Amidst continuing diplomatic efforts to form a separate state for the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, former IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon weighs in with words of warning against the initiative. President Shimon Peres, as well, foresaw the dangers of such a state nearly 30 years ago.
Yaalon, writing in the Los Angeles Times over the weekend, notes "four main misconceptions that diplomats bring with them to Israel." Primary among them is the prevalent theory that solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a prerequisite for stability in the Mideast.
The truth is, Yaalon writes, that the region is "driven by clashes that have nothing to do with Israel. For instance, the Jewish state plays no role in the conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, between Persians and Arabs or between Arab nationalists and Arab Islamists."
Interestingly, Yoram Ettinger, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations, recently released a paper negating this theory as well. The former liaison for Congressional affairs in Israel's Washington embassy brings proofs from recent history showing that general Arab antipathy to Israel predates, and is irrelevant to, issues relating to the Arabs of Judea and Samaria.
Yaalon lists three other mistakes spurring on the pro-Palestinian state diplomats:
Misconception 1: Israeli territorial concessions are felt to be the key to progress - when in fact such concessions simply fill the sails of ascendant jihadist Islam, which believes it is leading the battle against Israel and the rest of the West. The concessions, therefore, merely encourage their belief that Israel and the West can be defeated.
Yaalon lists the reults of Israel's unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon in 2000 and from Gaza in 2005: "Concerted terror wars, kidnapped Israeli soldiers, rockets fired at Israeli cities - [which] made clear that the Mideast's central conflict is not territorial but ideological. And ideology cannot be defeated by concessions."
Misconception 2: It is widely believed that Israeli sovereignty over parts of Judea and Samaria blocks agreement between Israelis and the Arabs of Judea and Samaria - when in fact, "the heart of the problem is that many Palestinians... and even some Israeli-Arabs use 'Occupation' to refer to all Israel. They do not recognize the Jewish people's right to an independent state, a right affirmed again and again in the international arena."
Misconception 3: Possibly most important, it is felt that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria want and can build a state that will live in peace alongside Israel. But in fact, the Palestinian Authority leaders - specifically, Yasser Arafat and his deputy Mahmoud Abbas - never used their powers to improve their subjects' living conditions. "Indeed," ex-Gen. Yaalon marvels, "Palestinian unemployment and poverty are worse today than they were before Arafat and his cronies assumed power in 1994."
A corollary of this last misconception, Yaalon adds, "is the belief that economic development can neutralize extreme nationalism and religious fanaticism, thus clearing the way toward peace and security." David Ben-Gurion, Israel's first prime minister, had a term for such believers - including his protégé and current President of Israel, Shimon Peres: "naive Zionists."
Yaalon notes that those who fit the above description must "demand that the Palestinians explain what they did with the $7 billion in international aid they received over the years... Why did Palestinian mobs destroy the Erez industrial zone, where Palestinians worked and ran businesses for decades, on the Gaza border? Why do they attack safe roads linking Gaza and the West Bank? Why is the Palestinian economy in shambles?"
In fact, Peres himself, in a book he wrote in 1978 (Tomorrow is Now, Keter Publishers, Jerusalem; page 232), accurately outlined the dangers of a Palestinian state:
"The establishment of such a [Palestinian] state means the inflow of combat-ready Palestinian forces (more than 25,800 men under arms) into Judea and Samaria; this force, together with the local youth, will double itself in a short time. It will not be short of weapons or other [military] equipment, and in a short space of time, an infrastructure for waging war will be set up in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip. Israel will have problems in preserving day-to-day security, which may drive the country into war, or undermine the morale of its citizens. In time of war, the frontiers of the Palestinian state will constitute an excellent staging point for mobile forces to mount attacks on infrastructure installations vital for Israel's existence, to impede the freedom of action of the Israeli air-force in the skies over Israel, and to cause bloodshed among the population in areas adjacent to the frontier-line."
Yaalon concludes his article with this advice for Western governments and their emissaries: Instead of pressuring Israel, they must "try to persuade the Palestinian leaders to commit to a long-term strategy premised on educational, political and economic reforms that would lead to the establishment of a civil society that cherishes life, not death; values human rights and freedom; and develops a middle class, not a corrupt, rich elite..."