The Third Way: Thoughts on the Misuse of Security
The launching of the ''Third Way" Movement in June 1994 was initiated by Labor Party "hawks", some Rightist MK's and religious personalities including Gush Emunim MK Hanan Porat. It claimed to offer an ideological and political alternative to the two major blocs on Israel's present political map - the Labor-Meretz bloc and the rightist Likud- Tsomet-religious bloc. Mati Peled questions the underlying premises of the Third Way.

Though claiming to offer an alternative to Israel's two main political blocs, the "Third Way" is in fact an amalgam of political falsehoods, deep prejudices, a bitter resentment against Palestinian self-determination, and the misuse of security arguments. While the program declares support for the peace process as outlined in the Oslo Declaration of Principles (DOP), the actual effect is to sabotage the continuation of the peace process. The bearers of this old-new message are mainly members of the hawkish wing of the Labor Party. However, pretending to represent a cross-section of the truly "patriotic" stream in Israeli public opinion, they managed to adorn their first public appearance with a gallery of right wing and religious personalities, who, it transpires, also contributed financially to the event. Not unexpectedly, Yehuda Harel, a leader of the Golan lobby, was in the center of the organization of the new body.
The platform, while claiming support for the peace process, proceeds to outline the limits which it can be permitted to reach: a limited autonomy for the Palestinian population of the Occupied Territories in densely populated areas, while retaining Israeli control over the whole of the area and rejecting Palestinian statehood; retaining all existing settlements in the Territories, and setting up new ones; and formally annexing Greater Jerusalem in its entirety, the Jordan Valley and the Golan Heights.
The movement's spokespeople obliquely indicate that such ideas tally with the thinking of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and that the new venture is meant to help him resist the dovish trends in his own party, which may force him to go further than he would like in the course of the peace process. It seems highly doubtful, however, whether Mr. Rabin would today subscribe to the ideas of the Third Way, even though it is no secret that he harbors no particular enthusiasm for the DOP. He knows that before the beginning of the third year after the Gaza-Jericho First Agreement he will have to start negotiating in earnest with the PLO on the remaining issues of Jerusalem, the settlements and the refugees - and ultimate, Palestinian statehood. He is also aware that any progress with Syria depends upon withdrawal from the Golan Heights. Consequently, it is unlikely that at this stage he would lend support to a set of ideas so clearly designed to force his hand before the negotiating process is resumed.

Territorial Considerations

Leaving aside aspects of internal party politics, it is necessary to understand the nature of the new "program", where its roots lie and why its underlying premises are so false. The program pretends to speak from a purely secular and rational point of view, insisting on what it considers legitimate security considerations which, if ignored, would place Israel at the mercy of any future aggressor.
It should be emphasized that these considerations are purely territorial.
The platform states that occupying the West Bank and the Golan Heights back in 1967 was necessitated by strategic considerations since these two territories posed an unacceptable threat to Israel's security. However, the historical fact is that these territories were never considered in these terms by Israeli politicians or strategists: their occupation in 1967 was a glaring example of the fragility of Israeli democracy at that time. They were occupied only because the military establishment felt free to overlook the political leadership, except for extracting a half-hearted permission to go ahead and enjoy easy victories.
The permission granted was of uncertain legal validity. Indeed, the only legally valid decision taken by the Israeli government concerning the 1967 war referred to the attack on the Egyptian army in Sinai. According to the decision, once that attack had been carried out, the JDF was to cease fire. This was not the case in practice. Due to the fact that Jordanian forces on the West Bank and Syrian on the Golan Heights opened sporadic fire on Israeli territories, the commanders of the Central and Northern Commands advocated launching attacks on these territories. On the West Bank, Levi Eshkol made a point of informing King Hussein through UN mediator, Ralph Bunche, that Israel would not involve Jordan in the war as long as Hussein kept out. The development was clearly chaotic. No better description can be provided than that offered by the commander of the Central Command, Gen. Uzi Narkiss, in his book A Soldier of Jerusalem:

It is very clear that the Israeli government was not prepared for the development that occurred on the Eastern border and had not defined in advance the war aims on that sector. Was there reason to halt the troops prior to the occupation of Ramallah and Nablus, or alternatively, prior to their descent to the Jordan Valley? Was there reason not to allow the breakthrough to Qalqilya and Tulkarm? These and similar questions remained unanswered. In the absence of a clear strategy we were swept by events at a high speed and within four days we were facing accomplished facts. The West Bank of the Kingdom of Jordan was entirely in our hands.

