Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Gad Shamni
Military Secretary to two prime ministers
Head of IDF Central Command, and Defense Attaché in Washington
Liberal | 01.07.2019
The intelligence and operational cooperation with the Palestinian Authority (PA) security agencies constitutes an essential element in Israel’s ability to thwart terrorism and safeguard public order in the West Bank. The United States and Jordan have been involved in training, equipping, and improving the Palestinian forces since 2007. Under the command of an American general, this activity has greatly contributed to the professionalism and operational standards of these forces, which have been hailed by the IDF and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) as full-fledged security partners.
The Palestinians will interpret annexation of even part of the West Bank as an Israeli decision to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, resulting in substantial damage to this cooperation, which is already unpopular among Palestinians. Pressure from the public and the families of Palestinian policemen will lead them to desert, causing forces that are well-trained and skilled in using weapons and warfare techniques to join criminal and terrorist groups – in some cases for economic reasons (just as trained combat soldiers joined ISIS after the Iraqi army was dismantled).
Annexation will also increase motivation and legitimacy for violent actions by Palestinian groups, leading to an immediate increase in terrorist attacks out of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
Under this scenario, the IDF will have to substantially reinforce – and possibly even double – its forces and deployment in the West Bank.
Roadblocks and dirt barriers will emerge all over the West Bank, traffic will be restricted and separated, and the Palestinian economy will collapse, culminating in increased violence. Without a border and a strict border regime, built-up Palestinian areas in the annexed area will become bases for terrorist attacks.
These developments will force an IDF takeover, possibly via military campaign, of cities and villages in Areas A and B. Three to five IDF divisions will be needed, including a callup of 30,000 reserve soldiers.
The legitimacy of the PA will suffer a critical blow, probably leading to its collapse, either through a decision by its leadership or as a result of a popular uprising.
This situation will require the reinstatement of a military administration to manage the daily lives of 2.6 million Palestinians. Severe restrictions will be imposed on the movement of both Palestinians and Jews living in the West Bank in order to prevent friction between them and the resultant casualties.
Annexation of Area C, will create a new 1,787-kilometer border between the annexed area and the rest of the West Bank. Preventing Palestinians and residents of the un-annexed areas from freely entering the annexed area and reducing the risk to the Jews living in the annexed territory will require construction of a fence on the new border that will cost NIS 27 billion to build and NIS 4 billion in annual maintenance. Twice as many soldiers and police will be needed for regular security and supervision of Palestinian traffic between the cities and villages cut off from each other by Area C, and a new system of crossings, roadblocks, and special roads will be required. Israel cannot afford to pay the personnel and other costs involved without a substantial negative impact on other spheres of Israeli citizens’ lives. The IDF will have to divert its regular forces to maintaining security in the West Bank, which will detract from its capability and readiness for dealing with challenges in the north (Syria, Lebanon, as well as Iran’s ambitions in both) and on the Gaza Strip border in the south.
The need to enforce Israeli sovereignty in the entire territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea and impose Israeli law and order on millions of Palestinians will force Israel’s military to deal with years of violent confrontations. It is liable to exact a heavy toll in blood from both sides, destroy Israel’s international legitimacy, and culminate in an eventual recognition of the need for painful separation. With judicious measures, this separation can begin now.