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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Why Did Israeli Generals Write to Netanyahu?

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Rolly Gueron Explains Why West Bank Annexation Should Stay Out Of Coalition Talks

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Annexation under the Cover of Corruption

Ben Dror Yemini | May 25, 2019 | Yedioth Ahronoth

The justified preoccupation with immunity and corruption makes us forget the danger that clauses on full or partial annexation are now being inserted into the coalition agreements. Most Israelis oppose annexation, including those who have no enthusiasm for a Palestinian state. But among MKs from the coalescing coalition – there is a majority. Against this backdrop, Commanders for Israel's Security sent a letter to the Prime Minister - signed by hundreds of former senior officers in the defense establishment - asking him either not to annex, or to hold a national referendum if and when the government decides on annexation.

They write, among other things, "Applying Israeli law to Judea and Samaria, in whole or in part, other than as part of a negotiated agreement, will result in a chain reaction that will seriously compromise Israel's security, economy and its regional and global status... Annexation without an agreement endangers Israel’s security and the lives of its residents... What will begin as the application of sovereignty to a limited area will necessarily deteriorate into full annexation of the West Bank with its millions of Palestinian residents."

In response, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tweeted, “Those 'experts' supported the nuclear agreement with Iran and warned, 'Bibi has made a navigation error and is destroying the alliance with America'." A crushing response? Not exactly. For two reasons.

First, because the alliance with the Trump administration is definitely important, but that is not an alliance with America. Israel is gradually losing the support of Democrats and of the American Jewish community. It is true that that is mainly because of mendacious propaganda against Israel, but not only. It also has to do with Netanyahu.

Secondly, many experts have erred repeatedly. Regarding Iran, it seems to me that there is no need to support every measure made by Netanyahu to know that he was actually right. Iran exploited the nuclear agreement to expand its destructive influence, increas the danger to the State of Israel, develop more and more missiles, and to undermine governments in Arab states. Just like Jihad, it seeds destruction and ruin wherever it is. And thanks to the nuclear agreement.

But just like defense experts err, just like Kennedy and Churchill erred quite a few times, Netanyahu is also wrong. Big time. In 2002, he was among those who urged the American administration to attack Iraq. "There must be no mistake on this matter," Netanyahu told Congress. "The moment that Saddam has nuclear weapons, the network of terrorist organizations will have nuclear weapons too." Israel's semi-official position was the opposite. Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon opposed Netanyahu's position and tried to persuade US President George W. Bush that Iran, not Iraq, was the problem.

In any event, according to a study by Prof. Dov Waxman, Israel did not push the United States into confrontation. But good souls spread Netanyahu's position to undermine his position on Iran. He was wrong about Iraq. That does not mean that he is wrong about Iran.

To the same degree, the fact that defense experts have erred on various issues does not lead to the conclusion that they are wrong now.

Because annexation is a different story altogether. There is no need to wait for the future to know that annexation means the establishment of a Judeo-Arab entity. Mixing hostile populations necessarily ends in bloodshed.

Some right-wingers dream of encouraging Palestinian emigration from Israel. These are fantasies. Even assuming that 20,000 Palestinians leave the territories every year, as the right claims, because of their birthrate, the proportion of Arabs between the Jordan and Sea will grow.

Even without a Palestinian state, which the Palestinians do not want, annexation means a bi-national state, with full civil rights or without rights. In any case, the result is one and the same: the end of Zionism. The conclusion is not despair. There are interim solutions based on civil and demographic separation - even if not total - while retaining security control. In any event, there is no need to wait for the future to know that when it comes to annexation, the defense experts are right.


CIS Response to the Exposure of the Sovereignty Movement’s Activity

February 12, 2019

Commanders for Israel's Security responds to the activity of the "Sovereignty Movement”, as exposed on Ynet (Eng Ver click here) today.

 "Today, the extreme right's mode of operation for annexing millions of Palestinians was revealed. Undetected, a right-wing extremist group is working to ensure that the next government will implement its plan.

