Three years into the Camp David process, it is time to question its continued usefulness. On the level of their bilateral relations, Egypt and Israel continue to fulfill their respective obligations under the 1978 Accords and the March 1979 Peace Treaty. Yet attempts to elaborate and expand upon these agreements in an effort to achieve a comprehensive Middle East peace have met enormous obstacles. Negotiations over the proposed "autonomy" for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are nearing a dead end. At issue are the most fundamental national aspirations and interests of the parties involved. Their differences on these issues can no longer be papered over by ambiguous legal formulations. Efforts to overcome these various problems incrementally are unlikely to produce significant results.


In Israel, enthusiasm for the proposed West Bank autonomy has withered-a process that began almost as soon as the plan was conceived. Increasingly, Israelis conclude that "real autonomy" can lead only to an independent Palestinian state-a perception which is not shared by their Palestinian neighbors. The fundamental problem from Israel's perspective is whether it can afford to yield control over the West Bank. The area's proximity to the state's essential core makes this a critical issue. The establishment of a possibly radical Palestinian state so close to Israel's heart is a source of much Israeli concern. Fear that such a state would threaten Israel's very existence is widely shared.

With such fears, Israel's flexibility in the autonomy talks is necessarily limited. Making concessions is difficult because each issue-from the proposed unit's water system to the source and nature of authority-is weighed for its impact on the end result: an independent state or otherwise. Whether or not Israel's fears regarding an independent Palestinian state are entirely justified is a question well worth examining. For the moment, however, it is politically significant that such concerns are widespread and are likely to block attempts to establish a "real autonomy" in the West Bank. Israel's stakes in the autonomy talks are enormous; her ability to compromise is limited.

Other parties to the "autonomy" talks do not enjoy greater room for maneuver. At stake for Egypt is her ability to escape her present isolation within the Arab world. Having broken ranks with her former allies by signing a separate peace treaty with Israel, Egypt must now devote much effort to restoring her regional ties. To achieve this goal, Egypt needs to demonstrate that she continues to care for her Arab brothers. Her ability to establish her former position of leadership in the Arab world requires that she champion the Palestinian cause with no less enthusiasm than her chief competitors. Egypt must show that her political strategy will bring greater gains for the Palestinians than will the "military-confrontation" strategy of Syria and Iraq. Her ability to deliver Palestinian self-determination would provide conclusive evidence of the utility of her political approach.

Conversely, without movement on the Palestinian issue the entire peace process between Egypt and Israel will falter. Under such circumstances, the political costs involved in Egypt's continued pursuit of the process may be too high for her to bear indefinitely. And, since her control over the Sinai peninsula will be fully restored after February 1982, Egypt's incentives to further develop her peaceful relations with Israel may diminish. Thus, Egypt's stakes in the "autonomy" talks-and generally in the fate of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip-are exceedingly high.

It appears, then, that Israel's national security is affected by the future of the West Bank in two critical ways. Should Israel forego control over the territory, she may become exposed to the risks resulting from the area's proximity to her essential core. Should she refuse to relinquish control-thus preventing Egypt from delivering Palestinian self-determination-the strategic implications of Egypt's possible withdrawal from the peace process will have to be faced. The possibility that Egypt might join a future Arab war coalition against Israel cannot then be excluded. This trade-off constitutes Israel's greatest strategic dilemma today.

For the Palestinians, the ever-absent party to the "autonomy" triangle, the dilemma is no less cruel. The Camp David agreement calls for the participation of West Bank Palestinians in the autonomy negotiations. However, the latter refuse to join the talks until permission from the Palestine Liberation Organization is received. The PLO, in turn, faces three difficult choices. By refusing to sanction the participation of local Palestinians in the autonomy talks, it loses a clear opportunity to exert indirect influence over the negotiations' outcome. On the other hand, were the PLO to permit such participation, it would risk the possibility that the West Bank leaders would exploit the talks to establish independent power bases of their own. A third PLO option-joining the negotiation process directly-is likewise hazardous. Its advantage would be in providing the PLO, for the first time, with direct leverage on the negotiations' outcome. However, such a move would have to be made outside the Camp David framework, which recognizes no role for the PLO. In addition, it would require that the PLO meet America's preconditions for negotiation: recognition of Israel's right to exist, and acceptance of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338, which envisage a peaceful settlement entailing Israeli withdrawal from occupied territories in return for Arab recognition of Israel's integrity as a sovereign state within secure and recognized boundaries.

