CIS: Jerusalem events expose policy illusions, need for change

Rockets on Ashkelon, riots on the Temple Mount and elsewhere in East Jerusalem, violent clashes between Israeli forces and hundreds of young Palestinians and Jewish extremists, protests by Israeli Arab Citizens, young and old - all are evidence of the explosive potential in Jerusalem that threatens stability and security in the city and beyond.

The messages of concern from the Arab world - including countries that have recently normalized relations with Israel - and from the wider world demonstrate the centrality of Jerusalem and the sensitivity to everything that takes place there, and required prudent policy before undermining further Israel's relations - political, economic, and even security - in the region and beyond.

CIS, with its more than 300 members, all veterans of the security agencies at the highest levels, is convinced that Israel has the capability and power necessary to deal with any security challenge. However, recent events reaffirm two old truisms: not every problem has a military solution; wise political conduct can prevent a security escalation.

Against this backdrop, CIS calls on the government to handle the unfolding events with the sensitivity and wisdom befitting a complex city sacred to Jews, Muslims and Christians around the world.

CIS welcomes the Israeli High Court of Justice’s wise decision to postpone its deliberation on the Sheikh Jarrah issue, so as not to be exploited by extremists at this high-risk moment. In the same spirit, CIS calls on the Israeli government to act responsibly: To exercise sovereignty by prudent governance, not by tolerance to provocations. To restrain inciters - whoever they may be - and to immediately distance them from friction zones and sensitive locations.

Proper preparation of the Israeli police was indeed essential, but, as was also revealed this morning, it does not have the power to prevent friction, flare-ups, and the exploitation of circumstances to undermine security in the city and beyond. Responsible national leadership should guide the security forces in this spirit, thereby calming spirits and containing the event before it escalates further and claims additional victims.

The series of recent failures in a variety of areas experienced by the state requires a thorough examination of assumptions and patterns of action. As is becoming clear during these hours, this is especially true regarding national security.

The morning after the event, the Israeli government should draw lessons regarding three illusions revealed in full force: 

  • The illusion of relative quiet in Jerusalem, that underpins ignorance as to the explosive relations between Palestinians and Israelis in the city as well as the regional and international sensitivity to what is happening there. A fundamental change in attentiveness and policies is called for regarding the needs of all religions and populations in the city and uncompromising adherence to the Status Quo in its holy sites.
  • The illusion of decoupling the West Bank from the Gaza Strip and from East Jerusalem- as if events in one do not affect the others. Repeatedly, the residents of the ‘Gaza Envelop’ and the entire south have paid the price for this illusion. The formulation of an alternative strategy is called for. One that enlists a potent regional and international coalition for an integrated process of solidifying the Gaza ceasefire, launching an extensive rehabilitation and development plan for its population, and facilitating a gradual return of the Palestinian Authority to its management.
  • The illusion of stability between Israel and the Palestinians throughout the territories. Israel must formulate a comprehensive strategy that meets Israel's security needs while creating a political horizon (even if its implementation is not readily available), improving the quality of life for all who live in Israeli-controlled territories, reducing friction between Israelis and Palestinians, and thus contributing to stability on the ground and the prospects of future separation between the two peoples.

CIS has formulated practical plans for most of the issues whose explosiveness has been exposed. CIS stands ready to provide the experience and expertise of its members, all past senior IDF, Shin Bet (GSS), Mossad and Israel Police officials to the government, defense establishment and to other national agencies in support of the vital effort to formulate an alternative policy on each of these security issues.


Al-Monitor: Former Israeli security officials call on Netanyahu to dialogue with US on Iran deal

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said today that Israel will not rely on efforts to return to a nuclear deal with Iran, stating “Israel isn’t pinning its hopes on an agreement with an extremist regime like [Iran]. We already saw what these agreements are worth … with North Korea.”

Still, as Netanyahu was busy formulating the Israeli strategy on the expected resumption of Iran-US negotiations, hundreds of the country’s former generals, spies and defense experts were urging him to back the approach adopted by US President Joe Biden.

The group, known as Commanders for Israel’s Security, called on Netanyahu to support Biden’s approach for returning to the nuclear deal with Iran — but on condition that Iran resumes all its commitments under its 2015 agreement with world powers.

JPOST: Ex-IDF generals, top Mossad officials urge Biden's return to Iran deal

A group of former top officials from Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, the IDF and the Mossad sent a letter on Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing support for a US return to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
Led by former IDF deputy chief of staff Matan Vilnai, Commanders for Israel’s Security said in the letter that it “welcomes the American initiative to get Iran to again transparently follow the guidelines in the JCPOA as long as it includes an Iranian commitment to abide by UN Security Council Resolution 2231” regarding development of ballistic missiles.

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Times of Israel: Former defense officials back US return to Iran deal, urge new long-term pact

Over 20 former senior military and intelligence officials in Israel sent a letter Monday to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Benny Gantz backing a US return to the Iran nuclear deal, while calling for a new international agreement that will curtail Tehran’s military activities in the region.

The letter, dispatched by former IDF deputy chief of staff Matan Vilnai — also a former Labor minister — welcomed the Biden administration’s efforts to reengage with Iran.

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CIS welcomes Sec. Pompeo...

