THE RISKS TO ISRAEL
OF A PALESTINIAN STATE

Louis Rene Beres

There is now an air of inevitability surrounding the Palestinian state.

Because of years of post-Oslo mistakes by successive Israeli governments, it would appear that little can still be done to prevent the creation of yet another hostile Arab state - one implacably committed to the annihilation of the existing Jewish State.

The Government of the United States, for a variety of established geopolitical reasons, has increasingly endorsed the idea of a Palestinian state and has pretty much assured this idea's administrative implementation.

All that remains, it would seem, is the taking of appropriate jurisprudential steps by the Palestinian Authority and by its many backers. (These steps would likely be grounded in the CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS AND DUTIES OF STATES; also known as the Montevedeo Convention).

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Should Israel now do everything in its power to prevent the Palestinian state, even though the odds of successs are very remote?

Or should it take the Palestinian state as a fait accompli, and focus instead on coexistence; in other words, should Israel's intellectual energies be directed to the admittedly hideous question of "Living With Palestine?"

How shall Israel proceed?

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To answer these critical questions, Israel must first determine if there is any possibility of coexistence with a new state of Palestine. If the answer is "no," it follows that all energies must now focus on prevention. Such a focus will be rational even if the expected prospect of succesful prevention is very low and even if the expected costs of prevention are very high.

If, on the other hand, there is reason to presume more or less successful coexistence, and the expected prospect of preventing Palestine is very low, then Israel's energies should focus on limiting the various existential dangers posed by a Palestinian state.

Can Israel live with Palestine? On this question the available evidence is persuasively negative. The Palestinian Authority's persistent identification of Israel proper as "Occupied Palestine," its unrevised Charter calling for Israel's destruction and its excision of Israel from all of its official maps do not bode well for coexistence. Moreover, a number of other Islamic terror organizations functioning under Palestinian leadership remain committed, in word and in deed, to "slaughtering the Jews." There is nothing, absolutely nothing, in their policies and public utterances that would now suggest a will to live together with a Jewish State.

Strategic analysts are always trained to look both at capabilities and intentions. And here the problem becomes even more ominous. The recent visit of American generals and admirals to Israel and the territories, supervised by JINSA, produced yet another authoritative document on the essential security imperative for Israel to maintain Judea and Samaria (and the Golan Heights).

Without these lands, Israel's strategic depth would vanish, and its susceptibility to physical conquest would be enlarged greatly.

Without these lands, Israel's capacity to prevent terror strikes upon its cities would be diminished substantially, and such strikes - in the future -could even involve chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

Without these lands, the overall probability of regional unconventional war - even nuclear war - would heighten considerably.

 

Why nuclear war?

A Palestinian state will preoccupy IDF forces to a far greater extent than even the current (and monstrous) intifada.

Even if it were able to resist takeover by another Islamic state - a takeover accomplished either directly or by insurgent surrogates -Palestine would become a favored launching point for unconventional terrorism against Israel.

Various promises notwithstanding, Palestinian terrorists would continue to celebrate frenzied violence against Israeli women and children as the essence of "national liberation."

Recognizing an improved correlation of forces vis-a-vis Israel, a larger number of Islamic enemy states will calculate that they now confront a smaller, more beleaguered adversary.

They will further understand that a coordinated efort by certain Islamic countries that possess or are in process of acquiring pertinent ballistic missiles could endanger Israel's physical survival. Taken together with the fact that global support for Israel is always low, and that individual or combined chemical/biological/nuclear warfare capabilities could bring enormous harm to Israel, the creation of a Palestinian state will tip the balance of power in the Middle East decisively.

It is thus unlikely that Israel could physically survive next to a Palestinian state that defined itself as extending "from the Sea to the River."

The full strategic implications for Israel of a Palestinian state should be carefully appraised.

If, in the end, such a state became the cause of a nuclear war in the region, everyone - Arabs as well as Jews - would lose.

But how, exactly, would a nuclear war begin in the reconfigured Middle East?

One possibility would be via Arab or Iranian first strikes against Israel.

These strikes could be nuclear (although this would still be several years away) or nonnuclear.

In either scenario, Israel - especially if it feels dangerously close to defeat - might have to resort to nuclear retaliation.

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Alternatively, Israel - believing that substantial enemy attack were imminent, could decide to strike first; that is, to preempt.

If, as we might expect, this preemption were entirely nonnuclear, it could still fail to prevent the anticipated attack against Israel.

