Israel Must Not Succumb to False Diplomatic Alarms

The important thing is to stay calm, not press the panic button, and not listen to those familiar faces who reappear every now and then with a new-old initiative suggesting that Israel announce it is prepared to withdraw to the ’67 borders.’


By Moshe Arens

(A version of this column appeared in Haaretz on April 12, 2011.)

Anyone who has helped design alarms and early warning systems knows the phenomenon of false alarms. They bedevil both the developers and those who are supposed to be protected by the system. The systems being put in place to warn of oncoming “tsunamis” are also affected by this false alarm syndrome. The more sensitive the system, the more likely it is to sound the alarm when there is nothing to actually be alarmed about. Israel has its own tsunami warning system – and it is none other than our defense minister, who has already sounded the alarm.

According to him, Israel will be hit by a political tsunami in September. His warning bell is being echoed by many who demand the government launch a daring initiative before it is too late, before the tsunami hits us. But they have a pleasant surprise awaiting them: Israel will still be here in September, and for many many months to come; it will not be devastated like northern Japan.

States have never been created by UN declarations and never will be. For those who have forgotten, Israel was not created by UN resolution 181 in November 1947, but by David Ben-Gurion’s declaration of Israeli independence on May 15, 1948 and by the IDF’s ability to take and control the areas of the new state.

A UN declaration, whether at the Security Council or the General Assembly, recognizing a Palestinian state within the borders of the April 1949 armistice lines with Jordan, with Jerusalem as its capital, will be no more effective than Security Council resolution 1701, which prohibited Hezbollah from military operations in southern Lebanon, or General Assembly resolution 3379, which equated Zionism with racism.

If this latest declaration is actually passed, it will merely serve as another reminder of the impotence of the United Nations and its irrelevance when it comes to dealing with international conflicts. The U.S. government must surely be aware of this.

All this brouhaha about the coming tsunami skirts the fundamental issues preventing an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. Namely, that such an agreement must constitute the end of the conflict, and that the Palestinian signatories to the agreement must be capable of assuring that no acts of terror will be launched from territories that Israel turns over as part of the agreement.

The current Palestinian spokesman, or president if you like, Mahmoud Abbas, is not capable of satisfying either of these conditions. At best, he represents only half of the Palestinians, and regardless of what commitments he undertakes, Hamas and other Islamic jihadists will have plenty of additional claims on Israel even after Abbas signs an agreement. His control over areas in Judea and Samaria is limited at best, and he certainly cannot be relied on to prevent acts of terror against Israel from those areas Israel would withdraw from.

Until the Palestinians get their act together, there seems little chance of reaching an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. That is the sad truth, and no amount of theatrics by Abbas, and maneuvering by the Quartet, the United States and the United Nations, or all of them in concert, will change that. That is what Israeli spokesmen should be explaining to everyone – friends, do-gooders and enemies alike.

And one other point must be made: What they call the 1967 borders are in fact the armistice lines that were agreed on with Jordan in April 1949, an agreement that was violated by Jordan in June 1967. There is nothing sacrosanct about these lines, while many things have changed in the intervening 62 years that cannot be wished away.

The important thing is to stay calm, not press the panic button, and not listen to those familiar faces who reappear every now and then with a new-old initiative suggesting that Israel announce it is prepared to withdraw to the “’67 borders.” And to not make any hasty, half-baked statements under the illusion that they will appease those applying pressure on Israel.

At this point, their minds are made up. And such statements will only come to haunt us in the future when the time becomes ripe for proper negotiations with the Palestinians. Only when it is clear that the Israeli government is standing firm on its positions will the pressure on Israel be relaxed.

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