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Israel: Judea, Samaria and Modern Arms

Edward Saar
Policy Paper No. 61, from the book,
Israel and a Palestinian State: Zero Sum Game?, 2001


Among the Middle East peace plans that have been publicized since the founding of Israel fifty-one years ago, one looks in vain for the conventional elements of conflict resolution: the rectification of arms imbalances by mutual disarmament, or the redrawing of borders to increase their defensibility. Moreover, none of the peace proposals appears to take cognizance of modern weapons systems and their terrain requirements, and proposed border changes.

Because of Israel's relative numerical, financial, and territorial disadvantages, its military planners must assume that their enemies' hostile intentions, to date, were thwarted by Israel's deterrent capacity. Yet, recent proposals put forward by Israel's last three governments call for the lowering of the country's deterrent posture by relinquishing the strategic terrain its army conquered in wars the Jewish state did not initiate.

The factors which ought to dominate deliberations on Mideast peace but which, apparently, do not, are the local topography, Israel's need for minimal strategic depth, the sophisticated weapons now in the region, and the country's terrain requirements. Technology, which is a decisive factor in the planning of war, must also play an essential role in deliberations whose purpose is the formulation of policies to prevent war. Specifically if, as is self-evident, peace agreements are designed to bring about measures which will lessen the likelihood of armed conflict, then the military realities of terrain and arms cannot continue to be ignored.

Indeed the terrain of Judea and Samaria is essential for Israel's defense - rather than as somewhat irrelevant in a time of missile warfare. If Israel were to return these land parcels to Arab control, by withdrawing its armed forces, as now demanded by its neighbors, the country's width in the central sector would be reduced from the present 40-55 miles to 9-16 miles. Crucially, the easily concealed control elements of certain weapons systems, many of them requiring line-of-sight emplacement, if deployed in the central mountains overlooking Israel's population centers and traffic arteries, would render the country indefensible. Israelis have no doubt that guerrilla units, recruited in the Arab villages that dot the nearby hills, will attempt to disrupt the timely mobilization of Israel's citizens. By contrast, the post-1967 Israeli civilian presence in the hills places Israel's radar and other systems in friendly terrain and obviates the need for the army to police the areas around transmitters continuously. An alternative compliance with demilitarization agreements will be neither verifiable nor enforceable once Israeli forces have been withdrawn.

The lethal proximity of the opposing forces, Israel's lack of strategic depth, modern warfare's dependence on battle-management systems, the crucial importance of signal intelligence and a host of smart weapons requiring line-of-sight deployment, make terrain characteristics decisive factors. By reducing the Jewish civilian presence, the force multiplier of its small army, Israel will actually facilitate the implementation of the first phase of the twenty-five year old phased plan for the final destruction of Israel.

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