Friday, September 24, 2010

Dividing sovereignty of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan

Or International Analyst Network, 22 Sep 2010,  David Singer suggests an alternative to the Two-State Solution:

...There is however another far more practical and readily achievable alternative solution....That solution involves the division of sovereignty of the West Bank between Israel and Jordan.

Separation of Arabs and Jews in Palestine - as far as is possible - has been the policy that has guided international diplomacy in the region since 1920. It has been sponsored by the League of Nations, the United Nations and several Commissions of Inquiry. It remains the policy currently favoured and supported by America, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations.

This policy - with one notable exception - has failed for one reason - Arab refusal to accept anything less than sovereignty in 100% of the territory available for allocation between Jews and Arabs.

That one exception was Arab acceptance of the League of Nations decision on 23 September 1922 denying the Jews any entitlement to reconstitute the Jewish National Home in 77% of Palestine - laying the groundwork for the creation of an exclusively Arab State there in 1946 that is today called Jordan.

It was not until 1948 that the Jews were able to create their own State in 17% of Palestine.

Sovereignty in the remaining 6% of Palestine - the West Bank and Gaza - is still up for grabs.

Although Jordan and Israel have fought several wars following the War of Independence in 1948 they have enjoyed a signed and sealed peace treaty between their respective states since 1994 - which has withstood many political and diplomatic pressures that could have heralded its demise.

Jordan indeed fits the Clinton mould of Israel “living peacefully with a neighbor who has the same aspirations for normal life.”

Presently stuck between their two respective States is the West Bank with a population of 2 million Arabs and 500000 Jews - whose territorial sovereignty remains undetermined.

Division of that sovereignty between Israel and Jordan resonates as a just and fair solution for the following reasons:

•It will restore Jordanian governance to the major part of the West Bank as existed from 1950 up to its loss to Israel in the Six Day War in 1967.
•It will bring the overwhelming majority of its 2 million West Bank Arabs under Jordanian protection, free them from Israeli control and restore the freedom of movement and citizenship rights enjoyed by them between 1948 - 1967
•Not one Jew or Arab will have to leave his present home or business in the West Bank
•Issues presently seen as contentious such as water, refugees and Jerusalem have already been identified and proposed solutions flagged in the 1994 Treaty.
•Drawing the new international boundary between Israel and Jordan to end sovereignty claims by Jews and Arabs in the West Bank should be capable of being achieved within three months.
•There will be a dramatic and immediate change in the current status quo which most agree is dangerous and untenable
•Jordan is the only Arab partner that can honour and enforce any agreement on the West Bank that Israel is prepared to sign.
•It will finalize the allocation of sovereignty of former Palestine between the two successor States to the Mandate for Palestine.
Jordan cannot be allowed to simply reject such an alternative out of hand and seek to walk away from the looming conflict that must inevitably fill the void after the collapse of the two-state solution.

Jordan has been part of the problem surrounding the issue of sovereignty in the West Bank since 1920. It now is time for Jordan to step up to the plate and take responsibility for being part of the solution in 2010.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Do you want a radical Islamist state between Iraq and suburban Israel?

From Ynet News, 21 Sept 2010, by Martin Sherman:

...why letting Hamas take over Judea and Samaria is extremely unwise

...when [journalist Guy] Bechor claims that if the Hamas took over Judea and Samaria "The international pressure exerted on Israel would be eased and even disappear, as nobody wishes to grant a state to terrorists,” one can only wonder whether he has succumbed to terminal amnesia ...

Indeed, in the case of the Palestinians, the pejorative designation of "terrorist" is alarmingly transitory. After all, the entire Oslo process was launched with "terrorists." The PLO was formally designated as a terror organization until the early ‘90s, and only permitted to open a Mission Office in Washington in 1994 after the signature of Declaration of Principles on the White House Lawn - despite the fact that it had merely outsourced its murderous activities to its violent affiliates.

