In 1938 four fascist columns under Generalissimo Francisco Franco were converging on the beleaguered Spanish Republican capital of Madrid. The commander of the loyalist forces, General Jose Miaja, claimed that a fifth column in the form of underground enemy elements was expected to arise in the heat of battle to stab the defenders in the back. That is what actually happened. The term "fifth column" owes its origin to General Miaja's remark. It is my contention that Israel now faces not one but two internal enemy forces and that they are gearing to strike with the full weight of their power when Israel will be most vulnerable. Israel is, therefore, now confronting both a fifth and a sixth enemy columns within its borders.
The rationale for the previous Israeli Government opting for the Oslo Agreements was the changed international environment. Russia they theorized is no longer capable of intervening in the Middle East on the side of the Arabs as she threatened to do in 1956, 1967, and 1973 when Israel defeated various combinations of Arab armies.
The root conflict between Israel and the Arab world has never been borders or territory and is not now. The issue has always been Israel's right to exist and prior to the establishment of the State to the very existence of Jews in what is now Israel. The PLO meticulously adheres to its phased plan first to create an Arab state on part of the Land of Israel and then to use that state as the launching pad to destroy the weakened, truncated Jewish state in a final assault together with the other Arab states including "peace partners" Egypt and Jordan. It is for that reason that all the Arab confrontation countries are feverishly arming.
Only the most naive can accept the premise that the Arabs are participating in the Oslo Agreements to enter into a two-state solution as a way to unravel the seemingly endless strife between Jews and Arabs west of the Jordan Rift. These devious agreements were always intended by the PLO and the Arab world to displace the Jews by a carefully orchestrated combination of diplomacy that had the blessings of the world along with judicious doses of terrorism and finally all out war.
It is doubtful that even the most sanquine Arabs, in their wildest dreams, could have imagined the extent to which the Jewish people and Israel would have so wholeheartedly and gullibly participated in schemes concocted for their own destruction.
A very senior U.S. admiral who heard former Prime Minister Shimon Peres, at a meeting arranged by the Washington, D.C. based Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, expound on the new Middle East wrote as follows: "As a military officer, it is impossible for me to accept the theory that the information and technology revolution makes the high ground and strategic depth irrelevant in defending national borders especially when the neighboring states are unreliable, unpredictable, long-standing enemies, and non-democratic. The stakes for Israel are simply too high for strategic ambiguity and political expediency where democracies live up to agreements and dictators play both ends against the middle".
The distinguished American philosopher, George Santayana, once wrote to the effect that a people who learn nothing from the lessons of history are destined to relive it. Jews as a people have learned little from their own misfortunes and nothing from the ultimate tragedy that befell them as a consequence of World War II. Winston Churchill in his monumental work pointed out how totally unnecessary World War II was. Perhaps the supreme irony of that war was the pacifism that helped bring it on. As fascism moved toward its inexerable goal of world conquest, those in the West were mesmerized by visions of peace and material well being. The nations of the West put their trust in pious statements and platitudes of disarmament enshrined in signed pieces of paper, the result of impressive international peace conferences as Kellog-Briand, Lausanne, Locarno, as well as naval disarmament treaties during the 1920s and 30s. The high minded, peace loving individuals in the West swore allegiance to such oaths as the Oxford Pledge, that they would never under any circumstances bear arms. In juxtaposition to those high minded liberals, all of whom imagined halos of pure vitue hovering over their righteous heads, were the "war mongers" who constantly warned of the greater danger emanating from the predators of the world who could not be placated as Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain of Great Britain, the author of appeasement, finally learned to his sorrow in 1939. Between the two world wars the "war mongers" of the West in vain preached military preparedness and distrust of dictators.
In the dangerous Middle East environment, Israeli military planners had better consider two new sources of danger emanating from the Arab world. One is that posed by the forces under PLO leader Arafat's control, under the guise of a 30,000 man police force. In reality the true figure is reputed to be at least twice that number. Furthermore, Arafat's forces are undoubtedly securing a vast arsenal of secret and more powerful weapons, including antitank and antiaircraft missiles, mortars, and Katyusha rockets. These are all simple infantry weapons. However, from launching platforms on the high ground of Samaria and Judea as well as from the northern part of the Gaza Strip, the Arabs could rain death and destruction over the entire narrow strip of coastline, where 80% of Israel's population and industry is situated. Prior to mobilization, Arafat possesses an infantry force, today, larger than that in the peacetime configuration of the IDF.
In the event of a coordinated Arab attack upon Israel, Arafat's forces would be in a position to tie up a considerable number of Israeli ground forces who should be rushed to defend the already vulnerable borders of the country. The Arabs are situated to prevent or delay the IDF from mobilizing its reserve formations. In the initial 48 to 96 hours of war this could prove decisive and critical to the survival of Israel.
The second new menace to Israeli existence are the Arabs within the old green line and especially in the Galilee, where they constitute a clear majority of the population and strong Arab nationalist sentiment is not lacking. The situation of these Arabs bears a striking resemblance to the Germans in the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia whom Adolf Hitler managed to manipulate in the fall of 1938. The Arabs in the Galilee will also demand "anschluss" (annexation) to the new Arab entity, as did the Germans in the Sudetenland to their German Fatherland. What better time would it be for them to do so than when Israel is under a massive attack from the surrounding Arab countries, including those with whom Israel has peace treaties? Yasser Arafat openly appeals to the "Arabs of 48", that those who did not flee but became citizens of Israel to join the struggle to destroy the Jewish State. His exhortations have not fallen upon deaf ears. Israeli Arabs and their political leadership are increasingly hostile to the Jews and irredentist in their pronouncements.
Signs are increasing that Egypt is actively preparing for an armed assault against Israel, at an opportune moment, in collaboration with other Arab states and the PLO, all of whom are feverishly arming. They are using the war option to warn Israel and the world that if the Arabs do not get by negotiation everything that they are demanding, including Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and 20% of the Kinneret, all out war is the inevitable alternative. Of course the western world trembles for their oil and financial investments.
Israel is seen by the Arab world for what she really has become in the past twenty five years, a divided, demoralized country, even unsure of her rightful place in history as a Jewish Zionist State. Many Jews in Israel are obsessed with the childish belief that rhetorical proclamations of peace is the surest guarantee that there will be no war. No other nation on the earth lives in a comparable environment of such implacable hostility. When survival is at stake, logic mitigates against rejecting the worst case scenarios of possible enemy intentions and capabili- ties. In Ellie Wiesel's famous novel, NIGHT, a despondent Jew about to die in Auschwitz ironically observes, "I've got more faith in Hitler than in anyone else. He's the only one who's kept his promises, all his promises, to the Jewish people." I am convinced that the master terrorist and murderer of hundreds of Jews, Yasser Arafat, also intends to keep all his promises to the Jews.
In the tiny postage stamp size area between the Jordan Rift and the Mediterranean Sea, there can be only one sovereign state. Neither blind hope nor wishful thinking will change that reality. Despite its present apparent military strength, there is a shocking fragility to Israel's existence which Jews must never lose sight of or underestimate at the peril of inviting their own destruction.
In my humble opinion as an officer, who spent years studying the security of Israel for the U.S. Army, I am convinced that the Jews of Israel can enjoy the fruits of peace and national security only under the following conditions: by remaining loyal to their Jewish heritage, by maintaining overwhelming military strength viz-a-viz the Arab world, and by constantly preparing for war.
Irving Kett is a Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired Professor of Civil Engineering, California State University