Israeli soldiers stand atop tanks in the Golan Heights near Israel's border with Syria, March 19, 2014.
Ronen Zvulun / Reuters

Neither the Department of Defense nor any agency of the U.S. government bears any responsibility for the opinions expressed herein, which are entirely those of the author.

"Israel," as Mrs. Meir put it, "is entitled to defensible borders." But where might such borders be drawn? The lines on which Israel's army stood at the end of the war of June 1967 seemed formidable, but have disappeared into history. The U.N. Security Council, in its celebrated Resolution 242 of November 1967, visualized that "secure and recognized boundaries" might be placed essentially along the lines obtaining before the outbreak of the June hostilities. Although it has refused to "draw maps," Israel has made it plain that the old lines will not do, in part owing to security concerns. But genuine security depends on regional accommodation, which the Arab states say cannot occur until all of the occupied territory is returned. All parties agree that some kind of demilitarization arrangement in returned territory would be needed in any overall settlement, but little serious public attention has been given to ways in which comprehensive demilitarization might be useful as a security safeguard in the context of comprehensive territorial return.

Today, Israel continues to hold something like 90 percent of the territory taken in 1967; that it has evacuated as much as 10 percent is one of the concrete achievements of the current "step-by-step" diplomacy. But this diplomacy seems to have lost momentum, and, in any case, has produced harmful side effects, including a new, and perhaps shortsighted, kind of demilitarization. Israel's borders are now anything but "secure and recognized"; defense of the present lines seems to require the attainment of new levels of sophistication in an arms race, the cost of which Israel can no longer shoulder alone. We even hear claims that Israel's security may soon require that it move to the stage of nuclear confrontation with its Arab adversaries.


Things looked a great deal different as the dust of the June War settled, for it seemed that Israel had solved its security problem by creating a new geography. To review the changes briefly, the total land area under Israeli control had grown about four times, but the length of demarcation lines had actually shortened and, in general, the new lines were based on natural features. At the Suez Canal, Israel had the best "tank ditch" in the Middle East. The Gaza Strip, long a nursery for Egyptian-supported terrorism reaching to within a few miles of Tel Aviv, had come under Israeli administration. On the Golan, Israel at last held the high ground. The bulge of the West Bank, an implicit threat that Israel would be cut in two, had been superseded by the line of the Jordan River. More important, the air threat to Israel had disappeared, at least for the moment. Tel Aviv had been 12 minutes flying time from Egyptian bases in the northern Sinai. Now, launched from the most forward bases in Egypt, many Soviet-supplied aircraft either could not reach Tel Aviv, or could do so only with reduced bomb loads or by using flight profiles which would make them easy targets for Israeli interceptors. Moreover, with radars in the Sinai, Israel could rely on 30 minutes warning of Egyptian air attack. As the International Institute for Strategic Studies summed up the new situation: "The six-day war left Israel with a degree of security she had never known before, and one that required no external guarantee."

However, within a week of the June 11 ceasefire, Israeli and Syrian ground forces were skirmishing on the Golan Heights; by July 1, fighting had erupted along the Canal. On October 21, after just four and a half months of "ceasefire," Israel's largest warship, the destroyer Eilat, was hit by Egyptian missiles and sunk near Port Said with great loss of life. Artillery duels, commando raids and terrorist attacks all along the new frontiers escalated to the full-scale war of attrition in 1969-70. Israel's casualties during the roughly three-year period from the end of the June War to the renewed, United States-sponsored ceasefire of August 1970 were at least 700 killed and 2,600 wounded, about the same as for the June War itself.

Perhaps, however, the new lines, so much more easily defended, would permit a reduction in the heavy burden of Israel's defense expenditures. Not so. In both absolute and relative terms, Israel's defense burden increased between 1965 and 1972, and increased dramatically, as the following figures indicate:1

1965 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972


Spending 288 365 562 730 955 1278 1370 1375



Spending 7.9 9.8 14.7 17.0 19.7 23.6 22.6 20.6

(% of GDP)

Israel's standing military establishment, cadre and conscript, also expanded during this period. Total, full-time forces numbered 71,000 at the end of the June War, increased to 75,000 by mid-1970 and to 115,000 by mid-1973, with each component growing and the Air Force roughly doubling.

