While Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his allies insist that Israel must maintain military control over the Jordan River in order to make sure that hostile forces don’t cross over and turn a Palestinian state into a forward base for attacks on Israel, Israel’s main security professionals continue to argue that Israel can accept other security arrangements that would meet Palestinian objections and still fulfill Israel’s needs. But we don’t often hear them explaining how Israel could maintain its security without control of the river.
Yesterday retired brigadier general Ephraim Sneh spelled it out in an op-ed article on Yediot Ahronot’s Ynet Hebrew news site. I’ve translated it into English, below. He argues that the monitoring and control provided by a full military deployment can be maintained today from afar by new technological developments, and that together with the strong security cooperation that currently exists between Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority, Israel can safely reduce its presence to a minimal level that would meet Palestinian objections.
Sneh was a leader of the Labor Party’s hawkish wing until he quit before the last elections to form his own party, Yisrael Hazaka, which failed to win a Knesset seat. He served in the past as minister of health and minister of transportation as well as two stints as deputy minister of defense. Before entering politics in 1987, he was a career soldier and served as commander of Israeli forces in Lebanon and military governor of the West Bank.
It’s worth noting that another former general, recently retired major general Gadi Shamni, has been arguing recently for a more gradual removal of Israeli troops from the river. In a recent Haaretz opinion essay he wrote that the handover of security control of the river crossings from Israeli to Palestinian security forces will take time, and a firm deadline can’t be set. It sounds on first read like an argument for Netanyahu’s position, but on closer examination it’s not very far from Sneh’s.
Shamni is a former chief of Central Command, as well as military secretary to prime ministers Ariel Sharon and Ehud Barak and most recently Israeli military attaché in Washington.
A New Approach to the Jordan Valley
Technology and Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian security cooperation make it possible to reduce to a minimum the need for an Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley within the framework of a peace agreement.
By Ephraim Sneh
Those who read my Friday blog post about the Israel-Diaspora deliberations going on in Jerusalem this week might have noticed that I mentioned a paradox in the way the discussions are going, but I never detailed the substance of the paradox. The sun was setting over the Mediterranean before I had a chance to finish my thought. So let’s try it again.
There are two main topics on minds of delegates attending the governing council meetings of the Jewish Agency, the World Zionist Organization and the Jewish Federations of North America. One is Jewish religious pluralism in Israel—the monopoly of the Orthodox rabbinate over Jewish religious life and the limits and hurdles placed before non-Orthodox denominations. The other is the Pew survey of Jewish Americans released October 1, with its stark intimations of a steady dilution in the strength of non-Orthodox Judaism. News summary], full survey report.
The first, religious pluralism, tops the agenda of Reform, Conservative and other liberal delegates to the various meetings. They make up a majority of the American delegations at all the major gatherings. True, Americans aren’t a majority at these events; Americans make up about 40% of world Jewry, Israelis another 40% and the rest of the world about 20%, and the non-Orthodox denominations are weak outside America. But the liberal denominations have formed an alliance with the left-wing Zionist delegations from Labor and Meretz, partly to counter the longstanding alliance between Likud and Orthodox. The result is that the liberals dominate wherever you look.
Ynet, the Yediot website, reports that the Libyan blockade-buster ship headed for Gaza this week agreed to divert to El-Arish in Egypt following a secret Israeli-Libyan deal. Under the deal, mediated by Egypt, Israel agreed to let Libya send $50 million worth of construction material into Gaza, via the U.N., for post-Cast Lead rehabilitation.
The report says the deal was sealed in a phone call from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak to Egypt’s intelligence minister, Omar Suleiman.
Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, chairman of the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation which tried to send an aid vessel to Gaza, says he reached an Egyptian-mediated agreement with Israel on Wednesday, allowing him to infuse $50 million for the restoration of the Strip and transfer construction materials to Gaza.
“We got the grapes, so why kill the vineyard guard?” the son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi told the London-based Arabic-language al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper.
“We will soon start funneling $50 million in coordination with UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees) to begin rebuilding Gaza and transfer humanitarian aid and construction materials, without any objection on the part of the Israeli government.”
Would the deal have been reached if the Labor Party were in the opposition and Moshe (Boogie) Yaalon or Avigdor (Yvet) Lieberman were defense minister? Hardly likely. Do such small mercies justify Labor remaining in the Bibi-Yvet coalition and keeping Barak at the helm? Hmmm. You decide.