Although most of the Israeli public understands the destructive implications of annexation, utterly opposes it, and is unaware of the measures to realize this horror scenario, the Sovereignty Movement creates facts on the ground, mobilizes extreme right-wing politicians and lays the groundwork for implementing the move.”

It is now clear that these are not merely delusional dreams. The declarations favoring annexation, or using the laundered term "application of sovereignty," frequently delivered by extreme right-wing politicians, are public expressions of a well thought-out plan developed in hiding, whose implementation began during the term of the outgoing government. With backwind of the support they have mobilized so far, the annexationists no longer hide their intentions, openly proclaiming their determination to accomplish the feat during the term of the next government, leading to the destruction of Israel as a Jewish, secure and democratic state."

According to CIS, "The annexation pressure is on. The pressure exerted on politicians to express support for annexation are but the prelude to the pressure to be exerted on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, if elected, to commit to annexation as a condition for forming the next government.

If the annexation move is not halted immediately, we will wake up to a different Israel during the term of the next government, without a solid Jewish majority and all the security and other implications of integrating millions of Palestinians into the State of Israel. This pressure should be stopped right now.

According to Commanders for Israel's Security, "We call on all heads of the Zionist parties to express a clear position against the annexation plan and in favor of the State of Israel.

“CIS is a non-partisan movement comprising retired senior members of the defense establishment. Its 286 former senior commanders from the IDF, Shin Bet, Mossad and Israel Police are united in a mission to ensure a strong, democratic Israel with a solid Jewish majority for generations to come.” Security-political initiatives developed by teams of the CIS security experts have been  presented to the public and decision-makers.

Ministers and MKs advocate for the Movement to Annex the West Bank

by Dror Liba | Ynet |  February 12, 2019

The issue of annexing Judea and Samaria to Israel is one of the most explosive - both from a political and diplomatic standpoint. The international community opposes the annexation of the territories on the grounds that it will put an end to the two-state solution, but the idea garners wide support among Israeli right wingers.

In an embarrassing incident which unfolded between Israel and the United States about a year ago, the White House denied having had any talks about sovereignty with Jerusalem. The issue at hand was the Law of Sovereignty proposed by Likud MKs. To thwart it, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had discussed it with the Americans. After heatedly denying this, the White House demanded that Netanyahu issue a clarification, in which he announced he had only updated Washington on the bills proposed by the Knesset.

In all probability, Trump's Centennia Plan for peace between Israel and the Palestinians will not be presented before the April 9 elections, but with the initiative continuing to resonate in the background, it is evident that considerable activity is underway to promote the idea of applying Israeli law to the territories.

The Sovereignty Movement - which has gained power and traction in recent years, primarily among Likud members - is an offshoot of the Women in Green movement, founded by right-wing female activists Yehudit Katzover and Nadia Matar. Matar made headlines prior to the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, after having called the head of the Disengagement Administration "a modern-day Judenrat." She was questioned and tried for insulting public officials, but the charges were eventually dropped. Both women regularly attend demonstrations in the West Bank.

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MKs call for sovereignty over Judea and Samaria

In recent years, the Movement has made efforts to influence members of the Likud Party, with its members constantly working to boost support for annexation. In the Leumiada (the flagship event of the ‘national camp’), which took place in Eilat last month, a panel of speakers led by the movement was held, entitled “Applying Sovereignty." The panel featured Ministers Zeev Elkin, Haim Katz and Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely.

The movement’s YouTube channel featured videos of numerous ministers, deputy ministers and MKs who support its objectives - including Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked of the New Right, Miri Regev, Yariv Levin, Gila Gamliel and Ofir Akunis of the Likud, Elazar Stern from Yesh Atid, and many others.

Akunis said: “To begin with, the idea of a Palestinian state is off the table. Second, we must take courageous, tough, challenging, and difficult decisions vis a vis the international community - first and foremost to apply sovereignty over Area C. Area C has a clear Israeli and Jewish majority and a negligible Palestinian minority."

