will come with a Security Council resolution, perhaps also a regional initiative.  The world will discover with astonishment that it is the 50th anniversary of the occupation.  People are concerned, both in Jerusalem and in Ramallah.

My four interlocutors are close to their eighties or their seventies.  They are orderly people, who retired years ago, made a second career in the business world and discovered that they still harbor the public service bug.  The old elite, Twitter users will say mockingly.  Old soldiers never die, they come back with futile plans for promoting peace in the Middle East.

The plan does not talk about an agreement.  It proposes a series of proactive security, diplomatic and economic measures, which in the opinion of the plan’s sponsors will improve our situation vis-à-vis the West Bank and Gaza.  In terms of security, the construction of the security fence will be completed, in such a way that will turn it into a border for all intents and purposes; the IDF will continue to control the West Bank; law and order will be enforced in the Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem.

In diplomatic terms, Israel will announce that it accepts the Arab peace initiative as a basis for negotiations; it is willing to hand over the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages annexed to Jerusalem to the future Palestinian state, and it has no claims of sovereignty in the territories east of the fence; construction in the settlements east of the fence will be frozen.  A law for voluntary eviction and compensation will be offered to the settlers.

Israel will take steps to strengthen the Palestinian Authority’s economy and the wellbeing of its residents; it will assist in the rehabilitation of Gaza; a separate umbrella administration will be set up for the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages that were annexed to Jerusalem.

The plan is impressive in its level of attention to details.  It reaches the point of drawing improved lines for closing the gaps in the fence in the Etzion Bloc, in Maale Adumim, in the Hebron hills and in Jerusalem, which Arab villages the fence should surround and where.  Its advantage lies in its connection to the terrain, in its practical approach.  These are the terms in which an officer thinks when poring over a topographical map of 1:20,000 scale lit by a flashlight.  This is also its disadvantage: The current political leadership does not think in these terms, and more importantly, most Israelis do not think in these terms.  Not at the present time.

“Two arguments arise to contradict any new idea,” Aryeh Felman said.  “The first is that there is no partner; the second is that anything you do will create a security problem for us.  Our plan responds to both these arguments.

“The government says that it supports the two-state solution, but there is no one in the world who believes it.  We say: We have to put an end to the ambiguity, we have to announce that we have no territorial claims east of the fence.  That leaves eight percent of the territory open for negotiation.

“The source of terrorism is the West Bank.  As soon as we maintain a border regime on the fence like in Gaza, Lebanon and the Golan Heights, we will secure the Israelis—including those living in the settlement blocs—outside of the circle of terrorism.

“The second component is Jerusalem.  Until 2012, the Palestinians living in Jerusalem were outside of the circle of terrorism.  There were terror attacks in Jerusalem, but the terrorists came from outside.  In the current Intifada the Jerusalemites are the majority.

“They are in a pressure cooker.  On one hand, they have been sealed off in the direction of the West Bank; on the other hand, they have been criminally neglected.  We are talking about 320,000 people, who at the end of the day belong in the West Bank.  We propose to form a separate municipal authority for them and to invest in development plans.”

There is no removal of settlements in your plan, I said.

“You can’t evict 570,000 people,” Felman said.  “To those who live on the central mountain ridge, we offer a way to leave voluntarily.”

Peace later

When an historian tries to sum up these 50 years, I asked, what do you think he will say?

“He will say that Israel’s greatest enemy was Egypt,” said Maj. Gen. (res.) Reshef.  “We paid with the lives of close to 3,000 combatants to reach peace.  How many thousands of victims will fall in order for us to reach an arrangement with the Palestinians?  Come on, it’s time to look ahead.”

Perhaps the time is not ripe for a solution, I said.

“We aren’t proposing a solution,” Rothschild said.  “We are searching for a process, an outline, that will prevent the deterioration into one state.  We say, security first—peace later.”

Otherwise?  I asked.

“Otherwise, a police state will be created here with daily terrorism,” Felman said.  “I look at two other possible courses of action.  Let’s presume that we are fated to live without an agreement.  Our plan makes it possible to live with this for years; let’s presume that the PA collapses on our doorstep.  Our plan relieves us of the need to finance 2.5 million Arabs.”

“We are a group of over 200 people that have collectively accumulated thousands of years of experience,” Reshef said.  “We are concerned for the fate of the next generations.”