Here, Israeli nuclear weapons, having failed in their mission to support conventional preemption by deterring enemy retaliation, might have to be used for purposes of nuclear warfighting.

It is also plausible that certain Islamic states might transfer unconventional weapons assets to selected terror groups, leading to WMD terror attacks by Israel's nonstate enemies.

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Israel has much to fear from Palestine. The people of Israel, not of any nascent Palestine, are the only ones who would need to contemplate complete eradication from this strange and destructive planet.

Threatened by a growing number of adversaries with ballistic missiles and with a corollary interest in nuclear warheads, Jerusalem should know that a full and codified transformation of Judea/Samaria and Gaza into Palestine will provide its many enemies with the means and the incentives to destroy the tiny Jewish State once and for all.

Deprived of essential territorial integrity, and beset internally by hostile Arab citizens loyal only to "Palestine," Israel will become seriously vulnerable to total defeat.

Anguished by a possible end to the Third Temple Commonwealth, the nation's leaders will begin to think seriously about nuclear weapons as a last resort to another "Final Solution."

I refer to the so-called "Samson Option."

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Now, it has been suggested, by many in authority, that a Palestinian state could be agreeable to Israel if only it were demilitarized.

Is this really true?

First, let us note that international law will not necessarily require Palestinian compliance with pre-State agreements concerning the use of force.

From the standpoint of international law, enforcing demilitarization upon a sovereign state of Palestine would be enormously difficult.

Because treaties can be binding only upon states, any agreement between a nonstate Palestinian Authority and the State of Israel would have little real effectiveness.

What if a government of Palestine were willing to consider itself bound by a prestate, nontreaty agreement?

Even in these relatively favorable circumstances, the new Palestinian government would have ample pretext to identify various grounds for lawful agreement termination.

It could, for example, withdraw from the agreement because of what it would regard as a "material breach," that is, an alleged violation by Israel.

Or it could point toward what international law calls a "fundamental change of circumstances" (Rebus sic stantibus).

In this connection, if a Palestinian state declared itself vulnerable to previously unforseen dangers, it could lawfully end its codified commitment to remain demilitarized.

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There is another method by which an agreement obligating a new Palestinian state to accept demilitarization could quickly and legally be invalidated after independence.

The usual grounds that may be invoked under domestic law to invalidate contracts also apply to international legal agreements.

This means that a new state of Palestine could point to errors of fact or to duress as perfectly appropriate grounds for terminating the agreement with Israel.

Moreover, any international legal agreement is void, if - at the time in which it was created - it conflicts with a "peremptory" rule of general international law (jus cogens - a rule accepted and recognized by the international community of states as absolutely and irrevocably binding).

Because the right of sovereign states to maintain military forces essential to "self defense" is certainly such a peremptory rule, Palestine - depending upon its particular form of authority - could be entirely within its legal right to abrogate an agreement that had compelled its demilitarization. --------------It follows from all this that Israel can draw no comfort from the allegedly legal promise of Palestinian demilitarization.

Indeed, should the government of a new state of Palestine choose to invite foreign armies and/or terrorists on to its territory, it could do so without practical difficulties and without violating international law.

The latest official map of "Palestine" shows the State of Palestine comprising all of the West Bank (Judea/Samaria), all of Gaza, and all of the State of Israel. Additionally, it excludes any reference to a Jewish population, and lists holy sites of Christians and Muslims only. The official cartographer, Khalil Tufakji, has now been commissioned by the Palestine National Authority to design a Capitol Building, which he has drawn to be located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, on top of an ancient Jewish cemetery.

 

On September 1, 1993, Yasir Arafat reaffirmed that the Oslo Accords were an intrinsic part of the PLO's 1974 Phased Plan for Israel's liquidation: "The agreement will be a basis for an independent Palestinian State in accordance with the Palestinian National Council Resolution issued in 1974....The PNC Resolution issued in 1974 calls for the establishment of a national authority on any part of Palestinian soil from which Israel withdraws or which is liberated."

Speaking of maps, those of us who are concerned with a possible Palestinian state and Israeli survival should consider the following: The Arab world is presently comprised of 22 states of nearly five million square miles and 144,000,000 people. The greater islamic world contains 44 states with one billion people. The Islamic states comprise an area 672 times the size of Israel. Israel, with a population of around 5 million Jews, is - together with Judea/Samaria and Gaza - less than half the size of San Bernardino County in California. The Sinai Desert, which Israel transfered to Egypt in the 1979 treaty (in exchange for vague and tenuous promises of Egyptian nonaggression) is itself 3 times larger than the entire state of Israel.

