Through nearly four decades, the circumstances of its creation and existence have forced the modern state of Israel into a deep-seated preoccupation with security, the precondition for its survival. As the nature of the threats to its continued existence changed at various junctures between 1947 and the present, so have the military and security doctrines guiding national policy. Israel now stands at another turning point, and the time has come for a new security doctrine, a strategy resting upon long-standing principles, but significantly modified to meet the circumstances of 1985 and beyond.
At the start, Israel’s security doctrine was basically defensive. Firmly established by David Ben-Gurion, it reflected the lessons learned from the 1948-49 war for independence and the physical realities which existed thereafter. Security policy changed dramatically, however, in the wake of the triumphant 1967 war. Israel then confronted new borders, conquered territory, an emerging Palestinian nationalism and, within the country, the birth of a dangerous spirit of annexationism. The rise of Menachem Begin’s Likud government in 1977 and the elevation of Ariel Sharon to minister of defense in 1981 marked another sharp shift in the security concept of the state, a doctrine nakedly offensive in nature that would end in the creeping disaster of Lebanon.
My aim here is to propose a new security policy that suits the conditions of the late 1980s, that offers a pragmatic way to confront the Palestinian issue constructively while ensuring the security of Israel’s eastern frontier. It is a policy that draws upon concepts advanced (prematurely, as it turned out) in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In brief, it calls for a unilateral withdrawal of Israels military and administrative occupation forces from the West Bank, coupled with boundary modifications to satisfy Israel’s security needs, and the establishment of an autonomy area by the local Palestinian population. The policy is incremental, dealing with the facts on the ground, uninhibited by the somnolent prospects for peace treaties with the surrounding Arab states.
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