According to Gamliel, “It is our duty to boost Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria, to apply Israeli law to the entire Judea and Samaria." Levin said in the video: “As far as I’m concerned, the application of Israeli sovereignty throughout Eretz Israel (the Land of Israel) is not a question of ‘if’ but of ‘how’ and ‘when’."

Stern said: "Indeed, we must strive for sovereignty. I believe it’s  possible. The challenge, of course, is to rearrange some more procedures here so we can apply sovereignty. "

The movement also publishes a journal entitled “Sovereignty”, which features articles supporting the application of sovereignty to the West Bank, written by prominent Likud members such as Gideon Sa'ar, Elkin and Gila Gamliel. During the last local elections, the movement called on residents in Judea and Samaria to vote only for candidates committed to the application of sovereignty. Among other initiatives, the movement holds conferences and seminars for youth who support the movement's vision.

The influence of the movement on the Likud was already apparent in late 2017, when the party's Central Committee issued a declaration confirming that the party supported the annexation of the territories. According to the resolution, “On the 50th anniversary of liberating Judea and Samaria, including Jerusalem, the Likud Central Committee calls upon the Likud's elected representatives to seek unhindered construction [in Judea and Samaria] and to apply Israel’s laws and sovereignty to all liberated areas of settlement in Judea and Samaria."

The movement enjoys donor funding, mainly from the Central Fund of Israel, which is based in New York and headed by the Marcus family. The private fund raises donations from American Jews and transfers them to right-wing Israeli entities.

Im Tirtzu, Chonenu and the Kohelet Forum are some of the organizations that benefit from the Fund's support. The Sovereignty Movement has received NIS 1.5 million in donations from the fund.

Commanders for Israel's Security responded to the story as follows: "Today, the extreme right's mode of operation for annexing millions of Palestinians has been revealed. Unnoticed, a right-wing extremist group is working to ensure that the next government will implement its plan. Although most of the Israeli public understands the destructive implications of annexation, utterly opposes it, and is unaware of the measures to realize this horror scenario, the Sovereignty Movement is creating facts on the ground, mobilizing extreme right-wing politicians and laying the groundwork for implementing the move.”

Annexation Is a Pernicious Issue for Israel

By Ed Robin And Steven Windmueller | FEB 6, 2019 | JEWISH JOURNAL

Modern Israel has been a remarkable unifying force for American Jewry. Sadly, the subject of Israel and most discussions about Israeli policies today have become deeply divisive. In some instances, these debates have cost friendships and silenced organizations and Jewish leaders from engaging in conversations around Israel.

There is an issue, however, around which most Jews can coalesce — the potential annexation of portions or all of Judea and Samaria, the West Bank. This poses a threat to Israel’s future as a Jewish and democratic state, which should concern all Jews.

Various proposals for annexation of portions or all of the territory are currently on the Israeli political agenda. Advocates of these proposals are not bashful about their intent to pass such legislation during the next government. This is a result of Israeli coalition politics whereby a minority political party can demand support of a policy as a condition for its participation in the governing coalition.

Yet, contrary to common understanding, a just-released poll by The Institute for National Security Studies shows that only 25 percent of Israelis support some form of annexation. However, the majority opposing annexation do not view this issue as a priority, while its passionate advocates do.

The ideological controversy over borders mirrors historic debates about “Greater Israel.” For over 100 years, there have been passionate debates within the Zionist movement about the required borders of the Jewish state — the entirety of biblical Israel or only those areas with majority Jewish population. In debates over whether to support the United Nations partition resolution in 1947, the consensus position favoring a Jewish state separate from an Arab state prevailed over advocates who embraced the Greater Israel position, enabling the Zionist enterprise to succeed dramatically with the formation of modern Israel. Similarly, the agreement to cede territory to Egypt at Camp David prevailed over fierce opposition, leading to four decades of peace, which continues to be maintained.

Defeat of current annexation proposals is essential to preventing a cascade of extremely serious political, security and economic consequences. Many of the proposals seem deceptively innocuous, promising to annex unpopulated territory, not Palestinians. The consequences of these proposals would likely produce dire long-term and short-term consequences. Advocates of this “luxurious” (no cost) annexation proposal pretend this action will not trigger reactions. They are wrong.

