Jerusalem Post, Oct 16, 2001

THE RISKS OF A PALESTINIAN STATE

By Louis Rene Beres

(The writer, a long-time expert in international law, is also the author of Security or Armageddon: Israel's Nuclear Strategy. (Lexington Books).) Professor Beres recently became the academic advisor for the Freeman Center For Strategic Studies.)

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US President George W. Bush has given his blessing to a Palestinian state. Pressed to this destabilizing position by America's new Islamic "partners" in the impending coalition fight against terrorism, the president misses one rather important consequence: This new Arab state, heavy with the hatreds of other enemy states, will inevitably give rise to new and more deadly terrorism. Most ominously of all will be "Palestine's" causal effect upon nuclear warfare in the Middle East.

A Palestinian state should not be foolishly supported by the US for immediate and short-term needs. Because the creation of a State of Palestine alongside the State of Israel will heighten the risk of regional nuclear war considerably, this newest enemy state should be viewed with real apprehension. Indeed, it's creation could likely be a final step to bring an Islamic "Final Solution" to the region. Architects of the Oslo Accords suggested all along that a "two-state solution" to the Palestinian problem would substantially reduce the risk of another major war in the Middle East. But as we should have learned by now, especially from recurring Arab violations of the "peace process," the conventional Oslo wisdom was always unwise. For the most part, Iranian and Arab state inclinations to war against Israel have had absolutely nothing to do with the Palestinians. Even if Israel continued to make all unilateral Oslo concessions, and continued to adhere to unreciprocated agreements, these belligerent inclinations would continue, especially from Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as from Iran and Egypt.

When Israel soon faces a new state of Palestine, the Jewish state's vulnerability to armed attack by hostile neighbors will increase markedly. If this diminished safety is accompanied by the spread of unconventional weapons to hostile states, which now seems certain, Israel could find itself confronting not only war, but genocide.

Why? Most importantly, the new State of Palestine will preoccupy Israeli military forces to a much greater extent - much, much greater than does the intifada. Even if it were able to resist takeover by one of the other Islamic states in the region, Palestine will surely become a favored launching-point for renewed terrorism against Israel.

Various promises notwithstanding, Islamic insurgents would continue to celebrate violence against Israel as the essence of "national liberation." Recognizing an "improved" configuration of forces vis-a-vis Israel, a larger number of Islamic enemy states will calculate that they now confront a smaller, more beleaguered adversary.

Further, they will understand that a coordinated effort by certain countries that possess or are in the process of acquiring pertinent ballistic missiles could possibly endanger Israel's very survival. Taken together with the fact that global support for Israel is always fickle, especially in perilous times such as these, and that individual or combined chemical/biological/nuclear warfare capabilities could bring enormous harm to Israel, the creation of Palestine will tip the balance of power in the Middle East decisively.

THE FULL strategic implications for Israel of an independent Palestine should now be carefully appraised. If, in the end, such independence becomes the cause of a nuclear war in the region, everyone, Palestinians as well as Jews, will lose.

But how, exactly, would a nuclear war begin in the reconfigured Middle East? One possibility would be by Arab or Iranian first strikes against Israel. These strikes could be nuclear (although this would likely be several years away) or non-nuclear. In either scenario, Israel - especially if it feels dangerously close to defeat - might resort to nuclear retaliation.

Alternatively, Israel, believing that substantial enemy attack - chemical, biological, conventional, or nuclear - is imminent, could decide to act preemptively. If, as we might expect, this preemption were entirely non- nuclear, 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 also have to be used for purposes of nuclear war fighting.

Israel has much to fear - more perhaps than any other state on the face of the earth. Threatened by a growing umber of adversaries with ballistic missiles and with a corollary interest in nuclear warheads, Jerusalem should know that full and codified transformation of Judea/Samaria and Gaza into Palestine will provide its enemies with the means and the incentives to destroy the Jewish state once and for all.

Deprived of essential "strategic depth," and beset internally with 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 (the so-called "Samson Option"). It follows that Bush's October 2 endorsement of a Palestinian state should be viewed with the most grave concern. Otherwise, Palestine, looking first very much like Lebanon, will wind up as Armageddon.

(c) Jerusalem Post



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