These trends might have been even more adverse for Israel had it simply withdrawn from the occupied territories without obtaining suitable security arrangements. However, in view of the importance attached to human loss, and considering national requirements for development funds and skilled manpower, these indexes-casualties, defense spending, men under arms-have the highest significance for Israel. And none of them signaled improved security.


In retrospect it seems clear that Israel's larger security interests were not well served by a unilateral redrawing of its boundaries in conformance with perceived defense requirements. But it remained for the war of October 1973 to demolish this notion entirely. It fades from memory, now, how impressively the Israelis "won" what is sometimes called the Yom Kippur War. The sights and sounds of Egypt's stranded Third Army have somehow been erased in the aftermath of a strategic setback which Israelis, most of all, recognize.

But it is also clear that Israel has a legitimate security interest in what happens in the occupied territories. Israelis wonder how much worse it might have been in October 1973 had the Arab attack been launched from the old lines. Perhaps, then, it may be in order to try to describe the character of Israel's security interests in each of the territories, and to ask how these interests might be protected.

Taking the territories one at a time, two practical invasion corridors lead through the Sinai from Egypt to Israel. The traditional route is a relatively narrow coastal passageway through El Arish and Gaza. Alternately, Egypt has access through the Mitla and Gidi Passes to the central Sinai and thence to the Negev. Military leaders naturally prefer to cut hostile invasion routes as far forward as possible and the Suez Canal seems ideally suited to this purpose. But the Canal line was first breached by Egypt in the October War and then abandoned when Israel accepted withdrawal in the "first step" Disengagement Agreement of January 1974. The next best line, which would include physical occupation of the Sinai passes, was relinquished by Israel in the "second step" agreement of September 1975.

In any case, severing the invasion routes has never been the real test for Israel. Control of the air makes it possible to cut these lines at any desired point. The problem has been to prevent a concentration of Egyptian forces near Israel's borders. A forward build-up of men and matériel would theoretically enable Egypt, acting in concert with other Arab states, to defeat Israel in a lightning stroke even with its rear communications disrupted by Israeli air attack. But for the purpose of preventing military concentration close to Israel, what matters most is not how much of the Sinai is handed back to Egypt, but whether what is handed back is effectively demilitarized or not.

Incidentally, further disengagement "steps" in the Sinai would seem to require that Israel give up its forward operating base at Bir Gifgafa. Here, Israel has a heavy investment in facilities which, while not absolutely necessary for defensive purposes, do greatly enhance Israel's capability to conduct air operations against interior Egypt. Evidence of Israeli reluctance to part with this base may be seen in the way the lines were drawn in the September agreement. North of the passes, Israel's line runs due west, back toward the Canal for nearly 20 kilometers, then curves around again to the north, leaving space for operations at Bir Gifgafa.

Finally, with respect to the Sinai, there is the problem of Sharmel-Sheikh. That Israel must control the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula has become an article of faith among Israeli political and military leaders because Arab closure of the Gulf of Aqaba played a key role in the wars of 1956 and 1967. However, Sharm-el-Sheikh itself has little more than symbolic significance. The Gulf of Aqaba, nowhere more than about 15 miles wide, can be closed by modern artillery posted at any point along its shoreline. Accordingly, some argue that Israel must retain not just Sharm-el-Sheikh but also a land corridor south from Elath to the tip of the Peninsula. It is as logical to argue that Israel should control both shorelines, since the Gulf can be closed from either side, but this would require that Jordan and Saudi Arabia give up territory, as well as Egypt. And there is no end to aspirations which might be based on such an argument. The Gulf of Aqaba is itself bottled up by the Red Sea, making Israel's maritime access to the Indian Ocean dependent on the situation at the Strait of Bab el Mandeb. But, for the moment, Israel must rely on the threat of retaliatory action and such international support as can be mustered to deter hostile occupation of the Red Sea exit. If this course of action is sensible and reliable farther south, there is no reason why it cannot be applied to Sharm-el-Sheikh. Again, Israel's security requirement is not so much to retain control as that control not be passed under conditions of active hostility to another power; in brief, that there be peace, or barring that, effective demilitarization.

