A jetliner at Ben-Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv as seen from a nearby Palestinian village in the West Bank.
Israel’s Critical Requirements for Defensible Borders
The Foundation for a Secure Peace
While there has been significant public discussion about Palestinian demands in the peace process, there has been little in-depth analysis of Israel’s rights and requirements.
This study is intended to fill that vacuum, presenting a comprehensive assessment of Israel’s critical security requirements, particularly the need for defensible borders that was enshrined in UN Security Council Resolution 242 and endorsed by past U.S. administrations. The study also details the key elements of a demilitarized Palestinian state, as was proposed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly after taking office in 2009.
The vital importance of Israel’s control over West Bank airspace is also carefully considered, as are the risks to Israel of deploying international forces there.
Historically, every peace accord the State of Israel has reached with its neighbors has been challenged by other Middle Eastern states across the region or by international terrorist organizations. Given that experience, the only peace that will last over time is a peace that Israel can defend.
Top IDF Generals Outline Israel’s Security Needs
In the study, a number of retired IDF generals explain the philosophy behind the concept of defensible borders.
Maj.-Gen. Moshe Ya’alon (ret.), a former IDF chief of staff who currently serves as Israeli minister of defense, has emphasized the importance of a security-first approach to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations – an approach, he said, that is “firmly rooted in Israel’s longstanding commitment to defend itself by itself.”
Israel’s vital security requirements, Ya’alon wrote, include “defensible borders, a demilitarized Palestinian entity, control of a unified airspace within Judea and Samaria, electromagnetic communications frequency security and other guarantees.”
The Importance of the Jordan Valley
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Uzi Dayan, former IDF deputy chief of staff, has written a detailed analysis of Israel’s security requirements. He focused on the importance of Israel retaining the Jordan Valley, a natural physical barrier that can be defended with relative ease.
“In the eastern theater, there is no substitute for the Jordan Valley; its location and unique topographical features make it the only feasible eastern border for the State of Israel,” Dayan wrote.
It is not only Israel that should be concerned, Dayan noted, but also the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. If the IDF evacuates the Jordan Valley, the main effort for the prevention of smuggling will fall on the Jordanian army. Once it is widely known that Israel is no longer present to seal off the West Bank from the east, Dayan said, regional terrorist groups will seek forward positions within Jordan.
The Risks of Foreign Peacekeeping Forces
Israel has a history of bad experiences with international peacekeeping forces. Many top former IDF generals have rejected the option of relying on foreign forces in the Jordan Valley as part of an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, former national security advisor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has highlighted Israel’s experiences with unreliable international peacekeepers and explained how foreign forces would constrain Israel’s ability to protect itself without outside help.
“Israel takes great pride in the fact that it has never asked Western soldiers – including American troops – to risk their lives in its defense,” Amidror wrote.
Additional Key Principles
Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Aharon Ze’evi Farkash, former head of IDF intelligence, has articulated the key principles of a demilitarized Palestinian state, which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he supported in his 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University.
“Israel’s definition of demilitarization is that no security threat develop either within or by way of Palestinian territory,” Farkash wrote.
In addition, Brig.-Gen (ret.) Udi Dekel, former head of the IDF Strategic Planning Division, has focused on the need for Israel to retain control of the territorial airspace and electromagnetic spectrum.
“Israel must guarantee that the Palestinians do not exploit their topographical advantage to block or neutralize Israel’s communication systems, or to gather intelligence on their own behalf or on behalf of hostile states,” Dekel wrote.
Finally, Ambassador Meir Rosenne explains UN Security Council Resolution 242 and Ambassador Dore Gold recounts the history of the U.S. position on the pre-1967 lines, while analyst Dan Diker discusses Israel’s return to security-based diplomacy.