The PLO chief, Yassir Arafat, well understands that such recognition would put enormous political pressure on Israel to negotiate directly with the PLO. However, the costs involved in such a move would also be substantial. The PLO would have to give up its most valuable card, its unifying ideology. In implementing such a change, Arafat would also be certain to face violent opposition from Palestinian extremist factions. A similar response could be expected from Syria, which fears that the fate of the Golan Heights might sink into obscurity once it remained the only unresolved issue. Uncertain of the negotiations' outcome, Arafat prefers to avoid the costs involved in a move toward direct participation.

Thus, for the Palestinians as well there is no risk-free path in the autonomy talks. Their stakes in these negotiations are exceedingly high. At issue is whether or not the proposed "autonomy" framework may yield the creation of a political unit under which Palestinian self-determination could be achieved. The critical nature of the issue, and the potentially high costs associated with alternative Palestinian actions, result in a reluctance to make any concessions-including the very willingness to participate-as may be required to move the autonomy talks from dead center.

The three regional partners to the proposed autonomy scheme are thus completely deadlocked. Substantial progress in these negotiations is extremely unlikely. As long as the issues involved are weighed in their present context, a regional settlement is unlikely to result. An alternative framework is urgently needed.


The proposed "Jordanian option" is unlikely to provide a viable alternative to the "autonomy" framework. This option calls for Israeli-Jordanian negotiations aimed at returning large portions of the West Bank to Jordan's control. However, whether King Hussein would agree to negotiate such a deal is still a question. At present, Israel will not-indeed, cannot-meet Hussein's minimal condition for such talks, namely an expressed Israeli willingness to withdraw from the entire West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Small wonder, then, that Jordan's king remains dubious about the entire exercise, emphasizing his acceptance of the PLO's role as the Palestinians' only legitimate representative.

Hussein's dilemmas are numerous. Excluding the West Bank, Palestinians already comprise more than half of Jordan's population. This in itself threatens the durability of the Hashemite regime. If the West Bank were to return to Jordanian control, its population would be some three-fourths Palestinian, making the kingdom that much less stable.1 In stark contrast to the situation prevailing prior to the 1967 War, most Palestinians are now extremely self-conscious of their national identity. Hence, controlling them would be much more difficult. This is why many Jordanians are less than enthusiastic about the prospect of the West Bank's return. In particular, Crown Prince Hassan as well as the Queen Mother are known to have been skeptical about the wisdom of assuming responsibility over the West Bank.

King Hussein apparently shares these concerns, but also sees perils in the suggested alternative. Abandoning the West Bank implies a vacuum to be filled by the PLO. An independent radical state there could unleash irredentist pressures among the large Palestinian population in the East Bank, clearly endangering the Hashemite regime. Moreover, having lost the West Bank in 1967 by misreading the region's balance of forces, Hussein feels responsible for its inhabitants' fate. Negotiating the West Bank's return to Arab sovereignty would allow him to recover his lost dignity. Were it apparent that Israel would negotiate with no one else, Hussein would probably tilt toward accepting such a role.

The balance of Jordanian interests does not add up to a clear-cut choice. There is ample rationale both for negotiating the return of the West Bank to Jordanian control and, conversely, for abandoning the area to its fate. Recently, however, Hussein is reported to be moving closer to the first alternative. Both Crown Prince Hassan and the Queen Mother are said to have dropped some of their previous objections. Moreover, indications point to a Jordanian effort to elicit Iraqi support for a negotiation drive. The success of this effort may affect Hussein's future room for maneuver. Yet the king remains of two minds, fearing the domestic consequences of renewed Jordanian control over the West Bank. He therefore insists that such renewed control be established only in the framework of a deluxe settlement: Israeli withdrawal from the entire West Bank. This, he hopes, would reduce external criticism of his move and strengthen his ability to deal with the expected opposition within the West Bank itself.

Hussein may be willing to negotiate a Jordanian option, but only "on condition." The condition-complete Israeli withdrawal-leaves little to negotiate. Hussein's position is therefore very far from that of those advocating the "Jordanian option" within Israel. The feasibility of that option as an alternative framework to the "autonomy" scheme is at best questionable.


Israel's body politic is presently engulfed by two sets of illusions. The first is that a West Bank autonomy of a type that would not evolve into an independent state could be agreed upon with Egypt. The second is that a settlement not requiring Israel's almost complete withdrawal from the West Bank could be negotiated with Jordan. In contrast to the autonomy Israel's present government would prefer to establish in the area, both a "real autonomy" and the "Jordanian option" require that Israel withdraw from the West Bank. The fundamental question is not which of these options should be pursued, but rather whether Israel can afford to meet the prerequisites of either.

