DevMode
The situation, as I see it, is that the Israeli and the Palestinian leaders wanted to arrive at an agreement. There were talks, but there was no agreement, which enabled both sides to stick to their fundamental positions, freezing the peace process and preventing them from liberating themselves and arriving at a reasonable arrangement. The endless cycle of violence that we find ourselves in does not lead us anywhere. The attributes of the current situation, following the second Intifida, have become more and more dangerous. Both sides are becoming less rational and are introducing farfetched ideas derived from religion, justice or historical rights, which don't advance us one step forward. To arrive at some kind of solution, we have to speak in different terms, if it will be at all possible to speak. The problem is that, during the past two years, we haven't been talking. The Israelis claim that there is no one to talk to, and the Palestinians say the same thing.

Confronting the Illness

This situation brings us to a discussion of the basic schools of thought within Israeli society. The conventional view of the majority of Israel's political and military leaders, provides a prescription only for a symptom of the illness - a struggle against terror. Justified as this may be, and I understand it, this doesn't get at the roots of the problem. This approach is like conventional medicine. But sometimes it's preferable to look at complimentary or alternative medicine - to use all the options available to confront the illness. And there is an illness. We have to find a remedy for the roots of the problem, the causes, and not just fight the symptoms - not because one side is more justified than the other but because this is the only way to create a new situation.

Two Schools of Thought

Looking at the present situation, we can see that two basic schools of thought have reemerged in Israeli public opinion. One is based on the belief that a total clash between the Israelis and Palestinians is inevitable, because both sides are dogmatically adhering to their beliefs, their historical justice, and are struggling over the same land. During the past two years, an attempt was made to move the clash forward as much as possible. If and when it occurs, even those who believe in this scenario find it impossible to predict the result. This represses a discussion of the results, the outcome, of such a total clash.
The second school of thought, which is not necessarily related to the traditional right and left division since 1991, has a more skeptical approach. It says, and I tend to support this view, we do not know if there will be a clash but we are obligated to prevent it. Even if it's impossible to prevent it, we should delay it as long as possible because we are still in the process of building a nation, a society, a state, and there's a lot more to do before we can feel secure. Therefore, we have to engage in a conflict resolution process, even if we are not sure it is possible to achieve a solution.
Until the past two years, the controversy between the two schools of thought was resolved in favor of the latter approach. All of the prime ministers since 1991 supported dialogue (though they differed on the solution). The 1991 Madrid Conference was convened under the auspices of a Likud government headed by Yitzhak Shamir. The Labor Party prime ministers Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak acted in this way. Even Benjamin Netanyahu from the Likud accepted and adopted the conclusions that stemmed from Oslo, despite the fact he had ideological problems with them.

Ariel Sharon

I have some difficulty evaluating Ariel Sharon, the current prime minister. I tend to believe the political potential exists within him. Yet, the fact is, he didn't carry out any political initiatives during his first term, based on the claim that he was dealing with terror, etc. Yet, I still believe, even if he wouldn't agree with me ideologically, that he understands my view and that he can be sufficiently pragmatic if an opportunity is created, or he himself creates an opportunity. He could do more than others because of his level of political support and because of the pragmatism that is attributed to him.

Camp David and Oslo

Since fall 2000, the controversy between the two schools of thought is once again on the public agenda. Barak had an impossible dialogue with Palestinian Chairman Arafat. But it would be wrong and even unwise to say who bears more of the blame for what happened. I have no right to attribute blame, but I do remember that Arafat claimed, on the eve of the Camp David conference, that it wasn't ready, that it wasn't possible to arrive at a settlement. Still, a very problematic dynamic did develop. In the end, did the dialogue collapse because of the why (the contents) or the how (the nature of the process)? It was probably a combination of both. This raises the question of whether both sides, and particularly the Palestinian side, are ripe for a permanent agreement.
When I was head of military intelligence, I said the situation was not ripe to deal so quickly with problems that touched on the ends of the sensitive ideological raw nerves, which was required to arrive at a permanent solution. I also believed it was preferable for Israel to resolve its territorial disagreements with the neighboring Arab states before it arrived at the very difficult discussion, requiring in-depth internal soul-searching, about the permanent settlement with the Palestinians. But, as we now know, we arrived at an agreement with the Egyptians and the Jordanians, but not the Syrians or the Lebanese. I now consider that evaluation an error on my part, and can add that Israel contributed its share to the failure of the discussions with the Syrians - it wasn't only Hafaz El Assad. Still, when we look at the Oslo Agreement, which so many people are condemning, with all of its many deficiencies, it remains worthwhile for three reasons:
1) Both sides understood that rational and verbal dialogue have a value, beyond throwing bombs at each other.
2) Israel received, at least in its own eyes, a form of catharsis, a type of legitimization in the eyes of others.
3) Oslo tried (though it failed, and both sides contributed to this failure) to create a path for progress toward a solution of the fundamental problems, which were avoided by the agreement of both sides at Oslo itself - the settlements, the Palestinian right of return, Jerusalem, all the known topics.