Atop the Golan Heights the situation can be viewed in at least two different ways, leading to opposed conclusions. According to one view, Israeli dispositions are a source of strength because Israel now commands the ridge line. The resulting ability to see from the ground into Syria is obviously a net advantage. In addition, the sporadic shelling of Israeli settlements in the Hula Valley has been ended. However, events of the October War call into question the value of these advantages. Israeli observation did not prevent the Syrians from achieving a degree of strategic surprise. Syrian possession and use of short range missiles showed that it is not necessary to hold the Heights in order to bombard northern Israel.

The principal strategic justification for retaining the Golan has been that it constitutes a geographic cushion, outside Israel, in which a Syrian attack could be dealt with-absorbed and contained, if not stopped completely-until Israel mobilizes. The logic of this strategy has been fatally undercut by the decision to permit Jewish settlement of the Heights. The Golan long ago ceased to be a strategic buffer in which the Israeli Army was free to trade space for time. As this is written, the number of farming settlements established has climbed into the mid-twenties and, despite the disruption of the October War, Israel has pushed through a Five Year Plan for the Golan which includes development of rural centers and tourist facilities and the opening of a number of small plants and mines. These assets must now be defended just as any part of Israel, and the Golan itself requires a protective buffer.

Thus the second view of Israel's Golan position-that the settlements and forces assembled there are terribly exposed, their backs not to a wall but to an abyss. Reinforcement is difficult and time-consuming; the roads up which reinforcements must come are exposed and vulnerable. The requirement to evacuate civilians from the settlements adds a demanding mission just when the army is bound to be most heavily committed. The opportunity for the kind of fluid warfare at which Israel excels seems reduced; Israel's forces must stand and fight in place, as they did with great gallantry during the October War. Nevertheless, it was a near thing. The Syrians came quite close to breaking through and creating the possibility of a disaster before they were held and then pushed back. It is no surprise that in the October War Israel had first to deal with the situation on the Golan before turning to the problem along the Canal, a reversal of the 1967 priorities. In present circumstances, the Golan will continue to receive top priority.

Lately there has been speculation that, should Syria attack again, Israel might regain the military initiative by moving through northern Jordan to envelop Syria's south flank. (Jordanian force deployments seem to take account of this danger.) Nor should the possibility of a move against Syria through Lebanon be overlooked. Of course, implementing such measures would more or less automatically widen and complicate any future war with Syria. If such plans exist they constitute further evidence of the strategic shortcomings of Israel's Golan position.

Thus, from a military point of view, Israel's holdings in the Golan can be seen as either an asset or a liability. Assuming that the territory under Israel's direct control is not forcibly enlarged to provide room for maneuver, it is at least arguable that Israel would be better off withdrawing from this exposed position. Moreover, the situation is made worse rather than better if Israel withdraws from some rather than all of the territory. As Prime Minister Rabin reportedly declared regarding further "steps" with Syria, there is room on the Heights for no more than "cosmetic" adjustment. Again, Israel's security would seem to dictate not occupation of the Golan, but its demilitarization.


In the extraordinarily complex problem of the West Bank, emotion and history are more important determinants than security. To the extent that security aspects can be isolated, it is clear that demography is of far greater significance than geography. That is, Israel's security problems center on returning the population, not the territory, to Arab control. The Gaza Strip presents a similar problem, and these areas may be lumped together for purposes of analysis.

One can imagine three possible outcomes for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel can return all, some or none of these territories to Arab control. Each of these alternatives poses challenges which are, for the most part, variations on the theme of internal security. This is so because consideration of these territories approaches the heart of the matter: How may Jews and Arabs live together?

Suppose Israel determines to incorporate all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, either through outright annexation, as is already the case in East Jerusalem, or through continued military occupation which has a provisional veneer but de facto permanence. Assuming that a large number of Arabs are not simply expelled, this action would add about a million people to the already sizable Arab minority in Israel. Moreover, the natural rate of increase of the Arab population is about double that of the Jews. Thus, while there is little near-term likelihood that the Arabs can "drive Israel into the sea," there is a real possibility that they might submerge it demographically within present defense perimeters.

