The Economic Aspect

Yarom Ariav
Former Director General of the Ministry of Finance

Liberal | 01.07.2019

In case it is realized, the West Bank annexation is an economic idiocy that will harm every household in Israel.

One of the key reasons for the thriving and growth of the Israeli economy lies in the government's responsible budget policy, along with the increasing weight of the civilian budget at the expense of the defense budget. The results of this policy came to be expressed in growth accompanied by stable prices, in a dramatic reduction in the debt-to-GDP ratio, in an improvement in the standard of living, and in a resilience in the face of external crises. All these achievements will very likely be lost if a decision is taken to annex all or part of the West Bank. In effect, it would be a true U-turn in policy and the consequences are likely to resemble the "lost decade" following the Yom Kippur War, when the Israeli economy stagnated as a result of the sharp rise in the defense budget.

A senior economic team, which advised a study regarding a future annexation, concluded that what might start with a partial annexation would trigger a domino effect, and end with an Israeli takeover of the entire territory and management of the lives of its millions of Palestinian residents, with devastating consequences to the Israeli economy. Such steps would harm the quality of life and force a drastic drop in the standard of living of every household in Israel. In other words, beyond the security and diplomatic impact, as well as the demographic consequences, the annexation of the territories constitutes economic stupidity.

Provision of regular services: the additional annual budget required to finance the security aspects involved in controlling the occupied territories, as well as providing services to its 2.6 million Palestinian residents, assuming that they will be entitled to the same rights as "permanent residents" (similar to the status of Palestinian residents in East Jerusalem), will total approximately NIS 52 billion (after the offset of direct and indirect taxes collected from Palestinians). This amounts to a budget supplement of 12.8% over the 2018 state budget. The average annual damage to each household in Israel will be about NIS 26,000, which means an "annexation tax" of sorts of about NIS 2,200 per month per household!

Security infrastructures: a one-time allocation of NIS 32 billion would be required for the takeover and financing of a new 1,800-km border fence around the 169 “islands” of Palestinian towns and villages, known as Areas A and B and surrounded by Area C (where the Israeli settlements are located).

A blow to growth: following the most conservative estimate, based on the economic consequences of the second intifada and Operation Protective Edge, an annexation scenario would ignite a multiyear wave of violence that will deal a blow of no less than NIS 40 billion to the Israeli economy as a result of reduced foreign investment, a drop in GDP, deterioration in Israeli companies’ creditworthiness, boycott damage, etc. During this period, private consumption per capita will drop by more than 20%, sending the Israeli economy decades backward, in addition to the harm caused to the standard of living of every citizen and resident. The strength of the economy as a whole would be compromised, as well as its resilience to shocks.

To meet the required budget in such a scenario, the government and Knesset will face two difficult alternatives: they will either put the entire burden on Israel’s citizens by imposing tax hikes and by cutting social services, acts which will mostly harm the lower and middle classes, or they will enact legislation that would deny 2.6 million Palestinians their legal rights.

The first alternative will very probably damage the social fabric of Israel, and result in powerful social protests the likes of which the country has never seen. The second alternative would be considered as Apartheid by the region, the world, and extensive segments of the Israeli public, and will most likely result in harsh international reaction which will further worsen the economic impact of the annexation.

Whether the economic burden is imposed on the public, or discrimination by law is applied, the strong and thriving Israeli economy we know today will be no more, and the price of a decision to annex millions of Palestinians would be paid, big time, by all of Israel's citizens.

Security-Diplomatic Consequences

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.

War and Peace

Shabtai Shavit
Former Director of the Mossad
Member of Commanders for Israel's Security’s Steering Committee 

Liberal | 01.07.2019

The annual conference of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in February 2018 summarized the situation of Israel on its 70th anniversary with as follows: "Israel’s strategic situation is one of the most favorable the country has known in its 70 years." But - and there is always a but - Israel’s margins of security are narrow. In an environment laden with risks of unexpected escalation, Israel needs to take advantage of its improved strategic situation to widen these narrow margins because, as everyone knows, there are no second chances in the Middle East.

Since the conference, unexpected escalation has indeed occurred. Gaza is a boiling cauldron, tension on the Lebanese border has risen, a new wave of terrorism is emerging in the West Bank, the “honeymoon” with Russia has ended, our freedom of action in Syria has been restricted, and Iran has inaugurated a new direct supply route from Tehran to Lebanon.

The strategic balance still holds, but in this war between wars, our containment policy is having a substantial negative impact on our deterrence.

There are two ways of expanding our security margins:

One is to arm ourselves to the teeth and build an “iron wall” - or a bunker or ghetto, if you will - followed, sooner or later, by escalation into another armed conflict. Unfortunately, this is happening right before our eyes.

The second is to initiate a diplomatic move with the Palestinian Authority (PA), starting with a renewed dialogue, because when there is talk, guns are more likely to remain silent. Our hotheads will probably say that this idea is delusory; when people are in a messianic mood, talking with the enemy spoils the party.