There is a strong consensus among security experts that annexation, even on a small scale, would upset the fragile balance with the Palestinians. For example, territory annexed in all the proposals would eliminate contiguity for areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is essential for transit from one area to another. This arrangement would likely lead to the termination of security cooperation and/or the collapse of the PA. As a result, the Israel Defense Forces would be required to re-enter and take over all of Judea/Samaria and assume responsibility for its millions of Palestinians.

This would have a severe impact on Israel’s security and economy, while also burying any possibility of an ultimate resolution separating the parties to the conflict. The multiple billions of dollars in security and public services expenditures for control of the territories alone would cripple the Israeli economy, and international sanctions or loss of investment would add to the blow.

Israel has made tremendous strides in its relations with many of its Arab neighbors, creating the opportunity for a different Middle East, which might eventually include a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. Proposed annexation moves would give potentially friendly powers in the region little choice but to abandon this hopeful path. Public outrage in the Arab countries would very likely result in termination of existing limited cooperation. Iran would have a potent public weapon against its Sunni enemies. American groups opposing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) would be severely disadvantaged. While annexation consequences would far exceed BDS as a threat, they also would make its success substantially more likely.

Internationally, severe diplomatic, financial and legal problems would likely result. Although the current U.S. government might not initially object, reaction from the European Union might well include concrete measures, including political, economic and arms supply sanctions. Russia and China might well join in opposing Israel’s actions. The international community, assuming abandonment of any possibility of an eventual two-state solution, would increase pressure on Israel to grant equal rights to all Palestinians. Thus, Israel would be faced with a tragic dilemma — either the loss of its dominant Jewish character and becoming a secular, democratic state; or denying Palestinians equal rights and losing its standing and character as a democratic nation.

Annexation initiatives have galvanized a strong nonpartisan effort to defeat these measures. Notable among them is the Commanders for Israel’s Security, a network of almost 300 former senior leaders of the IDF, Mossad, Shin Bet and police that has conducted extensive research on the subject, illustrating the immediate and existential threat. Each political party campaigning for election should be encouraged to publicly commit not to enter a government unless the coalition agreement opposes annexation or permits it a veto. In this way, the consensus opposing annexation can prevail in a nonpartisan way.

Only by preventing annexation can Israel retain its strategic security, flexibility and future options while insuring against a required choice between being a Jewish or democratic state.

Ed Robin is a board member of the Israel Policy Forum. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H. Skirball campus of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles.

Mossad, shin bet officials tackle israel's toughest challenges

By Yonah Jeremy Bob January | JPOST | 24, 2019

Former Mossad Personnel Division chief Rolly Gueron and former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) deputy chief Arie Pellman have spent their lives in Israel’s intelligence community protecting the country’s security and internal and global interests.

They are no lightweights. When they talk about national security, you can not only hear, but also feel from their animated expressions, that their unique experiences in the Mossad and Shin Bet have given them a much deeper understanding of the issue than most.

In a wide-ranging interview with The Jerusalem Post Magazine about Hezbollah, Iran, terrorism, the International Criminal Court and other security issues, they connected all of this to the need to give the Palestinians a peace horizon.

Their backgrounds in intelligence, which give them perspectives even different from some of their IDF compatriots in the group Commanders for Israel’s Security, are what make their views so interesting.

As part of CIS, they are campaigning for various coordinated interim withdrawals from the West Bank and rehabilitating Gaza in exchange for quiet and some interim concessions from the Palestinian side.
They also have a report arguing that the opposite approach, annexation of the West Bank, would cost the state NIS 52 billion per year, or equivalent to NIS 2,500 per Israeli.

The two were pressed that, even if arguably in the 1990s it might have seemed that reaching compromises with the Palestinians could help solve Israel’s other security issues, most experts now say that threats have evolved. In other words, the threats from Hezbollah, Iran and possibly Syria, will remain problems regardless of the Palestinian issue.