The Present Situation

There are two major problems that threaten our security situation today. The first is that we have no answer to individual terror, particularly that of the suicide bombers. Terror has accompanied us since the establishment of the state (and even beforehand), particularly on the part of those who oppose any dialogue and any peace process. But we have no answer to the current wave of suicide bombings, because the space is open, with no constraints. It's a terrible blow, not only to those who suffer directly, but also from a general psychological point of view. The sense of personal security has been undermined to such a degree that life, both in the territories and within the area of the Green Line, has become, in some ways, unbearable. Second, we don't have an effective answer to the threat of unconventional weapons that is beginning to appear on the horizon. It can be asked, what's the connection between this threat and the dialogue with the Palestinians? Well, it's possible, and desirable, to respond that the very creation of a different atmosphere, a different dynamic, a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, will make a major contribution to reducing the severity of the unconventional dangers. For example, Israel is only one of the factors motivating Iran to take an interest in manufacturing nuclear weapons. A State of Israel that arrives at a successful dialogue with all its neighbors will not be perceived as posing the same type of danger it poses today.
The Israeli security ethos should have undergone a modification even before the events of the past two years. We are no longer facing a combination of all the Arab states, with an impossible concentration of tanks, planes and artillery threatening to overrun the State of Israel. I believe the security ethos should be responsible for outlining the other long-term dangers that confront us. We should be analyzing the demographic dangers, the moral-ethical problems and the economic problems. These issues, along with the social and organizational problems confronting our society, concern me to a much greater degree than the number of tanks in the hands of any of our neighbors.
My diagnosis is that, on the political front, there is no possibility, capacity and perhaps even desire for a serious dialogue with the Palestinians. We simply cannot arrive at a resolution of today's fundamental problems - neither concerning Jerusalem, nor the Palestinian right of return (which they insist on, and we reject, myself included), nor the status of the permanent border. But the State of Israel can do a number of other things. Israel is strong enough today - because most of the cards are in its hands - to influence reality to a great degree.

Four Options

After the diagnosis, which can be arrived at with a fair degree of consensus (though there are still some who differ), I have willingly agreed to confront the question as to what should be done, and have concluded we have four options:
1) To try to turn back the clock by reconquering all of the Palestinian territories and taking control of the entire population, while continuing to fight the terror, realizing that we will once again be completely responsible for the civilian population. That's a messianic, power-driven approach that ignores many processes and prefers to look only at our justice and morality, while ignoring their justice and morality. This approach may provide some short-term solutions but it totally avoids a long-term approach to things.
2) Another school of thought says there's nothing we can do at this time, so we have to carry out a unilateral withdrawal, an artificial separation, which won't have any impact on the root problems of the situation. It also ignores major elements of the reality and seeks a form of short-term messianic solution. There is no deluxe, cost-free separation - the terror, the demographic problems, etc., will continue.
3) There's another approach, perhaps the most fashionable one in Israel today. To continue to fight terror - a well-known mantra. We've seen the "tremendous victories" in this area and I'm not underestimating the ability of the IDF, which is doing a tremendous job. But it's unable to guarantee an end to terror. This would be true of any army, not only the IDF. Other nations have a similar experience and it's definitely possible to learn from history, even if there are no exact extrapolations from historical examples. When we look at the experience of other nations, no less talented than us, none has ever succeeded in putting down this type of uprising. This lack of decision, the inertia that is so characteristic of the State of Israel, has always led to traumas. Look at the l973 war. Look at the inertia after 1967 that eventually led to the Intifada of 1987. Suddenly, we were surprised, we didn't know, and there was no awareness even if there was knowledge. But anyone with a minimum of understanding should have known. This third approach is the most dangerous of all, because it is really incapable of predicting what will be.
4) The fourth approach is the one I support. Let us try to shape our own future, to the degree possible, as much as mortals can. We can't do everything, but we have to try to confront the security, the demographic, the psychological and, hopefully in the future, the political aspects of the problem. We have to define our own borderlines and place a fence there.

