President Obama, imprisoned by clichés, still seeks to follow the so-called “Road Map” to Middle East peace. At the core of this fictionalized cartography is a deceptively pleasing image of two states, one Arab, the other Jewish, living gently side-by-side. In reality, the birth of “Palestine” would signal the unambiguous beginning of a “One State Solution.”
For any Palestinian state to be born, a gravedigger would have to wield the forceps. Still, if Mr. Obama has his way, a new state of “Palestine” will be unceremoniously carved out of the still-living body of Israel. Openly and unhesitatingly, this 23rd Arab state would quickly seek extension, in unopposed and audacious increments, beyond the West Bank (Judea/Samaria) and deep into the “green line” boundaries of Israel proper.
This is not a controversial scenario. Even the official Palestine Authority (PA) map of “moderate” Fatah now shows all of Israel as part of Palestine. Moreover, leaving no doubt about its regional plans, the United States is now accelerating military training of “Palestinian security forces,” that is, of future anti-American terrorists.
Any Palestinian state would have an injurious impact on American strategic interests and on Israel’s essential survival options. Even in the absence of another regional Arab terror state, Israel’s basic security would require extreme self-reliance in existential military matters. In turn, such self-reliance would demand: (1) a comprehensive nuclear strategy involving deterrence, preemption and war fighting capabilities; and (2) a corollary and interpenetrating conventional war strategy.
The birth of “Palestine” would affect these two core strategies in several ways. It would enlarge Israel’s need for what military strategists call “escalation dominance.” As any Palestinian state would immediately make Israel’s conventional capabilities more problematic, the IDF command authority in Tel Aviv would probably decide to make the country’s nuclear deterrent less ambiguous.
Taking the Israeli bomb out of the “basement” might actually enhance Israel’s security for a while, but, over time, ending “deliberate ambiguity” could also heighten the odds of nuclear weapons use. And if Iran is allowed to “go nuclear,” such nuclear violence might not be limited to the immediate area of Israel and “Palestine.” It could take the form of a genuine nuclear exchange. All of this, of course, would also have an immense security impact on the United States.
Nuclear war could arrive in Israel not only as a “bolt-from-the-blue” surprise missile attack, but also as a result, intended or inadvertent, of escalation. If an enemy state were to begin “only” conventional and/or biological attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem might respond, sooner or later, with fully nuclear reprisals. If this enemy state were to begin with solely conventional attacks upon Israel, Jerusalem’s conventional reprisals might still be met, in the future, with enemy nuclear counter strikes.
For now, this would become possible only if a still-nuclearizing Iran were spared any forms of Israeli or American preemptive attack. It follows that a persuasive Israeli conventional deterrent, to the extent that it could prevent enemy state conventional and/or biological attacks in the first place, would reduce Israel’s risk of escalatory exposure to nuclear war.
Why should Israel need a conventional deterrent at all? Even after “Palestine,” wouldn’t rational enemy states desist from launching conventional and/or biological attacks upon Israel for fear of an Israeli nuclear retaliation? Not necessarily. Aware that Israel would cross the nuclear threshold only in extraordinary circumstances, these enemy states could be convinced, rightly or wrongly, that so long as their attacks remained non-nuclear, Israel would only respond in kind.
After creation of “Palestine,” the resultant correlation of forces in the region would be far less favorable to Israel. The only credible way for Israel to deter large-scale conventional attacks after any such creation would be by maintaining visible and large-scale conventional capabilities. Naturally, enemy states contemplating first-strike attacks upon Israel using chemical and/or biological weapons are apt to take more seriously Israel’s nuclear deterrent. Whether or not this nuclear deterrent had remained undisclosed could affect Israel’s credibility.
A strong conventional capability is always needed by Israel to deter or to preempt conventional attacks – attacks that could lead quickly via escalation to assorted forms of unconventional war. Here, President Obama’s “Road Map”- related expectations would critically impair Israel’s strategic depth, and consequently, if recognized by enemy states, Israel’s capacity to wage conventional warfare. These points should soon be understood in Washington as well as in Jerusalem, not only for Israel’s sake, but also because a Palestinian state would be plainly hospitable to far-reaching al-Qaeda preparations for anti-American terror. Creating “Palestine” would pose grave hazards for citizens of New York, Chicago and Washington as well as Haifa, Hadera and Tel-Aviv.
The probable consequences of a regional nuclear war or even a chemical/biological war in the Middle East could be calamitous for the victor as well as the vanquished. In such exceptional conditions of belligerency, which would impact the United States in very tangible ways, notions of “victory” and “defeat” would lose all usual meanings. While a real risk of regional nuclear war exists independently of any Palestinian state, this risk would be much greater if the “Road Map” is followed to its promised destination.
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli security matters. He is the author of ten major books and several hundred journal articles on international relations and international law. The chair of “Project Daniel,” Professor Beres was born in Zurich, Switzerland, on August 31, 1945.