We have seen that a fully-sovereign Palestinian state could lawfully abrogate preindependence commitments to demilitarize.

It should also be noted that the Palestine National Authority is guilty of multiple material breaches of Oslo and that it remains altogether unwilling to rescind explicitly genocidal clauses of the PLO Covenant calling for Israel's total annihilation.

This means that any Israeli plan to accept Palestinian demilitarization would be built upon sand, and that Israel should never, ever, base its strategic assesments of a Palestinian state upon such an illusion.

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There exists, in the Palestinian Authority, an irreversible voluptuousness of violence against Israel.

Directed by hatred of all Jews and Judaism, Israel's Palestinian enemies now bent upon their own state do not read Clausewitz (ON WAR).

They are generally moved by more primal needs and expectations, ones based on very grotesque and uncompromising visions of divine submission and "jihad."

In these visions, Israelis are not hated because they are "occupiers."

They are despised because they are Jews. Period.

In the words of a recent article in AL-AHRAM (Egypt): "The first thing that we have to make clear is that no distinction must be made between the Jew and the Israeli....The Jew is a Jew, through the millennia...in spurning all moral values, devouring the living and drinking his blood for the sake of a few coins. The Jew, the merchant of Venice...is always an example of human degradation. Let us therefore put aside such distinctions (Jews and Israelis) and talk only about JEWS."

A current Egyptian textbook of "Arab Islamic History" (a country "at peace" with Israel) informs new teachers as follows: "The Jews are always the same, every time and everywhere. They will not live save in darkness. They contrive their evils clandestinely. They fight only when they are hidden, because they are cowards....The Prophet enlightened us about the right way to treat them, and succeeded finally in crushing their plots they had planned. We today must follow this way and purify Palestine from their filth."

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To "purify Palestine from their filth." This does not suggest a particularly promising orientation to Israel of a new Palestinian state. Rather, it suggests an attitude of uncompromising hatred and endless war.

Ayatollah Khomeini (remember him?) remarks in the Foreword to his book on Islamic Government: "The Islamic Movement was afflicted by the Jews from its very beginnings, when they began their hostile activity...."

Discussing "The Zionist Problem" in AL-AHRAM, a prominent Islamic scholar, Dr. Yahya al-Rakhawi, writes: "We are all, once again, face to face with the Jewish Problem, not just the Zionist Problem; and we must reassess all those studies which make a distinction between `The Jew' and `The Israeli.' And we must redefine the meaning of the word `Jew' so that we do not imagine that we are speaking of a divinely revealed religion or a minority persecuted by mankind." The scholar continues: "We cannot help but see before us the figure of the great man Hitler, may God have mercy on him, who was the wisest of those who confronted this problem...and who, out of compassion for humanity, tried to exterminate every Jew, but despaired of curing this cancerous growth on the body of mankind."

So it is with such views in the Arab/Islamic world that Israel must now confront a Palestinian State.

And this confrontation must take account of Arab and Islamic "sacrificers" at two levels.

Israel must continue to deal with the danger of individual Muslims who choose "martyrdom" through the path of terrorism.

Israel must also prepare to deal with entire states that choose "martyrdom;" that is, individual human self-sacrificers in macrocosm.

Such a state - perhaps a Palestinian state - could choose collective self-sacrifice through initiation of chemical, biological or nuclear war against the Jewish State.

Such a war would not be fought for traditional military objectives. but only for "liquidation" of "The Jews."


Jurisprudentially, it would represent the unholiest of marriages, between war and genocide as crimes under international law.

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The dangers to Israel of a Palestinian state must also take account of Israel's Arab citizens.

Today almost one million Arabs are full citizens of Israel.

For the most part, they are thoroughly disloyal to the Jewish State, and -in most cases - actually despise it.

In the event of any major regional war, many Israeli Arabs will certainly interfere with essential Israeli mobilization and more or less actively engage in hostile activities against Israel.

In the event of a major regional war after the establishment of a Palestinian state, these Israeli Arabs would constitute an even more serious Fifth Column, now aiding not a bloody insurgency, but a new state enemy engaged in more traditional forms of extermination warfare.

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It can also be anticipated that the creation of a Palestinian state will embolden the Israeli Arabs to increase violence against Israel generally, not only in the event of a major regional war.

