Israel needs Judea and Samaria to be secure

by Steve Kramer

Martin van Creveld is a well-known Israeli military historian and author, formerly a professor at Hebrew University. In his recent article, “Israel Doesn’t Need the West Bank To Be Secure,” van Creveld posits that the West Bank isn’t crucial to Israel’s defense. Although I am not a military historian, I believe van Creveld’s thesis doesn’t pass the “smell test.” As a resident of the West Bank community of Alfe Menashe, easily able to see many Palestinian towns from my doorstep, I’d fear for Israel’s security were Judea and Samaria, known by the media as the West Bank, totally given up to the Palestinians.

Van Creveld (hereafter abbreviated to MvC) begins with the situation before the 1967 war, when Israel had no control over the territory beyond the Green Line, the 1949 armistice line. Despite that, Israel overcame its enemies in six days. MvC ignores the fact that before the Six Day War, the Palestinians hardly agitated for a state of their own. The PLO was established in 1964, not 1948. Two of the greatest threats to Israel were founded even later: Hezbollah in 1982, during the Lebanese Civil War, inspired by the Khomeini-led revolution in Iran; Hamas in 1987, during the First Intifada, as an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood.

MvC then mentions the peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan, which reduce the Arab threat to Israel. This is true as far as it goes, but the overwhelming threat to Israel is from Iran and to a lesser extent Syria, not Egypt or Jordan. Syria is still at war with Israel and is Iran’s major Arab ally, although MvC says that Syria’s threat is not “serious”. Hezbollah and Hamas are Iran’s proxy armies against Israel. All are increasing their offensive armaments at an alarming rate. Despite this, Hezbollah is unmentioned by MvC and Hamas rates only a passing reference.

MvC then describes Israel’s astonishing growth, stating that, “Israel’s GDP is now larger than those of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt combined. As to military power, suffice it to say that Israel is the world’s fifth-largest exporter of arms.” Checking the Internet, one can see that Egypt’s GDP is nearly as large as Israel’s. Adding the other three countries, Israel’s GDP is significantly lower than their combined total. Nor could I find verification of MvC’s statement regarding weapons sales, although Israel is a significant arms exporter. The top five sellers are all members of the United Nations Security Council: America, Russia, Germany, France, U.K. Whether this is relevant at all is questionable, since China, with its huge power and influence is not among the biggest exporters. Neither is North Korea, the world’s greatest nuclear proliferator-troublemaker. As for the significance of GDP, Afghanistan’s GDP is very low, but that hasn’t prevented it from humbling the likes of the British Empire, Russia, and now America.

MvC then states that, “holding on to the West Bank won’t help Israel defend itself against missiles coming from Syria or Iran.” Perhaps this is true – but it’s beside the point. Israel cannot be defeated by missiles; the existential threat is from ground forces pouring across our borders.The mountainous West Bank is the barrier protecting Israel’s vulnerable coastal plain from armed attack from the east. The Jordan Valley is crucial to Israel’s security and it would be extremely foolish for Israel to rely on perennially weak Jordan to protect its eastern flank. MvC dismisses the threat of a land invasion, despite admitting that, “the West Bank comprises the high ground and overlooks Israel’s coastal plain.” He also ignores the possibility that Arab ground forces could wreak havoc with Israel’s buildup of reserve forces in the event of war by blocking the few critical roads through the West Bank.

MvC: “Therefore, just as Israel does not need the West Bank to defend itself against ballistic missiles, it does not need that territory to defend itself against conventional warfare. If it could retain a security presence in the Jordan Valley, keep the eventual Palestinian state demilitarized and maintain control of the relevant airspace, that would all be well and good. However, none of these conditions existed before 1967; in view of geography and the balance of forces, none is really essential today either.” That’s a lot of “ifs”. Just because we overcame these negatives more than 40 years ago doesn’t guarantee we could do it again under dramatically changed circumstances.

MvC seems to forget that the role of the Israel Defense Forces in the West Bank has been crucial to diminishing terror attacks and preventing the fall of the moderate (relatively speaking) Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. Withdrawing the IDF from the West Bank could quickly lead to a situation which resulted when Gaza was abandoned by the IDF: a Hamas takeover and the escalation of violent attacks into Israel.

According to MvC, Israel’s risk is “negligible” if it gives up the West Bank. He shows his true colors when he states that continuing the IDF presence beyond the Green Line, “… will turn [Israel] into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.”

In conclusion, MvC says Israel can only save itself by exiting the West Bank and dividing Jerusalem, unilaterally if necessary. He points to the Gaza evacuation as a “very successful” example. Otherwise, MvC advises his children and grandchild to “… seek some other, less purblind [dim-witted] and less stiff-necked, country to live in.”

An enemy force located in commanding positions along the West Bank could pose a threat to the center of gravity of the State of Israel, including Ben Gurion Airport, cripple its economic life, and put at risk large portions of its population. It takes just three minutes for an enemy fighter to cross the 42 miles from the Jordan River – over the West Bank and Israel – to Tel Aviv. If Israel were unable to deploy its air defense systems along West Bank hilltops in order to intercept enemy aircraft from forward positions, the provision of adequate air defense by means of fighter interceptors or anti-aircraft missiles would be doubtful. (See

In my opinion, MvC has allowed his left wing ideology to cloud his military judgement. Most pundits note that overwhelming missile attacks, like the American “Show and Awe” campaign in Iraq, cannot defeat indigenous guerilla forces. Even with its missiles, drones, and jet aircraft, Israel needs all the strategic depth possible to repel a possible invasion on the ground or in the air.

The Palestine Authority won’t even acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state. As a tiny country in a hostile environment, Israel would be foolish to give up whatever advantageous positions it has to a weak quasi-government which is striving for a Jew-free, Muslim, Arab state of Palestine.