The Middle Eastern chaos is fertile ground for creating a different Middle East that will include a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Middle Eastern borders, which were drawn by France and Britain in 1916, have survived for a century. The Arab Spring revolutions accelerated the disintegration of the old order in a revolt against totalitarian regimes and in favor of democracy.  These revolutions have failed to bring democracy, but have toppled regimes and challenged old borders in Iraq, Syria, Libya, and Yemen, leading to the formation of ISIS and its ambition of a caliphate extending across the region.

The relative stability in some countries and the defeat of ISIS mark a new chapter in shaping borders in the Middle East. In my opinion, redesigning the borders in the Middle East will take years. It provides an opportunity that can and should be taken to solve the conflict with the Palestinians in harmony with the region's future architecture.

Clausewitz said that war is the continuation of policy by other means.  The converse is equally true - policy is the continuation of war by other means. Israel's current strategy, however, is one-dimensional: it consists of force and more force. Concepts such as diplomacy, negotiations, coexistence, and peace have been dispensed with. All that remains is a war that has continued for over 150 years, with the exception of the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and the Oslo Accords.

I believe that after 70 years, the War of Independence should be ended and a peace agreement signed. Using force will not end the conflict. Achieving peace – however complicated -- requires the creation of conditions for renewing negotiations and bringing them to a successful conclusion while using our military power for deterrence. Negotiations necessarily require compromise, and the only compromise that has a chance is embodied in the two-state solution.

Attaining the security benefits of progress with the Palestinians and regional integration requires abandoning the madness of annexation, which will exclude any possibility of separation between the two peoples and lead to a prolonged bloody struggle within the borders of one state. A small minority of extremists is dragging an entire country towards a precipice. They must be stopped to avoid the annihilation of the Zionist vision.

Political and Security Consequences

Tamir Pardo
Former Director of the Mossad
Member of Commanders for Israel's Security (CIS) Steering Committee

Liberal | 01.07.2019

In the Region

Israel has reached a momentous crossroad in its relations with the pragmatic Arab countries. These countries make no secret of their willingness to take steps towards normalizing relations with Israel, provided that progress on the Palestinian front offers them the political cover for doing so.

The pragmatic Arab countries' realization that they and Israel are threatened by the same subversive entities, led by Iran, has added momentum to this trend. Good relations with these countries hold promise not only to Israel’s economy but primarily to its security. Coordination with Israel, which already takes place clandestinely and on a limited scale, could gradually evolve into operational coordination, potentially culminating in a regional security system that could become a new and important element in Israel's security.

Annexation legislation will be interpreted in the region and beyond as a decision by Israel to slam the door on a future two-state solution. Not only will it prevent any progress in Israel's relations in the region, but will very likely terminate the existing limited cooperation. Legislated annexation will exacerbate these countries' fear that public awareness of their cooperation with Israel - in security or other matters - could arouse popular rage at home. Likewise, they fear that their enemies, headed by Iran, will utilize leaks of their cooperation with an annexationist Israel in campaigns designed to undermine regime legitimacy. These countries are consequently liable to sacrifice one security interest – cooperation with Israel, to preserve another - regime stability.

Annexation will undermine another important pillar of Israel' security: the unprecedented degree of security cooperation with Egypt and Jordan. This cooperation is crucial to Israel in two critical ways: first, in its contribution to internal and regime stability in these two strategically valued neighbors. Second, security coordination has extends Israel's strategic depth eastward, way beyond its border with Jordan and, as far as Egypt is concerned, security cooperation there does not stop at the international border either.

Stable relations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the possibility of a two-state solution will make it easier for Jordan and Egypt to continue this cooperation, despite public hostility toward Israel in both countries. Any move towards annexation will inflame popular opinion, forcing both regimes to respond aggressively -  even against their will – including by suspending relations, closing down of embassies, and probably curtailing security cooperation.

On the International Theater

The leading countries in the European Union are likely to respond harshly to annexation legislation, including taking concrete measures, such as political and economic sanctions. One case in point is Germany, Israel's sole supplier of strategic naval platforms, which also helps pay for them. Germany is liable to change its stance in response to legislated annexation, thereby affecting Israel's strategic capabilities. Russia and China - the non-Western permanent UN Security Council members - are also likely to adopt punitive measures and scale down their bilateral relations with Israel.

Even the response of the Trump administration should not be taken for granted, especially now that the Democratic Party has a majority in the House of Representatives. A hostile American attitude towards annexation might damage Israel's most important security relationship.

As legislated annexation – however partial in scope -- is likely to trigger an outbreak of violence, the collapse of the PA, and an Israeli takeover of all of the West Bank, the international community can thence be expected to adopt punitive measures against Israel.

The international consensus around the two-state solution will erode, with increasing pressure on Israel to grant equal rights to all of its citizens, millions of annexed Palestinians included.  Israel will face the worst strategic dilemma in its history: it will have to choose between the status of an outcast country like South Africa of the 1990s and the loss of its Jewish character.

All who value a safe and democratic Israel with a solid Jewish majority must take action to thwart any move towards destructive annexation.