So, what have we learned?

The terrible Trojan Horse called Oslo has now made a Palestinian state almost inevitable.

Yet, a Palestinian state - carved out of the still-breathing body of Israel - will almost assuredly give rise to chemical, biological or nuclear war.

It does not appear that Israel can live with Palestine, but it also does not appear that Israel can prevent the creation of Palestine.

What, then, is to be done?

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First, I think it is essential to understand that we are dealing here only in subjective probabilities; never certainties.

It follows that we can never say with any reasonable degree of assurance that a Palestinian state is inevitable.

There are many conceivable scenarios in which, for a variety of forseen and unforseen reasons, a Palestinian state would not come into existence.

Some of these scenarios could have more to do with intra-Palestinian and intra-Arab differences than with any conscious Israeli actions. Others could have to do with the consequences of yet another Middle Eastern war begun either by Arab state aggressions or by escalations from essential Israeli efforts at self-defense.

So, let us not give up altogether on the prevention of a Palestinian state.

It is, as I mentioned at the outset, ALMOST inevitable.

And Israel would assuredly do better in a world without yet another life-threatening Arab state as a neighbor.

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But, let us be candid, we are speaking here of probabilities, and the odds now surely favor creation of a Palestinian state.

Indeed, from the standpoint of international law, the Palestinian Authority could declare statehood at any time, and without any regard for recognition by other existing states (even though an overwhelming proportion of states in the world would more or less enthusiastically recognize the new state of Palestine).

The governing document on statehood under international law is the Montevideo Convention, also known as The Convention on the Rights and Duties of States.

According to this document, a state must possess only the following qualifications: (1) a permanent population; (2) a defined territory; (3) a government; and (4) the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

We could quibble among ourselves if an emergent "Palestine" does or does not meet these particular criteria, but the fact is that the PA and its allies could argue, without difficulty or viable opposition, that it does.

According to the Montevideo Convention and corollary international law, all states are legally equal, enjoy the same rights, and have equal capacity in their exercise.

The moment that the PA declares a state of Palestine, the new country will be the full juridical equal of the State of Israel.

When Israelis begin to object passionately to claims for more territory by the new state of Palestine - this time territory within the Green Line (still "Occupied Palestine") - the world will listen even more intently to the Palestinians.

They will, after all, now be fully equal to Israelis under international law.

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So how might Israel live with Palestine? Even before answering this question, I should note that preventing a Palestinian state does not necessarily mean improved peace and security for Israel.

This should be fairly obvious, given current circumstances.

If, for example, another major war produces an Israeli "reoccupation" of Judea/Samaria/Gaza, Israel's terror nightmare could become endless.

Here, too, such a "reoccupation" could elicit far-reaching cries of Israeli "aggression," charges that make no legal sense today, when there is - as yet - no state of Palestine.

Alternatively, if a new state of Palestine is brought into existence, the IDF may, ironically, have certain new tactical advantages.

One of these advantages could be a more readily identifiable Palestinian armed force (rather than a ragtag collection of militants integrated with civilian populations).

Another related advantage would be a capacity to strike militarily from greater distances, using air power and artillery where formerly only infantry would have been permissible.

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The relatively small military advantages to Israel of a Palestinian state could become very substantial if there were a willing emigration of Israeli Arabs to the new country.

Indeed, in the best of all possible worlds for Israel, a newly-declared State of Palestine would open its arms to all Palestinians in Israel, and these Israeli Palestinians would leave - on their own volition - to Palestine.


But this is not the best of all posisble worlds for Israel, and this will not happen.

Moreover, for better or for worse, the Israeli Arabs will not be forced to leave Israel for Palestine.

So the new Arab state will have a Fifth Column of approximately 1,000,000 bretheren in Israel, in "Occupied Palestine."

It follows that in "living with Palestine," Israel will have to take a variety of measures to ensure that this Fifth Column does not pose intolerable security costs to the Jewish State.

What this means is that after a state of Palestine is declared, Israeli efforts at security and survival will have to focus not only on the new enemy country, but also - more vigorously than ever before - on a significant fraction of Israel's own population.

This issue may in fact pose the single most serious aspect of a Palestinian state to Israel, as it could likely involve substantial infringements of Israeli Arab civil liberties and a resultant backlash of Israeli Arab terrorism.

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The term "correlation of forces" is a useful concept of military strategy -and one that will become increasingly important to Israel if it must coexist with a Palestinian state.

