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Advocates of Israeli withdrawal from these critical territories proffer the solution of a “demilitarized zone” in the “West Bank” region. Practically speaking, such a zone is meaningless. Even if members of the more than a dozen official militias and security forces currently operating in the Palestinian Authority refrain from carrying out terrorist attacks themselves, the “unofficial” terrorist groups who operate freely with shoulder launched rockets and worse, would still fire at Israeli school buses and at aircraft taking off and landing at Ben-Gurion International Airport outside of Tel Aviv (about 7 miles from the pre-’67 lines). Thus the threat to Israel’s national security would not be removed.
Even if all of Samaria, for example, was devoid of any military personnel – Arab or Israeli — it would take a motorized Arab invasion force no more than 2-3 hours to cross the Jordan River and roll up at the outskirts of Tel Aviv with any number of armored divisions.
The only way to prevent such an occurrence is for Israel to control the Samarian mountain passes, because the best intelligence apparatus in the world cannot guarantee to sufficiently deliver advance warning (48 hours) to fully mobilize and deploy the necessary forces to repel a full-scale invasion.
The 1973 Yom Kippur War is proof of that. Even when the signs were clear, six hours passed before the Israeli government gave the IDF General Staff the go-ahead for a full-scale reserve call-up. By that time, it was too late. Had Jordan entered the war, Hashemite forces would have made it into Jerusalem within a few hours with only a meager IDF force to deal with on the road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Imagine today when Jericho and the surrounding areas are potentially and assumedly in enemy hands in case of all out war. Israel can ill-afford to take chances or rely on luck. Not with national survival at stake.
A properly coordinated surprise attack by the armies of the main Arab/Islamic confrontation states could easily spell the end of Israel within 3 hours of the invasion – with Syrian, Jordanian, Iraqi and even Iranian troops battling Israel’s home-guard troops in Afula, Kfar Saba and Jerusalem. Israel’s only hope, its only possible strategy, is for its small standing army to be able to pin down and stop such a surprise attack by invading enemy forces before they reach the Jewish State’s heavily populated areas. The sole solution to Israel’s dilemma is the general retention of the administered territories.
The way in which a smaller force can stop a larger force is by catching said larger forces’ columns of motorized vehicles (tanks, half-tracks, trucks, etc.) in a bottleneck. The mountain passes of Judea and Samaria are the only such existing obstacles. Israeli control means a better than even chance of the IDF’s small standing army to block the advance columns of a surprise invasion force, thus buying Jerusalem the time required to call up the reserves needed to beat back such an attack.
Israel’s leadership has to remind our friends in the West, and especially in Washington, that responsible national security planning for Israel is based not only on the current political situation, but also takes into account possible changes – even long term – in the intentions of Israel’s increasingly unfriendly Arab neighbors.
It’s an either-or situation: Either Israel retains Judea and Samaria, thereby controlling its vital mountain passes, high ground and strategic depth, or it doesn’t, in which case, the disastrous consequences of Israel’s 1952 military exercise might well become a reality.
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