Already the "Right of Return" does not extend to non-Jews; Arab Israelis may not serve in the armed forces; and Arabs in the occupied territories are denied effective political organization and participation in government. No doubt these measures embarrass many Israelis, but they are necessary. In an Israel where Arabs constitute an increasingly large fraction of population, there can be no doubt that to accord Arabs full rights of citizenship would mean the eventual end of Israel as a Zionist state. On the other hand, institutionalizing a set of repressive measures designed to control a growing Arab population means the end of Israel as a democracy. Those who define Israel's security as requiring the preservation of both the Jewish and the democratic character of the state understand that at least some of the West Bank/Gaza Strip must be returned.

How is this to be done? One possibility is to find a formula for returning as much of the population and as little of the territory as possible. If, say, Israel were to retain the Gaza Strip, and in the West Bank to return only the string of Arab towns-Nablus, Ramallah, Hebron-along the Judean/Samarian hilltops, together with a link to Jordan at Jericho, Israel might take in upwards of half a million fewer Arabs, and population dynamics would be manageable, at least for a long time. (With an additional provision for a chain of Israeli strongpoints along the Jordan River, this plan looks something like the one offered in 1968 by Yigal Allon.)

Israel might be able to find someone to whom control could be handed on such terms. But, regardless of the extent of territory returned, or to whom it is handed over, terrorist attacks on Israel originating from the returned area would certainly occur. The record shows that such attacks have been stopped neither by Israeli administration of captured territories nor by Israel's reprisal policy (which therefore clearly requires review). Thus, for Israel, the relevant security problem is how to reduce terrorism in circumstances of renewed Arab control of the population.

Two aspects of this matter make it particularly troublesome. First, a feature of Israel's rather enlightened occupation policy has been to encourage Arabs and Jews to cross the old lines for economic and cultural purposes. For Israel to reverse this policy following restoration of Arab control would be wrongheaded and, in the degree to which Israel has become dependent on Arab labor, economically unsound. But, if relative freedom of movement is continued, terrorist infiltration is bound to be difficult to manage, no matter whether all, or only some, of the West Bank/Gaza Strip territories are returned.

Second, Israel has made clear its expectation that Jews are settled permanently in the occupied territories. This holds true with special force for Jewish holy places like Hebron and in Jerusalem itself and may also be the case with the settlements around Gaza and on the Golan. No one knows how many Jews actually would stay behind to live under Arab rule, but if a considerable number were to do so, then we would have a situation rather like an exchange of hostages, or the ancient practice of enemies drinking wine from the same glass. Under such conditions, each side has an interest in making its actions acceptable to the other and the key question is the degree of control exercised by the respective authorities. In brief, can the parties keep someone from poisoning the wine?

These considerations argue that, in any case, but especially if a Jewish population of any size is left behind, Israel has an interest in passing control to an authoritative Arab administration. The best, perhaps the only, way to control Arab terrorism is for Arabs to do the controlling. However, by retaining portions of the occupied territories, Israel would bequeath a legacy of political weakness. The cry would arise immediately for further, complete return-"every inch"-creating an inflammatory issue, diminishing the authority of any Arab government cooperating in partial return, and threatening Jews left behind. Terrorism would receive an additional stimulus while at the same time Arab ability to deal with it would be reduced.

Thus, Israel's security may well require the return of all, or substantially all, of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in order to confer legitimacy on the restored Arab government and enable it to exercise real control. Even so, the prognosis for curtailing terrorism remains bleak. Around the world, none of the most vulnerable targets-the industrial democracies-has a ready answer. Israel's special problem in this regard may gradually subside as the Palestinians come to accept whatever political arrangements are worked out in their behalf. Until such reconciliation occurs, Israel's best prospect of controlling terrorism is that strong Arab governments materialize in the returned territories.

Strong government in the returned territories also means that Israel must accept the presence there of Arab forces: regular Jordanian forces (and possibly Egyptian forces in the Gaza Strip) if control reverts to former Arab authorities; regular Palestinian forces if a separate Palestinian entity is established. However, such forces need not constitute a threat to Israel if they are limited in size and equipage. Here again the security problem focuses not on the extent of territory returned but on the nature and degree of demilitarization.


If this analysis is correct, Israel does not have a strong case, on the narrow argument of its own physical security requirements, for retaining any of the territory occupied after June 1967. All things considered, no set of borders seems a great deal better from a security standpoint than the armistice lines established in 1949-that is, the pre-June 5, 1967 borders. Indeed, if complete return of the occupied territories opened the prospect of peace, Israel's security interest, broadly defined, would require this step. However, Israel cannot be sure that peace would accompany withdrawal. Its experience leads to the contrary expectation. There is much truth in the Israeli contention that each of the five wars of Israel's modern history was thrust upon it.