This clearly indicates that widespread international reticence in dealing with "terrorists" is not something that can be taken for granted - certainly not for any length of time. Indeed, the PLO was "sanitized" largely due to efforts by prominent Israelis. Bechor would do well to keep this in mind, for familiar-sounding voices are being raised today by a growing chorus of influential figures in the US, in the EU…and in Israel, calling for "engagement" with the Hamas.

The trouble with Gaza
Moreover, given the severe worldwide censure that Israel has been subjected to over its policy toward Hamas-governed Gaza, one can only wonder on what Bechor bases his astonishing claim that if Hamas was to govern Judea and Samaria "international pressure exerted on Israel would be eased and even disappear."

No less astounding is Bechor's rhetorical question: "What’s so bad about the new situation created in the Gaza Strip...?"
  • ...lasting damage to the moral fiber of the nation ..
  • ...the senseless and futile uprooting any vestige of Jewish presence
  • ...Thousands of rockets and mortar shells that have rained down on civilian population centers for years!? Indeed only poor aim on the part of the Palestinians and the sparse target-density in the arid expanses bordering the Gaza Strip have prevented these bombardments from being catastrophic.
Bechor's facile formula for dealing with this future possibility is: "If they fire at us from there, we fire back at them." Well, last time we "fired back at them" - after eight years of them firing at us - in Operation Cast Lead, the result was the Goldstone Report and enormous damage to Israel's international standing, making future retaliation far more problematic and international punitive measures more likely. Can all of this have escaped Bechor's attention?

But even if Israel decided to shrug off international condemnation and risk global censure and sanction, there are huge differences - in terms of geographical extent, topographical structure and strategic significance - between the ramifications of a Hamas takeover of Judea and Samaria, and those of a Hamas-ruled Gaza:

• The length of Israel's frontier with the Gaza Strip is a little over 50 kilometers; that of the "West Bank is about 300 kilometers long (and longer if it is to include the large settlement blocs as Bechor envisages.)

• The Gaza border abuts a relatively remote and sparsely-populated portion of the country. The "West Bank" frontier would run barely a mile from the national parliament, along the very fringes of Israel's most populous areas in the coastal metropolis, adjacent to the perimeter of Ben Gurion Airport and to large sections of the Trans-Israel highway.

• While the Gaza strip is generally low-lying flatlands and contains no water resources that impact on Israeli supply, the "West Bank" is an elevated mountain ridge that commands much of Israel's vital infrastructures (both civilian and military), crucial water resources, major urban population centers and commercial hubs.

Radical Islamic state
Hamas would not have to rain down hundreds of rockets on Israel to paralyze the nation's social and economic routine. A few sporadic firings every now and then would be sufficient for that. In fact, the mere threat of bombardment (even if inaccurate) would bring about a disastrous disruption of air traffic to Israel and catastrophic cessation of tourism.

However, this would hardly constitute an internationally credible "smoking gun" to justify massive Israel retaliation along a front several hundred kilometers long in difficult terrain - especially if the Hamas regime could claim plausible deniability by placing the blame on radical renegades.

According to Bechor, ensconcing the Hamas in will ensure "there is a master of the house there that can be presented with demands." Well, we saw how splendidly that worked in Gaza - especially with Gilad Shalit.

  But perhaps the most worrying aspect of Bechor's analysis is the illusion that his suggested scenario would somehow exempt Israel from the burden of securing the nation. He proposes that "Israel would…allow free passage between the Hamas principality and Jordan. This would provide the Islamic principality with an outlet to the world, via Jordan, which would have to assume the burden just as Egypt did in Gaza."

  So Bechor finds the situation in Gaza - which has been flooded by weapons since the disengagement - a model to emulate? It should be remembered that unlike Egypt, Jordan has a Palestinian majority. Thus, being perceived as the "Zionist's warder" of a "Palestinian prison" may destabilize the current regime, either forcing it into far-reaching concessions to the Islamist elements or even surrendering power completely.
So ...what we may get is a radical Islamist state stretching from the Iraqi border in the east to suburban Israel in the west.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

An Imminent Coup by Hezbollah in Lebanon

From the International Analyst Network, 18 Sep 2010, by Elias Youssef Bejjani:

A Saudi advice has delayed the return of Lebanon's PM, Saad Al Hariri, from Saudi Arabia to Beirut.

