Regarding the Oslo accords and Israel’s vulnerability to war, Israeli security has become increasingly dependent upon nuclear weapons and strategy. Faced with a codified and substantial loss of territories generated by Oslo, the Jewish State will soon have to decide on how to compensate for its diminished strategic depth. While this shrinkage does not necessarily increase Israel’s existential vulnerability to unconventional missile attack, it surely does increase that state’s susceptibility to attacking ground forces and to subsequent enemy occupation. Any loss of strategic depth will almost certainly be interpreted by enemy states as a significant weakening of Israel’s overall defense posture, an interpretation that could actually lead to substantial enemy incentives to strike first.
As Israel’s sacrifice of strategic depth − occasioned by the Oslo accords and successor Road Map − would begin to produce a Palestinian state, this time led openly by Hamas, the geostrategic victory of the Jihadist/Islamic world would be complemented by something less tangible but no less critical: an Arab and Iranian perception of an ongoing and unstoppable momentum against the Jewish State, a jihad-centered perception of military inevitability that would reiterate the policies of war. Recognizing such perceptions, Israel could, inter alia, be forced to take its bomb out of the “basement,” and/or it could have to accept a greater willingness to launch preemptive strikes against enemy hard targets. In this connection, my readers of The Jewish Press may recall Project Daniel and its precise recommendations to Israel’s Prime Minister for Israel’s strategic future.
For their part, certain Arab states and/or Iran would respond to such Israeli decisions. Made aware of Israel’s policy shifts − shifts that would stem from both Israel’s Oslo/Road Map-spawned territorial vulnerabilities, and from its awareness of enemy perceptions spawned by the “peace process”-generated creation of “Palestine,” these enemy states could respond in more or less parallel fashion. Here, preparing openly for nuclearization and aggression against Israel, these states would illustrate dramatically certain far-reaching results of Oslo/Road Map, results that are still generally unrecognized and that provided, together with other above-listed rationales, a fully authoritative basis for permissible abrogation.
On October 6, 1973, when Egyptian and Syrian surprise attacks came close to jeopardizing Israel’s physical survival, it was because of a monumental intelligence failure. Similarly, on January 18, 1991, when the scream of air-raid sirens could be heard in every corner of Israel, the Iraqi Scuds that slammed through Tel Aviv and Haifa neighborhoods caught the country − in the words of a former Intelligence Chief − “with its pants down.” In the latter case, the only thing that saved Israel were Iraq’s notably benign warheads. If they had not been so benign, Israel would have suffered terribly.
In good measure, A’man’s (IDF Intelligence Branch) record of intermittent failure is noteworthy. While it is obviously too late to rectify prior mistakes, lessons can be learned for the future. The most important of all such lessons is this: Before you take comfort from what the “experts” have had to say about Oslo − and now about the Road Map − recall that their record has been seriously flawed on certain critical occasions.
At this ominous time in its history, Israel is confronted especially by enemy nuclearization, a developing menace of potentially unprecedented import. Although Israel’s leaders may maintain that this menace is unrelated to the Oslo Accords or to the successor Road Map, exactly the opposite is true. As I first wrote many years ago before Project Daniel, Iran – if uninterrupted − will have the capacity to launch missiles against Israel from its own territory. And this would not require the strategic advantages of a cooperative state of Palestine. Yet, its willingness to launch will surely be enhanced by the Oslo/Road Map dismemberment of Israel. This is the case, because the overall effect of such dismemberment will be to weaken the country generally, including its basic will to resist, and because Oslo/Road Map will likely preclude any essential Israeli preemption.
Israel, in the fashion of an individual organism, is a system. Here, the weakening of constituent “organs” may not be life-threatening by itself, yet − taken together − such weakening might portend “death.” While particular territorial surrenders might not, in and of themselves, produce national annihilation, they will, over time, continue to drain the lifeblood from the country. In response, enemy states − sensing the progressive deterioration of a still-hated Jewish State − will poise for the kill. This is precisely what is being calculated at this very moment in Damascus, Teheran, Baghdad, Cairo, and, of course, in Gaza, Nablus and Jericho.
Preemption, as was made clear in Project Daniel, may ultimately be essential to Israel’s very survival, and Oslo/Road Map may already have prevented Israel from striking preemptively. After all, in a Middle East shaped by “peace process” expectations, such a strike would have appeared as incontestably belligerent, upsetting all of the delicate “peacemaking” then underway. The “civilized world” would have never tolerated such Israeli “aggressions.”
What if Menachem Begin had thought this way back in June 1981? If he had chosen to forego the preemption option at that time, what sorts of warheads would have been fitted on Iraqi Scuds 10 years later? While Begin’s heroic actions at Osiraq (Operation Opera) did indeed save the country from “another Holocaust” (Begin’s own words after the successful raid), Prime Minister Olmert refused to act against Iran.
General Yitzhak Rabin, on the eve of the Yom Kippur War, assured his countrymen that the Arabs would not attack. This view, derivative from the similarly misconceived assessment of then Minister of Defense Moshe Dayan, has come to be known in Israel as the mechdal, the “concept,” the idea that the enemy is not preparing for war. A scant 24 hours before the attack, A’man’s official estimate on the probability of war, according to Chaim Herzog, was “the lowest of the low.”
Today, Israel faces another mechdal − an omission, an instance of nonperformance, and an expression of neglect with vastly more catastrophic potential. This time, the “concept” could produce an actual end to the Third Temple Commonwealth. The problem stems in large part from an altogether erroneous understanding of what the distinctly zero-sum “peace process” has done to weaken Israel, and to strengthen Israel’s enemies.
Under international law, as we have seen, Israel was never under any obligation to comply with Oslo. On the contrary, the Jewish State was always legally obliged to terminate this set of agreements. Should Israel’s next prime minister learn to avoid similar mistakes with the present Road Map, Israel may still have a secure future. But should he (or she) continue to operate on the erroneous presumption that Israel is somehow bound to honor intrinsically lawless agreements (a view almost certainly to be encouraged by Washington), the ensuing mechdal could be the country’s last.
Copyright © The Jewish Press, December 26, 2008. All rights reserved
LOUIS RENÉ BERES was educated at Princeton (Ph.D., 1971) and is the author of many books and articles dealing with international relations and international law. In the United States he has worked for over thirty-five years on international law and nuclear strategy matters, both as a scholar and as a lecturer/consultant to various agencies of the United States Government. In Israel he has lectured widely at various academic centers for strategic studies, at the Dayan Forum and at the National Defense College (IDF). He was chair of Project Daniel, and is the Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for THE JEWISH PRESS.