Bad Borders, Good Neighbors

Bad Borders, Good Neighbors

 By Ephraim Sneh, New York Times

 

10.7.2011
via New York Times (click for original)
 
Herzliya, Israel
 
TODAY, as American, European, Russian and United Nations officials meet in Washington to discuss the future of the Middle East peace process, Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, remains adamant that a peace deal premised on returning to Israel’s pre-1967 borders poses an unacceptable risk to its security.
 
He is right: the country’s 1967 borders are not militarily defensible. But his use of this argument to reject the only viable formula for Israeli-Palestinian peace — a negotiated two-state solution based on mutually agreed upon land swaps — is wrong, and it does not serve Israel’s security interests. 
 
Israel needs peace with the Palestinians, and that will likely require a return to the 1967 lines with a few adjustments. These borders can be made defensible if they come with a security package consisting of a joint Israeli-Palestinian security force along the West Bank’s border with Jordan, a demilitarized Palestinian state and a three-way Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian defense treaty. Combined with such a package, the balanced formula President Obama outlined in his May 19 speech can give Israel the security it needs and deserves.
 
Until June 1967, Israelis feared that a swift Arab military move could cut Israel in two at its “narrow waist” — an area near the city of Netanya, where the country is less than 10 miles wide. By doing so, Arab tanks and artillery could have reached Tel Aviv within a few hours. In the 44 years since, the geography has not changed, but the threat has.
 
Today, there is a new menace that we did not face in 1967. Short- and medium-range rockets, mortars and missiles supplied by Iran are making the lives of Israeli civilians a nightmare. Thousands of these rockets have been launched from Gaza into Israeli towns and villages since Hamas wrested control of Gaza in 2007; and if an independent Palestine emerges on the West Bank, these weapons could find their way there, too.
 
That is why the border between the West Bank and Jordan must be made impenetrable. This cannot be done remotely, from the 1967 lines; it will require a joint Israeli-Palestinian military presence along the Jordan River. Such joint military activity would not violate Palestinian sovereignty and could be modeled on Israel’s current coordination with Palestinian security forces in the West Bank. It would be far more effective than deploying an international force. After all, United Nations forces in southern Lebanon have failed to prevent a colossal military build-up by Hezbollah since Israel withdrew from the area in 2000.
 
Second, the Palestinian state must be demilitarized. No tanks, artillery or missiles can be deployed within its boundaries. In the absence of this weaponry, international guarantees will ensure Palestine’s security and territorial integrity.