Meanwhile, 3500 Hezbollah militiamen are secretly deployed in the Eastern Christian region according to a report that was published yesterday by the "Beirut Observer" web site. Hezbollah has reached its final logistic preparations to execute an armed coup to take over all of Lebanon by force.

The web site attributed its information to well-informed sources in the Saudi media.

Below is a summary of the report with other related information:

Well-informed Saudi sources have confirmed to the "Beirut Observer" that the delay of Lebanon's PM return to Beirut came in response to advice by Saudi officials. The Saudis are extremely concerned in regards to information became available to them indicating that an imminent Hezbollah coup is in on the horizon. The Saudis are fearful that Hezbollah’s threats are not mere political rhetoric this time. The Iranian-armed militia has set all the needed logistic preparations for the coup and is only waiting for the zero hour.

According to the report, Hezbollah's planned coup will take a camouflaged cover of civilian protection this time. But the reality on the ground is that it will not be different from Hezbollah's bloody and cruel invasion of Western Sunni Beirut and Druze Mount Lebanon in May 2008. The coup will be initiated by putting government officials under house arrest. This will include Lebanon's PM, Saad Al Hariri, General prosecutor Said Mirza, Internal Security Forces General Director General Ashraf Rifi as well as many other officials and politicians. Sources said that Information Branch President Colonel Wesam Hassan will be spared from house arrest in the early hours of the coup.

The report went on to conclude that at the present time the centre of attention is a scheduled visit by a Saudi envoy to Damascus today and on the results of his talks with Syrian officials. The Saudi mission to Syria will focus on the current volatile situation in Lebanon, the avoidance of bloodshed, strife and and the repetition of what happened on May 2008. The Saudis fear that the impact of any military coup executed by Hezbollah in Lebanon will spread chaos over the entire region.

Private sources from Beirut unveiled that Hezbollah has deployed 3500 of its armed militia men along the Mediterranean coast in the Christian region from Beirut northwards through the cities of Junieh, Tabarja and Batroun. These bearded Hezbollah men are residing in chalets and apartments located in Christian areas and on standby alert status in case of any political development or security emergency that may require their armed intervention.

According to the report, a decision was taken by Hezbollah's leadership to invade Christian regions loyal to the March 14 Coalition, and subdue them by military force. Hezbollah's Leadership aim from such an invasion is to deliver a bloody intimidation message to all Lebanese who oppose its hegemony over the country. They want to prove on the ground that they have the upper hand, the sole power and the authority all over the country...

Follow this link to the Arabic report published yesterday by the Beirut Observer web site.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Russia supplies advance weapons to Syria

From Ynet News, 19 September 2010, by Itamar Eichner:

Jerusalem angered at sale of Russian [cruise] missiles to Syria...

Israeli officials are threatening to sell weapons to "areas of strategic importance" to Russia after Moscow announced over the weekend that it would go through with the sale of P800 [cruise] missiles to Syria...

Russia's announcement came after both Israel and the US implored that it abandon the sale. The cruise missiles discussed, dubbed Yakhont, have a range of 300 km, which puts Israeli ships off of Lebanon's coast at risk of being hit by missiles fired from Syria's southern port.

...last month Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called Russian President Vladimir Putin and requested that he call it off, for fear the missiles will be handed to Hezbollah.

More recently Defense Minister Ehud Barak visited Moscow on a similar mission. Barak spoke with both Putin and Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. ...

Despite the extensive efforts, the deal was announced Friday to be proceeding as planned. "They've gone one step too far," one Jerusalem official said. "This is not in keeping with our cooperation with them."

The official said Israel had so far refrained from selling "strategic, tie-breaking weapons" to third-world countries, and that it expected Russia to do the same.