The CIS annexation study: an overview

Maj. Gen. Amnon Reshef (res.)
Chairman of Commanders for Israel's Security

Liberal | 01.07.2019

While IDF soldiers are destroying Hezbollah tunnels in the north and hundreds of rockets were launched only a few weeks ago from the Gaza Strip at nearby Jewish communities in the south, terrorism is striking once again in the West Bank. The developments in the last two fronts - the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – are a reminder of Israel's tendency to focus on them only when there is a violent outbreak, while ignoring opportunities to change the situation during periods of relative tranquility.

Generally speaking, Israel's overall security situation is reasonably good. The IDF and the other security agencies are coping well with these and other threats, and at this time, Israel faces no existential external threat.  Under the radar, however, a threat to our national security and the character of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is emerging.

Israeli governments have neither formed nor articulated a clear strategy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. ‘Creeping annexation’ has accelerated in recent years in the form of both actions on the ground and the setting of the legislative as well as administrative infrastructure for legislated annexation. Rightwing politicians are competing with each other over whose draft annexation bill is more attractive. The situation is bizzar: while a majority of the public supports a political-security solution by means of a ‘two states for two peoples’ agreement when the conditions are ripe for one, and civil separation from the Palestinians until then, nonetheless, a public minority, which is also a Knesset minority, uses its disproportional potency in the governing coalition to dragg the country towards an abyss.

Commanders for Israel's Security, a movement whose 286 members are all former senior officers in the IDF, Israel Security Agency, Mossad, and Israel Police, has presented the Israeli leadership and defense agencies with detailed plans for Israeli initiatives, now available to the public: first, a plan which details the measures for civil separation while maintaining IDF security control in the West Bank. Second, a plan for changing the situation in the Gaza Strip. Third, an analysis of the devastating security and other consequences of annexing the West Bank.

This last study, which holds over 400 pages, assesses the implications of legislated annexation and presents its security, economic, regional, international, legal, and social consequences. The main insights are reviewed in the following five essays.

The study also shows that even the most knowledgeable advocates of annexation are making an erroneous strategic assumption: that they can ensure that annexation - even if limited to territory without a large Palestinian population (such as Area C) - will not set in motion a “domino effect”, forcing the IDF to take control of Areas A and B along with their millions of Palestinian residents.

If the Knesset passes an annexation bill, regardless of its territorial scope, this will be taken in the region and internationally as a national decision to slam the door on the possibility of future separation from the Palestinians. As explained in the following pages, this step will lead to the termination of security coordination with the Palestinian security forces and ignite a popular uprising, likely with armed Tanzim forces and Palestinian security forces taking an active part in the violence.  Either in response to these developments or in an effort to prevent them, there will be no avoiding a renewed takeover by the IDF of all of the West Bank and its millions of Palestinian residents.  This will trigger the collapse of the Palestinian Authority, contribute to the consolidation of Hamas at the helm of the Palestinian leadership, and we shall find ourselves responsible for managing the lives of millions of Palestinians.

In sum, what might start out as “luxurious annexation” - intended to incorporate as much land with as little Palestinian residents as possible, will inevitably end with Israel taking over the entire territory, assuming responsibility for the lives of millions of Palestinians, and coping with the ensuing destructive consequences for Israel's security, economy, regional and international standing, and Jewish and democratic character.

This act will present the Zionist enterprise with the  greatest challenge since Israel’s independence.

The present Israeli government is accelerating a creeping annexation

Rolly Gueron - Radio interview
KAN - Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation

The chief reason for launching the campaign now is to sound an alarm of a failing on the national level.

The present Israeli government is accelerating a creeping annexation of Judea & Sameria by Knesset bills and ministerial proposals laying down the legislative infrastructure for that.

[su_audio url="רולי-גירון.mp3"]

There is a northern front and a southern front - so we must avoid a central front!

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The Silver Platter of the Yom Kippur War

By Zvi Harel | Israel Today | 09.18.2018

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

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

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

photographer: Yosi Zliger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mentally Unprepared

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

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

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

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

photographer: Yosi Zliger

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

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

Why did you chose to serve in the armored corps?

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

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

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

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

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

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

200 Planes Overhead

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like Hail on a Tin Roof

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

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

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

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

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

All Because of One, Small Jeep

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photographer: Yosi Zliger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ten Plagues

First plague – demographics

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second plague – terrorism

Knesset annexationists owe the people of Israel an accounting:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third plague – reinforcing BDS

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

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

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

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

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

Fourth plague – the defense establishment

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fifth plague – health services

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

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

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

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

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

The sixth plague – allowances, pensions, and other payments

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

Here are some numbers to illustrate:

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

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

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

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

Seventh plague – the periphery

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

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

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

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

Should we spend it all on annexation?

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

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

Eighth plague – education

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

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

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

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

Ninth plague – National Insurance

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

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

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

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

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

Tenth plague – the disintegration of democracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



In West Bank reality, annexation is a pipedream

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

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

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

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

Separation between Israelis and Palestinians is feasible geographically and demographically.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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