Links to previous posts in this series:
The security issues are probably the most commonly cited issues when discussing Judea and Samaria in particular and Israel’s foreign policy in general. Israelis feel that this is the issue which is most easily explained to the world, because history and religion are more subjective ideas. A foreigner might not feel a connection to the history of the Jewish people or to Judaism, but security is something everyone can connect to and understand, or so we believe.
Israelis have lived with a constant security threat for as long as I can remember, and have never actually stopped living under a security threat since the war of independence in 1948. The State of Israel was born under the threat of total and utter annihilation by its neighbors. In 1948, the armies of six Arab countries, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, along with a local Arab militia all attempted to lay waste to the Jewish country. A full 1% of the Jewish population died in that war. In 1967, Egypt, Syria and Jordan attempted once again to wipe out the Jewish State. The saying in those days was that the last person out of Ben-Gurion International Airport should remember to turn out the lights. Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria today is a result of Israel’s victory in that war of defense. In 1973 Egypt and Syria took Israel by surprise and launched a war at the height of the Yom Kippur fast. The intermissions between and after the conventional wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973 were punctuated by never ending terrorist attacks.
The first terrorist attack I can remember happened when I was six. We had just “made Aliyah” (the term used to describe Jews immigrating to Israel) a year before. I was watching TV, and a news report came on. A Palestinian terrorist on a bus to Jerusalem had walked up to the driver, and as the bus passed by a cliff, he grabbed the wheel from the driver and yanked it to the right. The bus plunged off the cliff, taking the innocent passengers to their death. It was as simple as that. 16 passengers died in that attack and 27 were injured, some of them permanently. The terrorist survived and was sentenced to 16 life terms, but was released in the Shalit deal in 2011. He never expressed remorse.
Anyone driving to Jerusalem on the Tel-Aviv – Jerusalem highway (Route 1) goes past the spot. I recognize it to this day, from the TV footage I saw 25 years ago. The barrier is much higher now, in order to keep vehicles from making a repeat performance of that terrorist attack in 1988. We develop ways of barricading ourselves against terrorism. When I visit foreign countries, the lack of security guards always seems strange to me. In Israel, you can’t enter a mall, or a school, or a bus station, without going through a security check. We check people and bags, in order to catch terrorists carrying bombs and guns and knives, because so many buses have blown up, so many people have been shot and stabbed. You will never see a bag unattended on the street in Israel. And if you do, you will be sure to see a bomb squad rushing to the scene, just to make sure that it isn’t a bomb. We have all been taught that when we see a bag on the street, we keep away and call the police.
Walking through the center of Jerusalem, almost every corner has a story. This is where they blew up bus number 18. That’s where the 19, the bus I used to take to university blew up. One of the university cafeterias, in the Frank Sinatra building, was also blown up once. Over there is where a Palestinian worker used his bulldozer to knock over bus 13, which used to go from my apartment to the central bus station, and then proceeded to squash other cars. Sbarro, which was on the corner of Jaffa and King George Street, was also blown up. And around the corner three terrorists blew themselves up, one after the other, killing the people who ran to help the wounded.
So we built a fence (mistakenly called the wall) around most of Judea and Samaria and set up checkpoints, in order to stop the terrorists from reaching places like Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. We hired thousands of security guards, so that “security guard” has become one of the most popular jobs for Israeli kids fresh out of the army.
The home front has become the front line and Israelis have been living on the front for 65 years. Hizballah in Lebanon learnt the trick. They acquired, with the help of Syria and Iran, their benefactors, thousands of missiles and pointed them at the civilian population. In the Second Lebanon War of the summer of 2006, they fired them. The IDF worked very hard to find and destroy those missiles, but it is almost impossible to stop them entirely. It works like this: a missile launcher is buried under ground. Short range missiles require little or no preparation, unlike larger missiles, such as the Scud. All they have to do is open a door, or shift an artificial bush or camouflage net and then fire. The net goes back, the door closes and the launcher is hidden and ready to fire again. Since then, despite the ceasefire agreement and under the noses of the UN, Hizballah has stockpiled tens of thousands of more advanced missiles than it had before the war.
Another terrifying weapon used by Hizballah is drones. Yes, a terrorist organization in south Lebanon has its own supply of drones, a chilling thought. These drones are capable of avoiding radar, because of their small size, and if loaded with enough explosives can cause significant damage on impact. Thankfully, Hizballah haven’t succeeded in perfecting and carrying out this method yet.