If so, then why make concessions to the Palestinians when there are so many other threats wielding more powerful weapons to use against Israel than the Palestinians?

WITH FOCUSED eyes that have seen more of the world than most, Gueron acknowledges that the issue is very complex. “I do see the Iranian threat and its proxy Hezbollah as a very serious threat to Israel. But they are not an existential threat that could lead us to cease to exist.

“The harm from a conflict with Hezbollah... could be severe and almost unlivable, especially to Israeli infrastructure.”

Showing his bipartisan attitude, he also compliments Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for his handling of the Hezbollah-Syria threats. “All that Israel is doing today to deal with these issues are the correct strategies.” But, crucially, he adds, “that doesn’t mean we need to hide from the Palestinian issue and I would not compare these issues as being on the same level.”

Gueron’s experience with threats ranged from nearly 30 years in the Mossad at all levels to fighting in the 1967 Six Day War, the War of Attrition, stationed at the Suez Canal, and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, on the Golan Heights.

He calls the Palestinian threat “an existential threat that presents a clear and present danger to the future of Israel as a majority Jewish nation and a Jewish and democratic state.
“We need to deal with Hezbollah, but what about the Palestinians? The situation is urgent. Israel has enough power and energy to deal with Hezbollah rockets and tunnels, Iran and the Palestinians at the same time,” he says.

“This sounds explosive, but the root of the debate between us and the annexationists is we want to guard ‘Medinat Yisrael’ [the State of Israel] and they want to guard ‘Eretz Yisrael’ [the Land of Israel] – and this is a big difference.

“They are ready to sacrifice the State of Israel for” thinking that they will only pay an “unrealistic low price. This is intolerable. If it were possible and realistic” for Israel to hold on to more of the West Bank, that would be one thing, “but in fact we cannot” hold onto it and the price will be unconscionably high.

If Gueron talks like a philosopher, Pellman expresses himself like a straight-talking tactician.
Pellman spent 30 years in the Shin Bet, starting from operations in the field and at all levels.

He was part of the paratrooper units that took Jerusalem during the Six Day War and was an IDF artillery commander whose units reached a point only 94 km. from Cairo during the Yom Kippur War.
Pellman also says he agreed with Netanyahu’s decision in November to seek a ceasefire with Hamas “under what were not the best conditions,” partially in order “to prioritize confronting the bigger threat from the North. I get that.”

But he also says that the state should follow that logic further of prioritizing how it deals with threats. “Israel must also reduce threats. The ability to reduce the threat in the North is very limited,” implying that even as Israel may currently be reducing Hezbollah’s attack tunnel threat, it is still exposed to the Lebanese terrorist group’s primary weapons – around 130,000 rockets.

“But in Judea and Samaria we can do a lot to reduce the threat and even remove the military and terror threat. We also have an ability to influence Gaza” more than Israel can influence Hezbollah, he says.

Further, the West Bank and Gaza multiply the threat posed by each other in a way that other fronts do not, he says. “If there is an uprising in Judea and Samaria, there is no way that Gaza will sit quietly.”

PELLMAN AND Gueron discussed with the Magazine the IDF intelligence’s and the state comptroller’s conclusion that 2014’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza was set off to a large degree by the killing of three Jewish teenagers by West Bank terrorists and the IDF response to it, Operation Brother’s Keeper.

Moreover, Pellman says that a key point was “for the IDF to be ready for the next conflict with the North... We need a coalition of the US and others to back us so that if” Hezbollah provokes Israel a certain amount, “we will be able to act” strongly.

He says that since there has been no peace deal on the horizon or negotiations, Israel currently has no credit globally “to do what it did during Operation Protective Edge” – which was against Hamas – against Hezbollah in a future conflict in the North.

Questioned whether it’s true that Israel does not have this backing in light of the fact that US President Donald Trump has supported Israel’s uses of force almost without exception, he says, “It is unclear with Trump – look, he just withdrew from Syria.”

Also, he questioned whether support from Trump would translate into long-term support or whether it is just covering up weakened support for Israel globally and among portions of the US.