Upon his arrival in Israel (5.13.20), US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, will be unable to ignore CIS billboards, including two situated directly in front of his Jerusalem hotel.

In both Hebrew and English, the billboards, as well as full page ads in the Israeli press, will convey a message from the 300 members of CIS:

"Unilateral annexation threatens Israel's security".


Ami Ayalon, Former Shin Bet, Calling on Gantz to NOT AGREE to any unilateral annexation

Channel 12 - Meet the Press | 4.4.20

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Gantz and Ashkenazi: prevent a government they might join from taking any unilateral annexation measure

Ha’aretz featured a full-page CIS ad whose translation is enclosed. In it, 220 generals and equivalents, including former direct commanders and subordinates of Gantz and Ashkenazi, call upon them to prevent a government they might join from taking any unilateral annexation measure.



CIS in an urgent message to Knesset: Lack of parliamentary oversight undermines national security


In the face of an unprecedented assault on Israel’s democratic norms and institutions, among other steps, earlier today, CIS issued the following statement (already picked up by the press):

The Chairperson of Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), former member of the Security Cabinet and Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs committee, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Matan Vilnai, sent a clear message to Knesset Chairman, MK Yuli Edelstein, and to the chairs of Knesset factions:

The absence of Parliamentary oversight over the government activity in the realm of security as well as in other areas, via the Knesset Security and Foreign Affairs committee, constitutes a security negligence, undermines national cohesiveness and endangers our democracy!

The state of Israel is dealing with one of the most severe crises since its founding. The public is in a state of uncertainty and is concerned about the future. At such an hour, when public confidence in the governing authorities is more essential than ever, Knesset oversight of government decisions, particularly as they relate to national security, is vital.

On behalf of the hundreds of CIS members, I call upon Knesset Chairman, Yuli Edelstein, and all leaders of Knesset factions to decide immediately on the formation of an interim Security and Foreign Affairs committee that secures transparent oversight of the security agencies, which is essential for public trust in them.

Trashing the norms and institutions of our democracy endangers our national security.

A CIS Position Statement Regarding The American Plan and Annexation

CIS welcomes any effort to renew the national discussion over the necessity of separating from the Palestinians in a two-state agreement, and the prime minister’s endorsement of this solution. However, the Movement warns against any attempt to use the initiative for unilateral annexation.

Whether the American initiative serves as a basis for future negotiations – which Israel will enter after the prime minister accepted the establishment of a Palestinian state over 70% of the West Bank and additional 14% of sovereign Israeli territory – or should future conditions for negotiations with the Palestinians result in a different Israeli approach, CIS warns against any attempt to exploit the initiative for a unilateral annexation move.

There is no risk-free unilateral annexation.

The situation does not justify - and certainly does not require - taking unnecessary security risks.

Any unilateral annexation - of a single settlement bloc, all settlements, or the Jordan Valley - undermines Israel’s security:

  • Annexation will destabilize the already sensitive relations with Jordan, its regime stability, and bilateral security coordination. The importance of security coordination with Jordan to Israel’s national security, in deterrence, early warning, and in thwarting acts of terror and state aggression from adversaries such as Iran, cannot be overstated. It will be utterly irresponsible to undermine a primary Israeli security interest and bring those risks closer to our border.
  • Annexation might bring about the end of security coordination with the Palestinian Authority and possibly its very collapse. Whether this will be due to a Palestinian leadership decision or be forced upon it by popular pressure, terror groups - first among them Hamas - will fill the ensuing security vacuum. To prevent their takeover, the IDF will be forced to reoccupy the entire West Bank. Thereafter, Israel will be responsible for managing the lives of 2.6 million Palestinians. Much of the IDF and Shin Bet’s attention will have to be dedicated to this mission, at the expense of preparedness for security challenges to the north (Syria, Lebanon), east (Iran) and south (Hamas). All this with no exit strategy from the trap of a bi-national state.
  • Annexation is expected to increase the level of violence from Gaza, both directly and via the West Bank. This will force the IDF to reoccupy Gaza as well and to run the lives of its two million Palestinians. Here too with no exit strategy.

CIS supports the annexation of major settlement blocs as part of an agreement with the Palestinians.

But what is a legitimate demand in negotiations is likely to prove destructive when done unilaterally.

Regardless of our judgement of any facet of the American initiative, it incorporate two unacceptable precedents:

  • Abandoning over 14,000 Israelis, residents of 15 isolated settlements, at the heart of the territory earmarked for the State of Palestine. Protecting them will be a security nightmare.
  • The possibility of including the Arab Triangle, and its 250,000 Israeli Arab citizens, in the area designated for transfer to Palestinian sovereignty. Beyond being morally reprehensible, the very consideration of the idea would severely undermine the process of integration of Arab citizens into Israeli society. The worrisome phenomena of very few Israeli Arabs who over the years cooperated with Israel’s enemies might evolve into a flood, once Arab citizens see no value in loyalty to the state. The price will be paid not only by the Shin Bet, which will face an unprecedented challenge, but by the general public as well.

Given irresponsible calls for ‘annexation now’ on the one hand, and the dim prospects of an imminent two-state solution on the other, CIS determines that reducing tensions between the two peoples and preserving conditions for a future agreement mandate civilian separation from the Palestinians while maintaining the present security deployment until negotiations permit otherwise, all as detailed in our Security First plan.

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