Alternative to Violence: A Fence

A fence provides a response to a number of challenges. First, Israel has to provide an immediate solution to the problem of personal security, even if it's not a total one. I believe a fence can make a significant contribution in this area (even if it's not an absolute solution, nothing is ever absolute).
Second, we have to define for ourselves what our aspirations are concerning borders. We are a state without a border. We have borders with Egypt and with Jordan, but we have no border along the other parts of the country. If we establish a barrier, we will not be able to gain legal legitimization for it, but we will be able to gain both de facto and de jure legitimization from a number of quarters. De facto, from the Palestinians, because they won't have any alternative, and de jure from the international community, the Europeans and the Americans who will agree to such a temporary arrangement, until there can be a permanent agreement (and I'm not sure there will be a permanent agreement). I believe the border should be delineated in an intelligent manner, based on consultations with demographers. The borderline I am advocating is not exactly parallel to the Green Line, but it is very similar to the line that US President Bill Clinton advocated in December 2000. It includes a line that would go east of the main settlement blocs, which would enable most of the settlers to remain within the State of Israel.
We owe this to ourselves and mainly to the younger generation. I know my proposal for a political initiative, which includes a separation barrier, will require the removal of settlements and a return inward. But it will enable us to revive a new, dynamic settlement project in the Negev and the Galilee areas. I'm aware of the problems involved. Since this will not be a permanent border, I'm flexible enough to realize that the creation of this temporary border will have to include within it as large a number of settlement blocs as possible. This means the area around Jerusalem, the Ariel bloc, the three or four main blocs that will enable us to build a fence that will create a separation between us and the Palestinians - not a total barrier but a "breathing border", which will be both clear and secure, a delineation that will enable 80 percent of the settlers in Judea and Samaria to continue to be Israeli citizens in all senses of the word.
The first stage, the building of the barrier, will take two years. During this period almost no settlements will be removed, to ensure as broad a consensus as possible. Only six settlements will have to be removed because they are almost totally indefensible. At the conclusion of the first stage, all of the Gaza Strip will be evacuated. The next stage, which will also take two years, will contain the development of the vision, including a transfer of infrastructure to enable absorption of a Jewish population in the Negev and the Galilee, or wherever else they will want to go. They will determine their preferences - the state will not tell them where to go.
We've spoken about security, and only a little bit, not enough, about demography. I'm not inventing any new statistic that is not known. We will soon lose our Jewish majority on the western side of the Jordan River. The founding fathers dreamed of a state that would have a Jewish majority, would be democratic and would (and will) be Zionist. All of these things can't be maintained in a state of indecision.

Conclusions

The events of the past two years have led me to arrive at the following conclusion: If it is possible to engage the Palestinians in discussions on practical issues, then we should try to initiate a political process of negotiation. But, simultaneously, we should begin to realize the plan of building a fence. I would prefer to arrive at an agreement with the Palestinians but, if this will not be possible, the State of Israel can't afford any further delays. I don't think that separation is a goal in and of itself. In this I differ from most supporters of separation. I am in favor of separation and the building of a fence (barrier), not only from a security point of view. We also have other, difficult problems that have to be confronted.

We Must Decide

I believe it's up to us to decide. I am not saying this will require the presence of an international force but maybe that will be necessary, as well. If there is a possibility of renewing political negotiations, I give it my complete support. But since, according to my diagnosis, this is not possible, at least in the coming months, I reverse the order of things. I say we should formulate our proposal and carry it out. At the same time, we have to continue our efforts to engage in dialogue with the Palestinians and also have to carry out dialogue and coordination on the international level. I am referring first and foremost to the US, but I also wouldn't want to surprise the Egyptians and the Jordanians on these matters (even if they won't be ready to give public support to the initiative). We should also involve other factors in the international community, like the Europeans, who might want to invest in this initiative. After we withdraw, this might lead to the stationing of an international force in the area.
Within such a unilateral action, we will remain in the Jordan Rift area. We might have to remain there for another 50 years before we can leave. And we will continue to control the Jordan transfer points, for security reasons. At the same time, this plan will not preclude the possibility of returning to negotiations with the Palestinians at any stage of its implementation. If this occurs, it will delay and precede any further implementation, provided everything is based on mutual agreement. In a political dialogue, from my point of view, everything is open, except the right of return. As far as Jerusalem is concerned, we believe there should be a special status for the holy basin and that everyone should run their own lives. We don't delude ourselves. In essence, the city is divided today. We should recall that in the UN partition plan, Jerusalem had a special extraterritorial status. I don't have any nostalgia for that idea but we should look at things from a realistic perspective.
I would be very pleasantly surprised if the new government were ready to adopt and implement such an initiative. I don't think it will happen, though I hope I will be proven wrong.
This proposal, constructed together with former senior negotiator Gilad Sher as an academic initiative, is a preparation for the next elections. People like me also want to have a say in this state. We have to prepare for the future.

Ben-Gurion's Example

In this country, decisions are almost never made unless there is no alternative. David Ben-Gurion made an exceptional decision - in 1947-48, he actually thought there was a combination of no alternative and an extraordinary opportunity. Most of the other strategic decisions made here were the result of force, not initiative. This was true of 1973, Lebanon, and the first Intifada. In all of these cases, processes of change had already begun but force became the catalyst for genuine change. In the case of the first Intifada, it is possible there was also an emotional motivator for change. I, and most of my colleagues in the General Staff, faced a situation where our children were doing the fighting, both in Lebanon and in the territories. This fact also had an influence.
I hope that the present initiative will lead to a solution. If not, it should at least be a catalyst for providing an alternative to violence.

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