Noting that, at most, Trump will be around for six years, Pellman says that “six years is not a lot of time. 50 years is not a lot of time. But would you sell off all of our future,” maintaining policies that alienate many countries, including a large portion of Democrats?

Gueron points out that Democrats who nearly unequivocally support Israel, such as Chuck Schumer, Joseph Biden and Joe Lieberman (who is no longer a Democrat) “are disappearing” and that Israel needs backing for the use of force and for reaching a ceasefire since “it is not built for a war of attrition.”

Getting personal about what brought him to join Commanders for Israel’s Security’s campaign, Pellman says that there wasn’t any one incident in his Shin Bet work that altered his perspective. Rather, he reached the conclusion that a divorce from the Palestinians was necessary from his cumulative experiences.

He says that he routinely would “enter families’ houses at late hours of the night and would see the fear in the [Palestinian] children’s eyes and mothers holding their kids hoping that we would not take them... It was a very rough picture and an everyday picture.

This needs to be taken into account that” sometimes these searches must be carried out “every night in order to make sure there is quiet.” He says that he doesn’t criticize it, but that he wants to reach a solution where the nightly searches are unnecessary.

Moreover, he says that “if you are not already a liberal, then one incident” does not change your views. “But that when you see this volume, you ask yourself: is this the right solution?”

Gueron mentions that prior to serving in the Mossad, he had served in a special unit for guarding the Gaza border and performing searches in Gaza at a time when Israel still maintained forces throughout the territory.

Echoing Pellman, he says he still had strong memories of “going into houses and seeing scared families.”

Pellman estimates that sometimes around 3,500 Palestinians could be arrested per year – “these are astronomical numbers.”

This means that there are tens of thousands of Palestinians who have been in Israeli jails and that “each Palestinian has family members” who have been imprisoned by Israel.

All of the searches create “bitterness” among average Palestinians, he says, and it makes it harder to “end the cycle” of fighting terrorism in a way that leads to new terrorists.

Gueron also got more personal, saying that from firsthand experience as a Mossad official serving outside the country, “You start to understand two profound things: 1) the limits of force – even the US has limits, and 2) what our place in the world is.

“We think we are the center of the world. This is a bubba maiseh [fairy tale]. We are just part of the world and we need to be connected. It is complex with unpredictable challenges that you cannot see in advance.”

Israeli interests come first. But this still means a diplomatic horizon that the world can live with, even if it might be updated from past proposals. Explaining the importance of that horizon to the Shin Bet’s role of fighting West Bank terrorism, Pellman says his experience directing much of the counter-terrorism fight went beyond the IDF’s general security role.

He says the Shin Bet specializes in intelligence and tactics to “prevent terror before an incident” happens and not just to arrest and catch terrorists who have already committed crimes.

Praising current Shin Bet Director Nadav Argaman for his recent announcement that the Shin Bet prevented 480 terror attacks and a larger number of potential attacks, he says that even with the success, the volume was simply “out of control” and that “things are erupting” on the Palestinian street.

From his vantage point, this volume represented “a breakneck pace for continually collecting intelligence and knowing where and how to arrest someone before they act,” which is not sustainable, or at least will mean some attacks getting through the net.

Pellman says he worked insanely hard to keep terror down and that when he retired from the Shin Bet, “I left an area clean” of terror, but that his successor was still stuck working just as hard “as if the area had not been cleaned out.”

“The lesson I have learned from many years” in the Shin Bet is that, “the volume in the war on terror goes up, and then you bring it down... But just like mowing the lawn, the rain comes and it grows again.”

He says the only way to prevent the growth of new generations of terrorists is “to give the Palestinians a diplomatic horizon for a better future so many people will not choose the direction of terror.”

Out of the 2.6 million Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, he says he believed that there were not even 2,000 people who were inevitable terrorists.

Discussing the problem of fighting lone-wolf terror, he says, “There are no lone wolves. There is an atmosphere that gets normal people to take actions when they feel pushed into it and then fall in with Hamas.”