Hamas in Gaza learnt the lesson of the Second Lebanon War. They too have stockpiled thousands of rockets. Most of their rockets are much more primitive than Hizballah’s arsenal, but that just makes them harder to detect and shoot down. When Israel pulled out of Gaza in 2005, the Left ridiculed the Right for predicting that the rocket fire would increase. They believed that if Israel pulled out, Hamas would have no more reason to fire rockets. The “Occupation” of Gaza would be over and peace and tranquility would reign forever. They were wrong and the “trickle” of rockets became a torrent. During operation “Pillar of Defense” alone (Nov 14-21, 2012), Palestinians fired 1506 rockets at Israeli civilian population centers. Only 421 of those rockets were intercepted. Israel ended the operation in return for the complete cessation of rocket fire. That does not mean that the rocket fire has ceased. The rockets began to fall again in February 2013: One rocket in February, 14 in March, during US President Obama’s visit, 17 in April and 2 in May (the report on June hasn’t been published yet). Israel can do nothing about it without restarting an all-out war.
Meanwhile, in Judea and Samaria, a new type of terrorism has begun over the past months. Jewish settlers, driving home after a long day at work or perhaps after picking up their kids from school, will run into a pile of stones on the road. They already know from experience of others that if they stop the car, it may be the last thing they do. As soon as the car reaches the stones blocking the road, dozens of what our local, politically-correct media calls “youths” or “youngsters”, of a specific national identity, their faces hidden by scarves or shirts, surround the car and hurl stones at it to the cries of “Allahu Akbar”. If the settlers are lucky, the car windows get smashed, the car gets dented and the passengers escape with minor scrapes from the glass. If they aren’t lucky, they get lynched and stoned to death or run off the road and into a ditch.
What does all this have to do with Judea and Samaria?
Israel is a very narrow country. At its narrowest point, the distance from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River is approximately 65 KM (~40 miles), of which 50 km (~30 miles) are in Samaria and only 15 kilometers (~10 miles) separate between the sea and a theoretical Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.
If we were living in Switzerland, having a 15 km wide country wouldn’t matter, but this is the Middle East. Our Eastern border with Jordan is our longest border. The hills of Judea and Samaria overlook the entire coast where most of Israel’s population is centered. Here are a few possible scenarios of what could happen (feel free to combine the scenarios as well):
- The Palestinians get a state but continue to plan the destruction of Israel. The rockets in Gaza are transferred to the new Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, so that instead of 30% of Israel’s population being in range of Palestinian missiles, 100% of the country comes under fire: from Haifa to the Lebanese border is under fire by Hizballah and from Haifa southwards is under fire by the Palestinians.
- Palestinian terrorists armed with shoulder held rockets take positions on the hills to the east of Ben Gurion international airport, Israel’s ONLY international airport, and shoot down any plane taking off or landing. The seaports in Ashdod, Haifa, and Tel-Aviv are also in firing range.
- The “Arab Spring” finally takes hold in Jordan and the Palestinians of Jordan (~80% of Jordan’s population) take control of the country and its army. The Palestinian-Jordanian army, aided with militias of volunteers from Iraq, Syria and Saudi Arabia and perhaps even the Iranian army come streaming across the Jordan River, a natural barrier and Israel’s current border, and into Judea and Samaria. The distance from the Jordan River to Israel’s new border can be covered in a matter of 1.5-2 hours and cutting Israel’s extra-narrow waste in half could be achieved in a matter of minutes.
- A fighter plane can cross the entire country from east to west in a matter of less than 5 minutes. If Israel controls the Jordan River, an approaching plane can be detected a few minutes before it crosses the border and Israeli planes can be scrambled to intercept. Those 50 kilometers are what gives Israeli pilots just enough time to do so.
This excellent video (4:30 minutes) by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs (JCPA) gives a more graphic explanation of the threats and security needs of Israel. Click HERE.
I’ve drawn a rather frightening picture, but I want to clarify things. I am not living in a war zone. The security fence around much of Judea and Samaria has stopped most of the suicide bombing attempts. We have a peace treaty with Jordan and Egypt, which is kept, despite open animosity from many of those countries’ citizens (take for example the burning of Israeli flags in Tahrir Square and President Morsi’s statements regarding a reexamination of the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty or the vote in the Jordanian parliament to expel the Israeli ambassador). The IDF and the ISA are able to thwart most terror attacks before they are carried out. I feel safe, and as I walk through Jerusalem, the terror of exploding buses is only a distant memory, but Israel’s security depends on Judea and Samaria remaining under Israeli control.
You may ask, “But what about a peace treaty with the Palestinians? If you give them Judea and Samaria, you’ll have peace, and all this worry about security will be irrelevant”. If only it were that simple. But I’ll leave that discussion for Part 6, when I discuss the Palestinians.
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