In these wars the performance of Israel's armed forces has been remarkable. However, if the purposes of armed strength are first to deter conflict and only second to end such conflict as does occur on terms favorable to the nation, then Israel's impressive success must be laid alongside impressive failure. Reserving consideration of nuclear weapons for a moment, we have no reason to believe that the Arabs will ever be deterred by Israel's military power, even if its record and reputation are reinforced by a succession of new victories. The question of how to defeat the Arabs has been answered five times; the question of how to deter them awaits an answer.

This is not to say that the strength and competence of Israel's armed forces are unimportant or have somehow become irrelevant. On the contrary, Israel's security will continue to be linked with its military capabilities relative to the Arab states; these capabilities must be preserved to ensure its survival. Note, however, that none of the qualities which the world has come to associate with Israeli arms-movement, flexibility, imagination-relies on the possession of specific territory. To discover the true composition of Israel's security, ask an Israeli general whether he would trade these fighting qualities for the chance to occupy a strong position.

Generals rightly resist such choices. Indeed, no general worth his stars is likely to think of these as exclusive alternatives; he will want both a fine fighting force and a strong opening position, as well as any other advantage available. But maintaining or increasing military advantage relative to Arab countries which now have access to growing technical and financial resources is a cruel task for a state as small as Israel. For this reason, and to avoid the risks seen in a condition of increasing dependence on the United States, Professor Robert W. Tucker has argued that Israel is likely soon to reconsider its stance on nuclear weapons-and indeed that it should do so.2

While official statements have understandably avoided unnecessary precision, Israel's policy on nuclear arms seems to rest now on two elements: a commitment not to be the "first to introduce" nuclear weapons into the Middle East and the avowed intention to retain the "option" to develop such weapons, should they be required. Each of these policy elements is essentially meaningless. In a crisis Israel could claim that nuclear-capable systems had already made an appearance in the region-that no chastity remained for Israel to protect. Moreover, the circumstances in which Israel might require nuclear arms are not those which would allow an elaborate development program to be undertaken at the time. If an "option" is indeed to be possessed, it means that development must take place in advance, with only final loading and arming steps, at best, postponed.

To date, Israel has seen the advantage of a strong conventional posture backed up by the deliberate ambiguity of a nuclear "option." Professor Tucker suggests that, for Israel, the attractions of a declaratory strategy of nuclear deterrence may soon become irresistible. Among other claimed benefits, Tucker argues that such a strategy would permit de-emphasis of conventional force, thereby reducing defense spending, and would markedly diminish preoccupation with secure borders, thereby creating more flexibility on return of occupied territory.

There are a number of both theoretical and practical reasons, which can be mentioned here in summary form only, why Israel should not adopt such a policy. On the level of theory, the first problem is stability. Whereas so far the Arab states seem able to ignore Israel's nuclear "option," no one should doubt that they will be obliged to follow suit if Israel declares a policy of nuclear deterrence. We should not assume that both sides will move immediately to secure, second-strike systems; more likely they will retrace the path taken by every nascent nuclear power. Accordingly, we should expect a gradual evolution from exposed, first-strike, to survivable, second-strike systems. Survivability is always relative and, in general, the more survivable a system is the more it costs. As the parties move closer to true second-strike postures, they are likely to see postulated defense savings evaporate. In view of resource limitations, the evolution to second-strike postures will be fitful, with extended periods during which capabilities are grossly asymmetrical and in which there is a fair measure of uncertainty about opposing capabilities. There will be powerful voices on each side urging that the other's resolve be tested, and on each side urging that resolve be shown. These conditions-asymmetry, uncertainty, provocation-provide a textbook definition of instability.

