Barak, Netanyahu and Mainstream Israel Thinking
By Gershon Baskin, Ph.D.
the past three days I have had a unique opportunity to participate in Kenes
Herzliya – this is an annual event (this was the second meeting) of
a gathering of the entire Israeli military, security, and military
industrial establishment. The subject of the conference was “The Balance
of Israel’s Strength and National Security”.
Kenes Herzliya is organized by Dr. Uzi Arad, the former
Political-Security advisor to Prime Minister Netanyahu and the former head
of Research at the Mossad. There
were hundreds of participants from all spheres of the Israeli security
elites and establishments. Speakers at Kenes Herzliya included Chief of
Staff Shaul Mofaz, Former Head of GSS Ami Ayalon, Former Prime Ministers
Ehud Barak and Binyamin Netanyahu, Minister of Defense Binyamin Ben
Eliezer, Director of the Mossad Ephraim Halevy, Foreign Minister Shimon
Peres, Former CIA Director Jim Woolsey and more.
a personal note, this was the most right-wing gathering that I have ever
participated in and for me it was a fascinating learning experience. The
organizers will produce a book of summaries and recommendations from the
conference that will be made public on Israel’s Independence Day next
I would like to share with you my impressions from the presentations made
at the conference by former Prime Ministers Barak and Netanyahu.
These two presentations, in my view, give a pretty good picture of
the mainstream thinking in Israel today. While it is understood
that neither of these gentleman are in a position of power today, their
thinking greatly represents the mainstream of Israeli public thinking and
they both help to design and lead public thinking in Israel today. I
think that it is important to take a good look at these positions.
marks a change in international relations from which the State of
Israel has already benefited from and will continue to benefit from.
The United States and the Western world today have a clear
understanding of the dangers of terrorism and are now leading a world
war aimed at wiping terrorism off the face of the planet. The United
States has no adopted and supports Israel’s position on terrorism.
The United States
will be successful in its war against terrorism. The success of the
victory in Afghanistan will serve as deterrence for other states that
support terrorism and/or give refuge to terrorists.
The World War
against terrorism will continue after Afghanistan to places such as
Somalia, Sudan, Lebanon and Syria.
Iraq and Iran are also on the “radar scopes” of the
Americans and they will also be dealt with in various ways.
inconceivable that Saddam Hussein will be left in place when the World
War against terrorism is completed.
Thanks to the
position of the United States, it is now understood by the entire
world that there is no “good terrorism and bad terrorism”.
All terrorism is bad and no state should make compromises to
terrorism. Terrorism must
There is no
effective deterrence against suicide terrorists. Therefore, deterrence
can be created by attacking those states and regimes that support
terrorism and encourage terrorism. Those regimes that cannot be made
to understand that they must stop supporting terrorism and that they
must destroy the terrorist infrastructure will pay the price of no
longer existing. This is
the policy of the US and the actions against the Taliban should help
to provide real deterrence for other regimes, including the
made a strategic error when they interpreted the Israeli withdrawal
from South Lebanon as an act of Israeli weakness.
had two main strategic aims for the intifada – (1)
internationalization of the conflict; and (2) creating rifts and
cleavages in Israeli society. The Palestinians have failed to achieve
these aims – Israeli society is stronger and more unified than ever
before, and rather than putting pressure on Israel, the international
community has put pressure on Arafat and on the Palestinian Authority.
allow Arafat or the Palestinian Authority to achieve its strategic
goals, at all costs this must be avoided.
allow Arafat or the Palestinian Authority to achieve any political
gains as a result of violence and terrorism; this would be the surest
way to guarantee that the violence will only increase.
Israel must face
the real probability that reaching peace agreements with the
Palestinians at this time and at any time in the foreseeable future is
not at all likely.
Arafat is not a
partner. Arafat is not willing to accept the existence of the State of
Israel as Israel defines itself – a Jewish state.
