By Mordechai Sones
To all Jews and Friends of Israel, Peace and Blessings,
In the past 2-3 weeks, the sound of marksmanship and attack training from the Arab villages surrounding outlying Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria has resumed, after a lull of several months. The gunfire is mixed with fireworks to mask the nature of the noise. This week and the end of the last, the gunshots have been heard during all hours of the day as well, when fireworks are not used.
Since releasing the report, "Understanding Arab First Strike Preparations in Yesha," a steady flow of corroborative testimony from both civilian and military channels has reached the author. Until now, Israeli officials and media have avoided publicly facing the issue of Arab first strike capability in Yesha, giving the public the impression that it is not an issue. But to the hundreds of thousands of troops of the PA militia, this is the issue for which they have been training, equipping, and organizing for the past three years.
In a country under a security threat such as Israel, it is appropriate that the public at large should be loyal to agencies such as Moetzet Yesha (the Yesha Council) in its effort to protect its constituents. This is called "unity of command" in professional military doctrine and is a time-honored principle of crisis leadership.
However, the principle of "unity of command" can be abused to suppress information needed for sound decision making. For example, before the '73 war, Israeli officials suppressed "early warning" information about the impending Arab attack. The resulting "mechdal" (breakdown) pushed Israel close to the brink of destruction.
Ending the abandonment of Yesha requires a separate political mechanism for a temporary period outside of the bureaucracy. Once the people of Yesha draw the line to articulate and adopt a new security vision, the "unity of command" can and should be restored. Some officials in the Israeli government are assuming that many Yesha residents will cut and run during the difficult months ahead. Assuming that the Jews of Yesha will not draw the line, they plan to continue trading away pieces of Israel one at a time.
The fate of us 200,000 residents of Yesha hangs in the balance. Our lives, the lives of our families, and our homes are tied up with the potential loss of Israel's historical heartland and defensible borders along the Jordan river. Thus, Israel's fate may be tied to ours.
There are many Jews in Israel and in the Diaspora, and even some of our own neighbors, who do not yet understand the importance of Yesha to Israel's military, economic, and cultural survival. But as the showdown over the peace process approaches, an opportunity to force the Jews and friends of Israel both here and in the Diaspora to confront the issue of Yesha's importance to Israel's fate will occur. It will be up to us to insure this opportunity is not lost. A political medium is needed.
Residents of Yesha have not yet been given a set of practical steps to deter or defeat a first strike attack because they have not yet had the opportunity to clearly express where they stand at this fateful juncture. Two bottlenecks have prevented a clearcut Yesha decision so far, keeping Yesha from expressing its voice:
1) The official suppression of information on the threat and official acquiescence to it has precluded Yesha residents from making an educated decision regarding their fate;
2) The lack of a formal, established political mechanism to achieve and express a consensus of Yesha residents concerning their own future.
An independent voice may be temporarily needed. One thing is clear, however. For Yesha to survive, most if not all of us will have to stand united. Is Yesha's survival truly worth the risks and difficulties involved? It is up to us to decide this, and to decide it in a way that will compel Jews and friends of Israel both here and in the Diaspora to support our choice.
Although the risks of making a public commitment to stay and defend Yesha are clear, given the preponderance of weaponry and trained fighters in the PA's hands, there are a number of practical steps which could legally be taken to greatly enhance our survivability once we have taken such a step.
It is possible that Yesha's drawing the line will help prevent Jerusalem, and later the rest of Israel, being forced into drawing the line from a much less defensible position. If we neglect to draw the line here, shall we then draw the line down the middle of downtown Jerusalem? Do we want to draw the line staring up at a Syrian-controlled Golan Heights? Do we want to draw the line as batteries of Katyusha missiles and 120mm mortars from Kalkilya and Tulkarm pound the beaches of Herzliya and Netanya?
If we defend the line that G-d has assigned us here, it may require a moment of personal risk and commitment on our part. But the later lines could involve greater risks, and possibly loss of far more Jewish lives, G-d forbid. Furthermore, they may be insufficient to save Israel itself.
So today it is up to us, the Jews of Yesha; can we draw the line - together for the undivided territorial integrity of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza? Our homes, our lives, and possibly even the lives of the people of Israel may hang in the balance. The G-d of Israel will help and protect us if we act within nature according to His Will.
l Nachliel, Israel