Nor should we assume that the eventual existence of balanced, second-strike postures will automatically produce stable deterrence. Such stability as exists in the U.S.-Soviet relationship has been a product of rational and conservative behavior, with each side accepting limitations on objectives as well as means. Some may claim that it is characteristic of nuclear balance to produce rational and conservative behavior, but this is not a hypothesis we should wish to see tested in the Middle East. What is immediately at stake in the Middle East-territorial integrity, physical security, cultural identity-are survival values par excellence. Values of similar magnitude have not been a day-to-day issue between powers possessing balanced nuclear strength. On those rare occasions when the stakes were raised-e.g., the Cuban missile crisis-the world reached points of maximum danger. Moreover, the Arab-Israeli conflict displays some aspects of a fight between brothers. That this is so offers a hope of reconciliation, but it also means that emotions are likely to outrun careful calculation. It is the family arguments-Greek versus Turkish Cypriot, Catholic versus Protestant Irish, North versus South Korean-that we should least like to see nuclear-armed.

Even if the sides were to settle into stable deterrent conditions, this might provide cold comfort for Israel. To attain such conditions, each side must prepare protected, essentially symmetrical second-strike capabilities. That is, stability requires that each side stand wholly exposed to the destructive power of the other. It is an interesting question whether Israel would find such "equivalence" agreeable. Though they have threatened Israel's extinction, the Arab states have never had a reasonable prospect of making good the threat. This would change if the term "military balance" in the Middle East acquired a literal meaning in lieu of its current usage as a euphemism for Israeli superiority.

In addition, it is by no means proven that in conditions of approximate equivalence, nuclear weapons deter all levels of conflict. If the Arab states were to opt for a strategy of territorial recovery in small increments by conventional means, Israel's dilemma would be whether to risk certain national destruction by immediate resort to nuclear weapons, or to fall back on a conventional defense. Now, however, Israel would find its conventional forces weakened by the previous decision to adopt a "new look" in defense, and its conventional options constrained by the Arab nuclear deterrent.

As for practical difficulties, no acknowledged nuclear power has had to solve the problems associated with very small territorial extent. Israel's impact is such that we sometimes forget that it is about the size of New Jersey. The smallest nuclear power, the United Kingdom, is more than ten times as large, not including its overseas possessions, and the United Kingdom is itself smaller than Oregon. Configuring a survivable nuclear strike force requires considerable ingenuity in any case, but such small size creates enormous additional difficulty. For example, basing considerations probably rule out missile-firing submarines of the type we are used to thinking about. Only one Israeli port from which modern strike submarines might operate springs readily to mind, and even if others were to be developed the number would always be small. It would be altogether too easy for Arab attack submarines to shadow Israeli boats as they left home port; unexplained "accidents" at sea could too quickly claim a major portion of Israel's deterrent force.

If, through mobility, concealment and hardening, strike-force survivability could be reasonably assured, Israel would still confront the problem of locating nuclear weapon manufacture and storage sites. There are few locations in Israel where these tasks can be accomplished with some assurance of security. None of the locations is far removed from Arab territory, and the Arabs can probably make some plausible guesses about likely hiding places. Mobility is not much help with this problem, and concealment and hardening are in some respects mutually incompatible. In another round of fighting which opens conventionally, Israel would be obliged to consider nuclear production and storage facilities threatened at the outset. This would be doubly so if Israel's conventional capabilities were neglected. Ironically, a nuclear strategy would seem to require retention of occupied territory in order to protect nuclear facilities in the context of reduced conventional strength.

All of these arguments may be swept aside if, as Tucker asserts, historic and technological imperatives must in any case drive the sides to nuclear confrontation. Perhaps Israel and the Arab states cannot be persuaded that their own interests are best served by avoiding nuclear strategies, but the United States need not encourage such a development. As a matter of policy, we should continue to design military and economic aid programs which promote conventional military postures in the region. Moreover, our assistance actions should not be open to misunderstanding; the parties must make no mistake about our intentions in this regard. If this has the ring of free advice, recall the recent flap over the Pershing missile, or the promise of a nuclear power station for Egypt.


But deterrence need not rely solely on military strength, nuclear or conventional. Any combination of factors making attack repugnant can deter. For the Middle East, the best deterrent measure at hand is the establishment of demilitarized zones, manned by neutral observers, through which either side would be extremely reluctant to attack.