Arafat’s demand for the right of return means that what he
wants is a Palestinian state in the 1967 borders and a bi-national
state inside of Israel. For
Israel this is a non-starter. Until
there are Palestinian leaders who are really willing to accept Israel
as a Jewish state and explicitly give up the right of return there can
be no “end of conflict agreements”.
Understanding that there can be no peace agreement that will put an end to the conflict requires Israel to take direct responsibility for its own security and its own future.
Beyond these many points of agreement, the following outlines the points of differences between Barak and Netanyahu and the more specific details of how each of them view the future.
fighting against terrorism, Israel should implement a unilateral
policy of separation – “us here and them there”. This plan
should be implemented over the course of four years.
The plan must be detailed and announced to the world.
If the Palestinians agree, they can cooperate and work out ways
of benefiting from it, if they do not agree, Israel should go ahead
with the plan according to its design.
The plan is based
on creating 5 settlements blocks that would include about 12-13% of
the West Bank, the Jordan Valley would stay in Israel’s hands
accounting for about 12% of the West Bank.
All isolated settlements would be vacated, but not while the
violence continues. The goal should be to relocate all settlers from
settlements removed over a four-year period.
The four years are necessary both for building new housing and
for creating a period of calm and quiet before Israel removes a single
settlement. The five settlement blocks already account for 80% of the
settlers. The removal of the isolated settlements accounts for the
remaining 20%. Israel will construct whatever fences, blockades,
walls, and formal crossing points that are necessary to protect its
security and the security of the Israeli people. It is conceivable to
imagine that some Palestinian labor will continue inside of Israel
after the separation plan is in effect.
The plan for
separation is both for Israel security and defense needs but equally
important for protecting a significant Jewish majority in the State of
Israel. If Israel does
not implement this plan for separation it will either become a
bi-national state or it will become an apartheid state.
In either of these two cases, it is the end of Zionism and the
There can and
should be fences and blockades in and around Jerusalem as well. There
can be fences on the outer borders of Jerusalem as well as fences and
checkpoints inside of Jerusalem that will work according to the
security situation on the ground and as needed.
Israel must be concerned with the welfare of the innocent Palestinian civilian population and should work with the international community in supporting the economic and welfare needs of the Palestinian people.
can declare statehood over the territories beyond the fence. Israel
will retain the right to take care of its own security needs through
the security perimeter that will exist around the Palestinian entity.
Israel will control the international borders of the Palestinian
Israel must always leave a very wide window open for negotiations for such a time when the Palestinian leadership is able to accept the challenge of coming back to the negotiating table. This can only be after they Palestinians have successfully put an end to terrorism against Israel.
The collapse of the Palestinian regime must be brought about. Arafat must understand that there is a price for breaching agreements, and the only price that Arafat and those with him understand is the loss of their regime. No regime that would rise after Arafat would be worse than Arafat. The security situation cannot be worse than it is now. If Hamas takes power, a possibility that Netanyahu doubts, Israel’s room for maneuvering would be broadened in the context of international opinion.
Israel should express its sincere desire to re-enter into negotiations with the Palestinians. The first subject on the agenda should be the refugee issue. If the Palestinians are unwilling to declare explicitly that they accept that there will not be a right of return for Palestinian refugees, then the negotiations on other issues will not begin.
If Israel builds a fence, it should be a one-way fence – the Palestinians cannot enter Israel but Israel retains the right to enter into the Palestinian areas, if the Palestinians do not effectively fight against terrorism. A fence is a means and not an alternative to a political or a diplomatic solution. This is a means that should be considered but the most important question is where to put the fence. Under no circumstances should the fence be placed along the 1967 lines that would bring the Palestinian closer to Israel.
Until there is a trust-worthy Palestinian regime the question of Palestinian statehood is not to be considered at all. Palestinian statehood and sovereignty would require that Israel agree to Palestinian control over their own air space, the water rights, external borders, etc. All of these issues pose a real strategic and existential threat to the State of Israel. When a different, more “realistic” and more responsible Palestinian leadership emerges Israel will be ready to enter into negotiations with that leadership. Until that time, Israel’s main task is to protect its citizens and the interests of Israel.