The following article appears exactly as it was written by Professor Beres 21 years ago. It is especially important to reconsider at this moment when U.S. President Barack Obama, still-embracing the so-called Road Map, pushes Israel to accept a Palestinian state via the five-part Mitchell Plan.
What about Syria? Recognizing that it cannot rely entirely on the air force to penetrate Israeli air space, Syria knows that its Soviet-designed Scud-B missile could, if fired from Syria, reach all of Israel, except the southern Negev, in six minutes. A direct descendant of the German V-2, the Scud is a weapon that could do enormous damage to Israeli civilian populations. In this connection, it could carry, if Syria should ever acquire nuclear warheads, the implements of atomic war. At some point, Syria will very likely attempt, in great secrecy, to acquire some nuclear weapons capability.
If “Palestine” should provide the essential incentive for an Arab/Islamic war against Israel, a war that would end with the actual use of nuclear weapons, it could wind up as “Armageddon.” But even if there would be no escalation to nuclear war fighting, Palestine could still become another Lebanon. Here, many different Palestinian factions, both within and outside the P.L.O. umbrella, would contend for control over the new Arab state. Various insurgents that do not threaten Israel’s very survival in the intifadah would now be able to inflict great harm on their neighbor to the west.
Let me be more precise. Should an independent Palestine be created from Judea/Samaria/Gaza, its president would almost certainly be Yasser Arafat, and its principal leaders would be drawn from the P.L.O. chairman’s faction, al-Fatah. Probably within hours of the new state’s effective beginnings, its government and its ruling elite would be targeted by P.L.O. radicals, and by various Palestinian parties opposed to the P.L.O. Among the radicals, some (e.g., Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine) might represent Syrian interests, and others (e.g., Arab Liberation Front and Palestine Liberation Front) might front for Iraq.
Among the anti-P.L.O. parties, most (e.g., Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command; Popular Struggle Front; the Abu Musa organization and Saiqa) are tied intimately to Syria, and one (Fatah Revolutionary Council) – known popularly as the Abu Nidal group – is linked to Libya. Samir Gosheh’s Popular Struggle Front currently displays more independence from Syria than Ahmed Jebril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, and Saiqa is essentially an integral Syrian force with only a nominal Palestinian identity.
Even the mainstream Fatah organization could spawn anti-Arafat cells. Saleh Khalef, Fatah’s second-in-command (nom de guerre: Abu Lyad) was closely associated with Black September, and is far more radical than Arafat. Farouk Kaddoumi (nom de guerre: Abu Lutf) has close ties to the Soviet Union and eastern bloc countries, and Khaled al-Hassan frequently challenges Arafat in search of more collective leadership.
We see that many factions,including some newly developing Islamic fundamentalists spun off from Egypt’s Moslem Brotherhood,would contend for control over any new state of Palestine, and that all of these factions could resort unhesitatingly to high levels of violence. Before long, the resident Palestinian population would suffer far more than it had under Israeli rule, and anarchy would pose a real threat to Jordan. Over time, it is likely that Jordan could be undermined altogether, and even become part of a “greater Palestine.” Of course, Iraq, too, could gain a controlling position in Palestine, but this would depend upon the power of its Palestinian surrogates vis-à-vis those in other places. Ironically, the result of these events – of another Lebanon – would be enormously tragic for both Palestinians who seek a homeland, and for Israelis who seek secure frontiers.
It follows from all of this that Palestine would pose a very serious security risk to Israel, and that this risk could become far greater than that of maintaining possession of “the territories.” This does not mean that Israel and the Palestinians should steer clear of meaningful negotiations, or that Israel should avoid concerning itself with protecting the essential human rights of the Arab populations under its control. But it does mean that any reasonable assessments of Israel’s security must always compare the expected costs of both principal options for Judea/Samaria/Gaza: IDF military administration versus independence. In the absence of such an essential comparison, Israel could go from bad to worse, from a situation that is debilitating and demoralizing, to one that is altogether intolerable.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971), Professor of Political Science and International Law at Purdue University, is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press. In Israel, he was Chair of Project Daniel.