U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, the consensus framework for overall settlement, acknowledges the requirement for demilitarization. Moreover, there seems to be widespread agreement that demilitarization provisions might endure if placed in an international peacekeeping context and backed by appropriate guarantees. For example, writing in these pages more than five years ago, John C. Campbell offered an outline proposal, based on Resolution 242, calling in part for demilitarized zones on both sides of future frontiers and for total demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and Sharm-el-Sheikh, all with international peacekeeping and guarantees.3

Campbell's proposal has stood up well over the years but, in common with many peace plans, it says too little about functional arrangements for demilitarization. Naturally, final technical details would have to be worked out by the parties in direct negotiations, but as things now stand such negotiations would quickly break down. On the technical details of size of demilitarized zones and strength and composition of Arab forces permitted to return, we may expect directly opposed views, with compromise carrying nearly as much danger for Israel as no agreement at all. On the issue of offsetting demilitarization, for example, there is room in Israel for little more than symbolic demilitarized zones. But if the Arabs match only the small size of postulated Israeli demilitarized zones, the shield erected would be too thin to permit relaxation of Israeli fears.

The way out of these difficulties is for the parties to accept in advance a formula of total return and total demilitarization. By agreeing to total return, Israel would accept the reassertion of authority by Arab governments in all of the occupied territories; by consenting to total demilitarization, Arab governments would accept limitations on their authority in the returned areas, limitations aimed at safeguarding Israel's security.

If such a formula were accepted, operational details of demilitarization could be worked out without difficulty, perhaps along lines such as the following:

(a) A ceiling would be set on Arab military forces allowed to reenter each of the territories. Very small forces, perhaps as few as 1,000 men each, would be allowed in the Sinai and on the Golan Heights, where their main purpose would be to show the flag. Larger but still quite modest forces would be needed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip to ensure public order.

(b) No heavy weapons or combat aircraft would be permitted to re-enter. Equipment for returning Arab forces would be restricted to small arms and automatic weapons below .50 caliber, but no mortars, artillery or missiles; trucks and armored personnel carriers, but no tanks; helicopters, liaison and cargo aircraft, but no overflight or basing of fighters or bombers.

(c) No intrusion of armed ships into waters adjacent to returned territories would be permitted.

(d) Both sides would accept international verification and inspection of the limits established. If Israel were unwilling to accept international, U.N.-sponsored inspection, the United States should be willing to assist with this function for a limited time. Inspection and verification by "national means"-that is, reconnaissance flights by the parties over the demilitarized zones-would not be permitted.

(e) The limitations outlined above would apply to the entire West Bank and Gaza Strip. On the Golan Heights, they would apply to all the ground still under Israeli control. They would apply to the entire Sinai, including areas from which Israel has withdrawn or been expelled already and the small salient near Port Fuad not captured by Israel in 1967. Demilitarization provisions should not apply inside Israel's pre-June 5 borders. However, if this were to constitute a final stumbling block, Israel should agree to face-saving provisions involving token demilitarization inside its borders.

Such a proposal aims at removing strategic obstacles to an overall settlement by creating the possibility of an effective deterrent to war. Egypt is the key; without Egyptian participation, other Arab governments would likely be deterred from major attack. And Egypt could not attack Israel because it could not concentrate forces east of the Canal. To be foolproof, however, the checkpoint for Egyptian personnel and equipment would have to be at the Canal. Once into the Sinai, it is just conceivable that equipment could be hidden and forces prepared for a surprise build-up. That is why demilitarization of areas already returned is an important consideration in the Sinai and less so on the Golan. With total demilitarization, no Egyptian demand for removal of observer forces could produce a sudden crisis, as was the case in 1967. Moving Egyptian forces across the full expanse of the Sinai would require time in which Israel could mobilize and international pressures could come into play. Even so, the sides should be urged to accept the sensible provision that neither be able to dictate removal of observer forces.

Since it is acknowledged that Israel's security ultimately rests on the strength of its armed forces, it is of more than passing interest that the proposal outlined here would have the effect of perpetuating Israel's local military superiority. Israel would be able to defeat quickly Arab forces of the kind permitted to return and would be able to do so without major new, and potentially destabilizing, developments in the arms race. The Arabs understand this fact, which is at the bottom of their stated unwillingness to demilitarize returned territory without offsetting demilitarization in Israel. An outsider cannot know whether this is a serious, as opposed to a negotiating, position. Israel could counter by pointing out that most of the demilitarization would take place on territory it now, in fact, controls. If military forces of the sides were to draw back in step from present positions until Israel's Army was camped on the pre-June 5 lines, Cairo and Amman would be demilitarized, and Damascus nearly so.