"The supply of advanced weapons to Syria, one of Hezbollah's two main supporters, especially on the eve of the fateful peace talks with the Palestinians, is not a move encouraging the moderate forces of the Middle East – but rather a prize for extremist states," the source said.

...The P800 is considered one of the world's most advanced cruising missiles due to its speed and low flight. Israel fears it will fall into the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon, which would put its ships in the Mediterranean at risk, especially in light of terror organizations' desire to derail peace talks with the Palestinians...

The Next Israel-Hizballah War

In a new Washington Institute Policy Focus #106, published September 2010, Jeffrey White offers an estimation of what renewed hostilities between Israel and Hizballah might look like.

In a meticulously calculated forecast of the future battlefield -- supplemented by original maps and graphics -- White outlines the capabilities and operational objectives of the two sides, the potentially game-changing roles played by Syria and Iran, and the possible impact on the region's postconflict military and political environments.

White concludes that
  • this is the war the IDF must win -- the consequences may be fateful, and
  • Washington should be developing its own concrete plans and preparatory steps now.
From the Executive Summary:
…If war does in fact come to Israel’s northern border, it would bear little resemblance to the 2006 conflict in Lebanon. Instead, it would in all likelihood be a transformational, even fateful, event for the region...
…In all probability, it would be a major conflict, one fought over extensive areas of Lebanon, Israel, and probably Syria, featuring large military forces executing complex operations and resulting in substantial casualties (military and civilian) as well as major infrastructure damage in all of the countries involved. …the fighting would be intense and would likely escalate and expand. Israel and Hizballah would feel great pressure to win such a war, and that need would drive the hostilities to a new level, likely pulling in Syria and pushing Iran to become involved as well. The conflict would be a severe test for decisionmakers and warfighters on both sides, and a challenge for key external actors, especially the United States.
… Although the challenge of a war with Hizballah and its allies should not be underestimated, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are much better prepared today than they were in 2006. …Israel would aim to fundamentally alter the military equation, with great consequences for the political situation.

… it would likely be decisive in the military operational sense. Israeli military strategy would center on the use of large-scale joint air, ground, and naval operations to rapidly eliminate Hizballah’s rocket and missile forces, destroy its ground forces in southern Lebanon, severely damage its command and control systems, and destroy its infrastructure throughout Lebanon.

Israel would probably attempt to prevent the conflict from escalating into general war with Syria …

… Hizballah’s military efforts would center on the following strategies:
■■ Offensively, to launch massive rocket/missile attacks on military and civilian targets with the intention of inflicting significant casualties and damage
■■ Defensively, to oppose Israeli air, ground, and naval operations inside Lebanon with aggressive action, slowing any advances while inflicting as many casualties as possible ...

For their part, Syria and Iran would at minimum provide communications, command, control, intelligence, and resupply assistance in an effort to keep Hizballah in the fight. Syrian air defense elements would oppose “penetrations” of Syrian airspace and perhaps engage Israeli aircraft over Lebanon, given the small operational area involved and the proximity of Damascus to the combat zone. Beyond basic support (e.g., advice, arms, intelligence), Iran’s potential role is unclear. But in a large-scale conflict, Tehran could decide to participate more directly by providing light infantry or special forces in Lebanon, and perhaps missile and air defense forces within Syria. And both Damascus and Tehran would likely feel pressure to increase their roles as the war escalated, due in part to their connections with and commitments to Hizballah.

If Syria became directly involved in a conflict with Israel during a war in Lebanon, its goals would include:
■■ Preserving the regime and its key assets (security, military, economic)
■■ Preserving Hizballah’s position in Lebanon and its ability to threaten Israel
■■ Reestablishing a Syrian military presence in Lebanon
■■Inflicting a defeat on Israel sufficient to create the conditions for regaining the Golan Heights
In Iran, the regime could decide to take one or more of several steps, on an escalating scale of involvement:
■■ Providing more arms to Hizballah and Syria
■■ Providing advisors, technicians, or light combat forces
■■ Carrying out asymmetric attacks on Israeli interests (e.g., terrorist-type actions)
■■ Engaging in regional troublemaking (e.g., raising tensions in the Strait of Hormuz)
■■ Conducting missile strikes on Israel
In the Palestinian arena, Hamas leaders would likely limit the group’s participation to token actions accompanied by supporting rhetoric. At the same time, no one should be surprised if a new war in the north included a “Gaza excursion.” Hamas could decide to enter the conflict in serious fashion, employing heavy rocket fire and long-range weapons. Alternatively, Israel could decide to finish the job begun with Operation Cast Lead in 2008–2009.