An Act of Aggression

Israel never had any plans to occupy the West Bank, as seems clear from the description quoted, because it was not considered a potential threat. The politicians now advocating its annexation keep pointing to the proximity of Israel's eastern border from the sea in order to impress the public with their demand. What they fail to point out, or indeed to understand, is that the West Bank was an enclave bulging into Israeli space, exposed from the North and the South to an Israeli pincer movement which could within hours cut it off from the rest of the Kingdom. The hasty retreat of the Jordanian army from the West Bank in June 1967 was clearly caused by the fear that it might be caught in such a pincer movement and lost to Jordan for ever. Far from constituting a threat to Israel, the West Bank was a hostage in Israel's hands which obliged Jordan to take care lest Israel be given a chance to snatch it away.
Therefore when IDF forces started moving eastward, they had no prepared plans and the occupation proceeded haphazardly, guided by the principle of "catch-as-catch-can". Nobody on the Israeli side knew where it was leading.
By the time the area fell entirely into Israeli hands, the only outstanding question was: on whose authority did the IDF thus occupy a foreign land? This was an unconstitutional and unwarranted act of aggression that even at this late date should not be allowed to stand unchallenged.
Nevertheless, this unfortunate development could have been utilized to good purpose were the Israeli politicians to have had the wisdom to allow the Palestinian population to make peace with Israel and form their own state. As reported in his book by Gen. Narkiss, there was no doubt about Palestinian willingness for such a solution. But it was at this very point that an ill wind began to blow on the Israeli scene: politicians and public alike "fell in love" with the territories and all sorts of arguments were now heard against the logical step of trading them off for peace.

The Allon Plan

It was at this point that Labor and kibbutz leader Yigal Allon announced the Allon Plan which was meant to provide the reasonable Israeli with rational arguments for holding on to those parts of the Occupied Territories which he saw as possessing supreme security value for Israel. By now the air was full of messianic, religious, nationalistic - and even economic - reasons for a "Greater Israel". The majority of the people found such arguments unbecoming to a nation accustomed to high moral values in the conduct of its social and international relations. The Allon Plan feigned security considerations which aimed only to assure the nation's safety, a value which stands uppermost in any list of national priorities.
Avoiding Jewish rule over places with dense Arab populations, the Allon Plan had Israel controlling and settling the Jordan Valley Rift, the Golan Heights and the Jerusalem area, as well as points along the Red Sea. Though the Plan was never officially accepted, Jewish settlement south of Jerusalem (Gush Etzion and Hebron), in other parts of the West Bank, in the South and in the Golan, took place within the parameters of the Plan under Labor governments, to be greatly extended by Menahem Begin after 1977.
In terms of strategic thinking, the Plan was nonsensical, lacking any relationship to the real problems facing Israel. Without a basis in Israel's military history, it failed to dwell on any eventual situation which might remotely justify it. However, it succeeded in blurring over the real goals and firing the imagination of people in Israel and abroad with the idea that, unlike Imperialist powers, Israel has no desire for worldly possessions for their own sake, but only in order to avert another holocaust, God forbid.
These are also the elements of the Allon Plan as it reappears so many years later in the "Third Way" program. With all their desire to avoid a mystical posture, while presenting themselves as rational people who avoid a mystical posture, the new plan could not avoid sanctifying the vision of a united Jerusalem as Israel's eternal capital. This is indeed the one issue which enables the new movement to link hands with rightist and religious trends in Israeli public opinion.
What of the Golan Heights? The reality of Israel's situation has been replaced by a myth about a threat to security caused by the Heights' rising above the Huleh Valley. The history of Israeli-Syrian confrontations prior to 1967 lends absolutely no support to such a myth since strategically the Heights never posed a problem for Israel. Neither Israeli artillery nor its air force found any difficulty in reaching Syrian villages or military positions when a clash broke out. In most cases, Israeli targets were hit less than those of the Syrians. In general, the clashes never revolved around major strategic issues but were caused by arguments about land ownership, rights of passage or control over water resources. More recent developments in modern warfare serve only to emphasize that the myth is even less valid today than it was in former decades.

The Ultimate Excuse of a Scoundrel

It was only towards the close of the Six-Day War that pressure was exerted by local military leaders and residents for launching an attack on Syria. This was expressly forbidden by the government since there was simply no reason to enlarge the area of conflict to include Syria, especially since Syria had throughout the war indicated its unwillingness to get involved.
Finally Moshe Dayan, minister of defense at the time - who could never resist the temptation for popularity - gave permission to go ahead without referring the matter for the consideration of the government. The attack on the Heights was launched hastily, with the ill-prepared main attacking force hailing from the South, where the war with Egypt had just ended. Once again - a case of a war against a foreign country without a minimal pretense of legality. Some 80,000 Syrian refugees fled their homes due to this unwarranted attack and soon Jewish settlements were established so as to facilitate eventual annexation. The old excuse was again brought into play so that decent people could justify events without a feeling of shame: national security - whose misuse is the ultimate excuse of a scoundrel.
The "Third Way" thus takes two major lies produced after the 1967 war (one concerning the area south of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley, and the other on the Golan Heights), and proceeds to produce a third lie: that these territories are today so crucial to Israel's security that even peace with the Palestinians and our Arab neighbors would not justify giving them up. The intellectual dishonesty in the program is so glaring that one feels embarrassed in exposing it. But hopefully, in this very dishonesty there lies the cause of its eventual rejection by reasonable people who cannot be misled by intellectual trickery, old or new, into rejecting the present prospects for peace - which is the real meaning of the "Third Way".