But it is the enormous appeal of total return which must be relied upon to produce an Arab concession on demilitarization. Thus, each milestone passed in an extended step-by-step diplomacy successively reduces the incentive to demilitarize. For the years ahead, we should like to help create a situation in which Arab leaders would be able to stress to their domestic audiences that, no matter how much all would enjoy another round with Israel, it is just not possible, and that this situation arose necessarily out of the requirement to regain territory. This line will be credible only if territorial return is more or less sudden and total.

This is not to say that total return is a straightforward proposition. Like demilitarization, the concept needs to be fleshed out. At Latrun and elsewhere the old lines require mutually agreed modification-"minor rectification" is a term often used. Minor rectification of the borders contains in itself a network of problems, each dauntingly complicated. But, with demilitarization of returned territory, these problems could be seen for what they are: a variety of disputes involving history, emotion, religious belief and property rights, not security.

In addition to calling for a change of focus from incremental to overall settlement, this analysis suggests the possibility of a defect in the specifics of the step-by-step procedure as executed to date. "Step diplomacy" has been attacked cogently on a number of grounds, notably by George Ball.4 But the possible impact of the steps on prospects for eventual demilitarization has not drawn widespread comment. The First Egypt-Israel Disengagement Agreement (January 18, 1974) reportedly authorized Egypt to leave 7,000 troops, 36 artillery pieces and 30 tanks on the Sinai side of the Canal. The Second Agreement (September 4, 1975), in addition to enlarging the area under Egyptian control, specified that Egypt could station eight standard infantry battalions, 75 tanks and 72 artillery pieces east of the Canal, with total manpower limited to 8,000 men. Reconnaissance aircraft of either side may fly up to the midpoint of the buffer zone between their forward positions. The Israel-Syria Disengagement Agreement (May 31, 1974) also reportedly permits the limited reintroduction of tanks and artillery into Golan areas evacuated by Israel.

All this is the stuff of which renewed tension is made. But the greater danger is that such a process, if continued in future steps, will lead to the "remilitarization" of the territories. Moreover, if, as seems likely, demilitarization arrangements are a desired element in any future overall settlement, then the situation is complicated rather than simplified by the steps already taken. For example, for the Arabs to agree to the type of total demilitarization proposed here would mean that they must withdraw heavy equipment already in place. Psychologically, at least, this is a more painful step than simple agreement not to reintroduce such equipment. For this reason, even if the United States is unable to move the parties toward an overall settlement now, it is essential that we have some vision of the final settlement we hope to help construct. Otherwise, we may unwittingly create impediments to an overall settlement during the step-by-step process.


It has not been the purpose of this analysis to offer yet another comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace plan, but rather to deal with security-related territorial concerns. Regarding this limited aspect of the problem, it should be understood that Israel must make the important concessions. It is Israel that is being asked to depart East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, the Gaza Strip and Sharm-el-Sheikh. Israel has vowed never to leave any of these places and it is by no means certain that it can be induced to forsake this vow. For it to do so would require at a minimum both great statesmanship in Israel and considerable pressure from the United States.

On the other hand, a comprehensive settlement would call for the Arabs to make far-reaching, but largely intangible, concessions-in particular, to recognize Israel and normalize relations. In extracting these concessions, it is territorial return which constitutes Israel's chief bargaining counter. But the suggestion here is that, insofar as security is concerned, what Israel requires in exchange for territory is demilitarization. Following an overall settlement in which Israel trades territory for Arab pledges to end belligerency, obstacles to normalization are sure to crop up; renewed tension is a believable forecast. Having given up cash for credit, Israel is likely to feel betrayed if relations subsequently deteriorate. But it need not feel threatened, provided only that returned territories are demilitarized.


1 World Armaments and Disarmament SIPRI Yearbook 1975, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Figures are based on constant 1970 prices and exchange rates.

2 Robert W. Tucker, "Israel and the United States: From Dependence to Nuclear Weapons?" Commentary, November 1975.

3 John C. Campbell, "The Arab-Israeli Conflict: An American Policy," Foreign Affairs, October 1970.

4 Mr. Ball's fullest and most recent discussion is in "Kissinger's Paper Peace: How Not to Handle the Middle East," The Atlantic, February 1976.

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