January 25, 2011 | 6 Comments »

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  1. Why did G-d need to Test Abraham with the Akaida (binding) of Isaac?


    Avimelech, the king of the land, came to Abraham with his chief of staff, Pichol, in order to sign a “non-aggression pact” for three generations. “What could be better,” thought Abraham. “A peace treaty between the king of the land and the Jewish people – consisting at the time of a 100-year-old man, a 90-year-old woman, and an infant!”

    Abraham didn’t bother consulting G-d. This turned out to be a mistake, as many years later King David was prevented from conquering Jerusalem until the death of Avimelech’s great-grandson who retained a copy of the agreement! (See II Samuel 5)


    Rashbam (Rashi’s grandson) offers an original, startling, view of this “test.” He says:

    “…After Abraham made a treaty with Avimelech, between him, their sons, their grandsons and their great grandsons, then G-d was angry with him because the land of the Philistines was part of the Land of Israel and the Holy One commanded ‘You shall not let live any soul’; therefore, G-d ‘provoked'” Abraham, and caused him pain.”

    (Rashbam then cites examples in Tanach where the word “nisa” means “provoked” and not “tested”.)

    The Rashbam continues by quoting a Midrash,

    that Hashem made an oath: “since you offered seven sheep (in the covenant ceremony) the Philistines will kill seven of your Righteous and destroy seven of your temples: Ohel Moed, Gilgal, Nov, Shilo, Givon, and the two Temples.”

    Abraham gave to the Philistines 7 parts of the Land of Israel for a Peace agreement and This provoked G-d’s anger. The Lands were not Abrahams to give even for Peace. They were part of the covenant. Abraham gave seven parts of the Land of Israel away and G-ds punishment was 7 generations the Philistines would rule over the children of Israel and 7 leaders would be killed for this act of rebellion.

    The G-d of Israel doe not want his Land to be in the hands of the gentiles.

    Settlements, which come in the name of G-d’s promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, are the most important thing for Israel’s security. Our enemies know that they have no chance to defeat Israel in a face-to-face war, but they are sure that they can destroy Israel through terror and guerilla warfare. It is only the settlers, with their firmness and faith, who stand in their way. As long as the settlers are not ready to compromise on anything, and continue to hold tight to the land, multiply, get stronger and stand firm, the Muslims won’t be able to defeat Israel.

    Fortunate are those who assist these courageous people, helping to expand the settlements, for this is the foundation of the security and salvation of Israel:

    “Be of good courage, and let us be strong for our people, and for the cities of our God.”

  2. Excerpt:

    And what of national liberty?

    The entire world is in an uproar over the El-Jezirah leaks. The Creator is telling His children – loud and clear – “The Land of Israel is yours! I have designated the Land of Israel exclusively for you. You cannot give it to anyone because you have received it from Me. I have entrusted the Land of Israel to you so that you may fulfill your destiny from within its boundaries.”

    Even an individual Jew cannot give his portion of the Land to anyone else forever- but only until the Jubilee year. Not only is the Land holy to the nation as a whole, but it is also holy to each and every individual Jew.

    The source of our national liberty is the fact that the Land does not belong to us, but rather, to G-d. In the Torah, G-d promises that even if we lose our hold on the Land, no other nation will establish a sovereign entity within it. And true to that Divine decree, no other nation-state has ever risen in the Land of Israel since it was initially conquered by Joshua. All the attempts to establish a “Palestinian” state within its borders will never succeed.

    Moshe Feiglin, Economic and National Liberty, Manhigut Yehudit’s Weekly Update (English), Jan. 27 2011

  3. This fool might be a military historian, but if he actually had any input into real combat, his troops would be quickly routed. Thank G-d he doesn’t.

  4. At a seminar I asked a high-ranking Israeli military officer a straightforward question: “If Israel gives up control of Judea and Samaria, would it be defensible?” After some hemming and hawing, the answer was “it depends how you define control.” In fact, as he admitted privately, Israel would be rendered indefensible. At the very least, artillery, mortar and rocket fire would make its single international airport and many military airfields unusable, disrupt mustering points, destroy key infrastructure such as oil storage and refineries, disrupt port activity, render roads and rail lines unusable, and cause immense loss of life and damage to buildings all over Israel. Anyone looking at a simple map showing distances and topography knows this fact. Since ancient times, the central moutain range has dominated the coastal plain (and Jerusalem was the key point in that range).

  5. This critique of MvC is so good it is depressing. Depressing because it shows the depths of stupidity, dishonesty and corruption so-called experts so frequently fall.

    I seem to recall two things about the Israel-Egypt “peace treaty” and perhaps someone here who knows the facts can affirm or correct my recollections. These are a) it is not actually a peace treaty at all but some form of memorandum of understanding and b) the agreement allows Egypt to maintain mutual defense treaties so if Israel is forced into war with another Arab state Egypt would be allowed to attack Israel, bottom line, the agreement with Egypt is worthless when most needed.

    One point should be added to this analysis. Israeli control of its central highlands serves as a powerful deterrent to the Arabs. The Arab border states have not wanted to chance another defeat along the lines of ’67 and ’73. Clearly if an Arab state controls the central highlands of Israel, there are numerous ways, allowed and otherwise, that control can be turned into a significant military advantage (what makes ’67 irrelevant today is that Jordan did not exploit its control of the central highlands to create a military advantage). With the possibility of a defeat of Israel more likely it follows that possibility of war becomes more likely, not less likely.

    Regarding MvC’s comments about his children moving to a better country: In the post WW2 period Argentina did not have a race relations problem. This is because in the early part of the 20th century Argentina’s black population was virtually wiped out. Do we now say that in the post WW2 period, Argentina was more moral (at least in terms of race relations) than the United States?