Widely used by the former Soviet Union, it is applied as a measure of armed forces, from the subunit level to major formations.

Additionally, it has been used to compare resources and capabilities on both the levels of military strategy and of so-called "grand strategy."

This meaning is closely related to the idea of "force ratios" used in the West.

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Creation of a Palestinian state - as we have seen - will greatly increase the chances of Arab attacks, not only from the new state of Palestine (which would surely do very little on its own) but from combinations with other Arab states.

This could even happen after Palestinian forces joined with Palestinian Arab residents of Jordan (where they constitute a majority) to overthrow King Abdullah and create a single super-Palestinian state (one that would extend all the way to Jordan's border with Iraq).

 

IDF commanders will need to know more than ever before in order to establish Israeli force superiority at decisive places and times.

What, exactly, should be the IDF concept of "correlation of forces" after creation of Palestine?

First, it would need to take careful account of enemy leaders' intentions as well as capabilities.

Such an accounting is inherently more subjective than assessments of personnel; weapons and basic logistic data.

Second, the IDF correlation of forces concepts would have to take account of enemy leaders' rationality. Any Arab adversary that does not conform to the rules of rational behavior in world politics might not be deterred by ANY Israeli threats, military or otherwise.

Here, the logic of deterrence would be immobilized and all bets would be off regarding expected enemy postures.

Third, IDF assessments would need to consider with special care the organization of enemy state units; their training standards; their morale; their reconnaissance capabilities; their battle experience; and their suitability and adaptability to the prospective battlefield.


Fourth, IDF assessments would have to consider the capabilities and intentions of Israel's remaining nonstate enemies; that is, the entire configuration of anti-Israel terrorist groups.

This configuration could look very different after Palestine; hence, its close examination must be a high priority for IDF planners in the new world of Palestinian statehood.

In all of these examinations, IDF planners must search for and consider "force multipliers."

A force multiplier is a collection of related characteristics, other than weapons and force size, that make a military organization more effective in combat.

A force multiplier may be generalship; tactical surprise; tactical mobility; command and control systems, etc.

The presence of a force multiplier creates synergy; the unit will be more effective than the mere sum of its weapons.

IDF planning responsibility in this area would concern: (1) recognizing Arab enemy force multipliers; (2) challenging and undermining enemy force multipliers; and (3) developing and refining its own force multipliers.

Regarding Number (3), this means a heavy IDF emphasis on air superiority; communications; intelligence and surprise.

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Correlation of forces could well determine the outcome of war following the creation of a Palestinian state.

But there are no guarantees that the outcome of such a war would necessarily be favorable or even tolerable to Israel. It would be best to reduce the probability of unwanted regional war in the Middle East by reducing the probability of a Palestinian state.

If a Palestinian state can be prevented by virtue of a number of previously identified scenarios, Israel will still suffer myriad problems of terror and violence, but will be less likely to disappear in a war designed by enemy states.

If a Palestinian state cannot be prevented by any reasonable measures, Israel will have to steel itself for seemingly interminable or protracted war with an enlarged Arab/Islamic world - a war characterized by intermittent terror and periodic interstate aggressions.

It follows that not a single one of these options holds out a promise of real "peace," especially if Israel's enemies should act irrationally in strategic matters (the suicide bomber in macrocosm), but it is also true that unforseen happenings and events could grant Israel an unforseen advantage.

For now, Israel must acknowledge the existential risks of a Palestinian state, but simultaneously prepare to coexist with such a state by preparing to prevail in any consequent war.

This means not allowing itself to be blinded once again by the sort of illusory promises offered at Oslo.

It means remaining open at all times to promising diplomacy, but it also means preparing to destroy enemy forces and assets rather than surrender to velvet-gloved diplomatic aggressions.

It is easy to understand that all Israelis yearn for peace - a genuine peace that would liberate the bloodied land from both terror and war.

But it would be most dangerous of all if this yearning were to lead Israel again in the very opposite direction.

All of Israel must now willingly understand that a genuine peace is still many years away, and that a realistic view of the Arab/Islamic world reveals only preparations for war and genocide.

Only with such an understanding can Israel now prepare itself to deal with the risks of a Palestinian state.

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LOUIS RENE BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with Israeli security matters, terrorism, war and international law. His work is well-known to the military and intelligence communities in Israel, to the Prime Minister and to the IDF General Staff. Profesor Beres is Strategic and Military Affairs Analyst for THE JEWISH PRESS in New York City

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