Escalation and Uncertainty
The war outlined here would present a dangerous situation— various pressures and dynamics would push it toward escalation. The course of the fighting, the combatants’ offensive strategies and doctrinal approaches, the depth of their preparations for war, their expectation that the other side will use massive force, and the perceived advantages of preemption would all foster a broader and more serious conflict. …
Decisionmakers on all sides would be under great pressure to act quickly in order to achieve their goals and protect their assets and populations…

… it would be a large-scale, intense conflict waged between Israel and some combination of Hizballah and its allies, fought in and over Israel, Lebanon, and Syria, and lasting weeks. In the end …The IDF would be occupying some, perhaps substantial, parts of Lebanon and potentially all of Gaza…

…It would certainly be Israel’s most serious war since 1973, and one that the IDF would have to win. …if Israel acted decisively, were willing to pay the costs in casualties and damage, and enjoyed military success, then a new war could substantially weaken its opponents in the following ways:
■■ Hizballah would be broken as a military factor in Lebanon and weakened politically.
■■ The Syrian regime would be weakened by military defeat and the loss of important military and security assets.
■■ Iran’s activities in the region would be circumscribed by the defeat of its allies; and if Tehran failed to aid them during the conflict, it would lose influence as well.
■■ Hamas (assuming it became involved directly) would lose its military power in Gaza and at least some of its political power.

The U.S. Role
… the United States should not necessarily take immediate steps toward ending it quickly.
Several important objectives would be at stake in such a scenario: breaking Hizballah’s military capabilities and reducing its political power; disabusing Syria of the notion that it can act in Lebanon to further its own interests without significant cost; and removing the potent Hizballah proxy from Iran’s foreign policy arsenal. Only successful IDF operations can achieve those goals.

Accordingly, the United States should consider giving the IDF both the time and the political space it needs to carry out those objectives.

Washington should also be prepared for associated Iranian troublemaking in the Persian Gulf. The United States must demonstrate that it will use force if necessary, thwarting any attempt by Tehran to take advantage of the situation created by a Lebanon war.

Whether hostilities will erupt soon or ever is uncertain; both sides have good reason to avoid it. But if war does come once again to Israel’s northern border, a renewed confrontation between Israel and Hizballah will not resemble their inconclusive 2006 encounter.

The new war will likely be wider in geographic scope and more destructive, with high-intensity operations from the beginning. The dynamics of the fighting will produce rapid escalation, possibly pulling in Syria and even Iran.

Where the war goes badly for either side, significant military and civilian casualties, disruption of economic activity, and damage to infrastructure are probable. Although Israel will most likely prevail in this scenario, victory for either side will carry substantial costs. And for the losing side, the consequences may well be fateful. As the war deterrent appears to weaken, both Israel and Hizballah are preparing for a serious confrontation that neither can afford to lose.

Download the full, 60-page report (a 1.4MB pdf)

Downloadable Maps:
Notional Israeli Air Force Operations against Hizballah
Notional Israeli Offensive Operations in Southern Lebanon
Selected Rocket and Missile Coverage of Israel from Potential Launch Areas in Lebanon
Notional Hizballah Offensive Operations in Northern Israel
Notional Hizballah Defense Concept

*Jeffrey White is a defense fellow at The Washington Institute, specializing in the military and security affairs of the Levant, Iraq, and Iran. A thirty-four-year veteran of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), he participated in DIA operational and policy planning and wrote extensively for senior defense officials, including the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.