RETURNING TO his diplomatic horizon, Pellman lays out several things the government should do. First, he says that when responding to terrorism, the government should never use arbitrary collective punishment, but should divide between punishing the small areas that have a high density of terror and rewarding the much larger areas that do not.

Second, he says strategy must replace tactics when dealing with the Palestinian Authority. “Is the PA a burden or an asset? The country has not decided, so what does the IDF do... it just mows the lawn. What does winning look like? What do we want regarding Judea and Samaria? Just saying ‘I want quiet’ – that is not a strategic goal,” but a limited tactical perspective that will lead to “a national catastrophe.”

Regarding the PA, he says Israel should strategically and systematically commit to strengthening it since whenever it weakens, “there is no vacuum. Where the PA goes down, Hamas goes up and vice versa.”

He also says Israel must truly come to terms with Palestinian statehood, as absent a state, “how can they fully control their own public?”

In addition, Pellman slammed Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel for a period in which he blocked workers permits of Palestinians to enter Israel. His argument was, “Economics have proven that with Palestinian villages where more people go to work in Israel” within the Green Line or within Jewish West Bank areas, “the level of terror goes down.” Likewise, if a Palestinian village “gets a well-paved road instead of an unpaved dirt road, this keeps them quiet for longer.”

How about broader diplomatic and image benefits to diplomatic moves toward the Palestinians? In the 1990s, many believed that diplomatic moves toward the Palestinians would completely alter Israel’s global image and get it favored treatment from UN-type organizations that currently criticize or harass it.

But since 2015, when the PA asked the International Criminal Court prosecutor to probe Israel on war crimes allegations, under the ICC’s rules, it now can decide to go after Israel even if the PA later backs off during peace negotiations.

The two say that “everything is political” and that they are still confident that if there is reduced violence between the sides and a strengthened peace process, “there will be pressure on the ICC” to slide the case back under the table so as not to rock the boat.

WHAT IS the ex-Mossad and ex-Shin Bet official’s message to the government and the public?
Gueron says, “many agree that debating whether to annex or not is legitimate in a democratic state. On top of that, the elected government in a democracy has the right to move its agenda forward according to its ideology.

“But I do complain that if the decisions have fateful consequences, then serious work is required to understand those consequences. We know this government has not carried out research to understand the consequences. So we did the research,” he says. “This is an issue of showing responsibility. The government has rights, but it needs to act responsibly.”

Answering their own call, Gueron and Pellman handed over a summary of a 400-page report authored by a group of experts that included three ex-Finance Ministry director-generals, Avi Ben Bassat, David Brodt and Yarom Ariav, describing “all of the consequences – economic, diplomatic, social and political” of annexation of the West Bank.

“The results would be grave,” they say, including an around NIS 52 billion per year price tag, which comes out to around NIS 2,500 per citizen to the extent that the cost is passed on in various ways.

The former director-generals arrived at NIS 52b. based on adding expenditures that Israel would owe for education, health and other socioeconomic rights for the 2.6 million Palestinians and some additional security costs, subtracting estimated taxes Israel could collect.

Israel simply “does not have the capacity to swallow this without choking ourselves,” they say, and that a divorce from the Palestinians is the only path.

Though most of their emphasis is on the West Bank, they also support reducing tension with Gaza by rehabilitating it with an offshore man-made island port. Pellman says that “as a career Shin Bet man, my view is that there is no way to guarantee Hamas will not bring problematic people, containers and weapons unless there is Israeli security supervision.

“This is the position of the Shin Bet and it is correct. You need to take into account that the dream of Hamas in Gaza is to be given an opening where they can bring in weapons on an industrial scale,” and that Israel must be ready to combat that.

Although Netanyahu previously said at a Knesset hearing that the Shin Bet was opposed to the man-made island port concept and did not mention qualifications, the Post has confirmed Pellman’s view as accurate that the Shin Bet would support a man-made island port if there was full Israeli security inspection authority.

In any case, Pellman says that it should be approved as a running concept since anyway it could take 10 years to become operational. During this time, Israel would be able to continue to monitor how well Hamas stuck to an indefinite ceasefire.

He says that in a much longer time, tossing out 25 or 50 years – “until it is quiet” – possibly Israel could hand over security to the Palestinians.

Gueron surprised on this issue, saying that while he “supports the Shin Bet and I trust them professionally and some of this is based on information I don’t have, personally [this is not a CIS view]” the port is not the real issue anymore.

“Sometimes it gets too much attention. It’s only symbolic,” saying the real issues were ending the rocket fire, bridging gaps between Hamas and the PA and “major reconstruction of Gaza” with or without a port.

Summing up the most basic and concrete benefit for Israel of avoiding annexation and moving toward a diplomatic horizon, Pellman says the PA would act more strongly against terror on its own.

“Today it is a dilemma for them... struggling against terror” when they cannot explain the benefits to their public. “But if they have a bloc of territory of their own, they will finally be able to do better at explaining why” cracking down on terror from their side to protect Israelis is in the Palestinian public’s interest.

Legal Consequences

Col. (Res.) Pnina Sharvit
Baruch, former Head of the IDF
International Law Department, a Senior Research Associate, INSS

Liberal | 01.07.2019

Applying Israeli law to portions of the West Bank - synonymous with annexation - is likely to culminate in the annexation of the entire West Bank (see The Domino Effect, p. XX) and result in momentous legal consequences for Israel.

Annexation will turn the over 2.5 million Palestinians living in the annexed territory into residents of Israel with full residential rights, including freedom of movement anywhere in Israel, social rights, and the right to request Israeli citizenship.   If the state does grant them complete political rights, including the right to vote and be elected, the Jewish character of the state may be jeopardized. On the other hand, if the state denies them equal rights, it will undermine Israel's democratic character by creating two unequal classes of people. Furthermore, the freedom of movement that forms part of resident status will generate friction liable to result in violence, followed by the inevitable imposition of severe restrictions that will also challenge Israel’s democracy.

Even if annexation is restricted to the 60% of the West Bank known as Area C, and excludes the Palestinian communities in Areas A and B - and somehow does not trigger the “domino effect” - it will create within the expanded state of Israel multiple Palestinian enclaves without territorial contiguity. It will be necessary to provide for the needs of the Palestinians in these un-annexed areas, including arrangements for passage between dozens of enclaves surrounded by Area C on all sides. In addition, since annexation will undermine the Palestinian Authority's (PA) continued operation and likely terminate security cooperation with Israel, the IDF will have to extend its direct operations to the un-annexed territory.  If the PA collapses, Israel will have to provide for all of the Palestinian population's needs. With time, preserving a viable democracy in such a situation, with no foreseeable end, will prove impossible. It can be argued that this is precisely the prevailing situation for the past 50 years. There is a difference, however, between a situation forced upon us due to the other side’s intransigence and a one which we unilaterally create, with no intention to change.

Annexation will be regarded as a violation of international law, leading to measures against Israel, including sanctions and boycotts, by countries and other entities. Even the friendly Trump administration does not recognize the annexation of East Jerusalem and it is unlikely to support West Bank annexation. The new Democratic majority in the United States House of Representatives and future changes in the US administration might lead to a less supportive administration which could even allow the passage of Security Council resolutions mandating punitive measures against Israel. When Russia annexed the Crimean peninsula, which belongs to Ukraine, many Western countries imposed sanctions against it. It can be assumed that Israel, whose deterrence is far less potent than Russia’s, will be subjected to even more severe sanctions.

Another possible effect of annexation concerns the International Criminal Court (ICC), which is already conducting a preliminary examination of Israel's actions in the West Bank. The ICC will be more likely to open a full-fledged investigation against Israeli elements involved in West Bank Jewish settlements, although its jurisdiction in the matter is disputed.

It is important to bear in mind that annexation is not an easily revocable action. It requires either a Knesset majority of 61 and a national referendum or a Knesset majority of 80.

Annexation is a clear case  where responsible conduct requires thinking ahead before taking steps that might send us all down a dangerous irreversible path.