The central contention advanced here is that so long as the West Bank continues to occupy its present pivotal role in Israel's national security policy, neither the "real autonomy" nor the "Jordanian option" can materialize. The key to significant progress toward a more comprehensive Middle East peace is that the issue of the West Bank be considered in a novel strategic context. This context, in turn, should provide Israel with an entirely new national security package. Within this package, the West Bank should have a far less pivotal role than its present one.

Before we outline such an Israeli national security package, a word is appropriate about the context in which it should be weighed. Israel's prolonged control of the West Bank, now extending over almost 14 years, has presented Israel with the most fundamental existential dilemma. Zionist ideology calls for the return of Jews to their land and the establishment of a Jewish state there. Those who laid the foundations for the new Jewish state insisted that it be established on the principles of social democratic justice, and that the character of the Jewish individual be altered. Primarily, this implied three things: first, a conviction that in order to prevent a recurrence of pogroms and the Holocaust, never again should Jews place their fate in the hands of others. In political terms this meant that Jews would achieve salvation only by the creation of a Jewish state, i.e., one in which Jews would constitute an absolute and overwhelming majority. Second, it implied the constant cultivation of democratic principles even while the Jewish community in Palestine-and later the Jewish state-faced external challenges to its very survival. Thus, even when the state was threatened by a combined Arab effort to annihilate it, Israeli Arabs were granted human rights and complete access to the state's political institutions. Finally, it implied that Jews rid themselves of the image traditionally attached to them as small merchants and middlemen, and assume a new character of productive people, tilling their own land and engaging in the manufacture of a wide spectrum of industrial goods. David Ben-Gurion, Israel's founding father and the state's first Prime Minister, devoted much of his energy to this threefold political-cultural revolution.

Prior to the June 1967 War, Israel's national character largely resembled the image set forth by the social democrats who laid the foundation for the new Jewish state. Israel's moral strength during those years was based on two principal elements: a political leadership that navigated the state under a well-defined political strategy which, in turn, was derived from a clear conception of the Jewish state's preferred character; and a political reality that did not require or induce major compromises of the three central characteristics of the new Jewish state.

The 1967 War changed all this. The territories acquired by Israel in the war included over a million Palestinian Arabs. Moreover, the traumatic experience of the war's eve-when all the principal Arab armies were massed along Israel's frontiers-revived fears of imminent annihilation. A recurrence of the Holocaust, though in reality quite remote in 1967, was considered to be more than a theoretical possibility. After the war, this trauma led to an Israeli demand for "secure borders," a demand often equated with long-term control of the West Bank. Such control, however, presented Israelis with an agonizing philosophical, ideological and political dilemma. If a million additional Palestinian Arabs within the "secure borders" were to be given full political rights, Israel's character as a Jewish state would be compromised, with the prospect of Jews declining into a minority status sometime after the year 2000. If the Arabs were to be denied such rights, the state's democratic character would be compromised. Moreover, the influx of Palestinian manual laborers from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip meant that they, increasingly-instead of Jews-would till the land and construct the houses. This jeopardizes the third Zionist goal, of creating a new Jewish character. The response of Israel's leaders to this dilemma was either to ignore it or to regard the situation as transitory, thus not requiring that it be addressed immediately.

Israel's moral fiber weakened after the 1967 War because the two principal sources which had sustained it up to that point no longer existed: a new reality threatened to compromise the preferred character of the Jewish state; and Israel's leaders refused to address the apparent dilemma, thus allowing the state's character to be eroded. Increasingly, Israelis raised fundamental questions about the purposes of their state and the nature of the road it was taking. Basic political and moral objections to Israel's foreign and defense policies were raised: many Israelis queried whether their leaders' demand for absolute security would not lead to permanent war. Such objections found widespread expression during the 1969-70 War of Attrition, and later, as Israelis found that controlling the increasingly hostile Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip was a rather unpleasant proposition. Thus, Israel's national consensus on the basic principles of its policy was significantly eroded.

Seen from this perspective, Israel has a fundamental interest in ridding itself of control over the West Bank. Numerically inferior to its adversaries, the state must rely on superior quality and high motivation among its citizens. To withstand their more numerous enemies, Israel's citizen-soldiers must be completely persuaded of the purposes of their state's policies. Once its national consensus is lost, Israel's very survival is in question. A return to lines approximating those held prior to the 1967 War implies both the return to the borders of a Jewish state and the reconstruction of its national consensus. It would constitute a reestablishment of the common denominator uniting all Israelis. Were they ever attacked again, they would at least enjoy a common purpose and common conviction that they had done everything possible to establish peace. Thus, the high motivation of Israel's soldiers will not be in doubt. This by itself is a major factor to be considered in weighing the security risks associated with giving up control over the West Bank.

Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank could be implemented only in the framework of a new national security package encompassing four elements: first, a new role for Israel in the Western alliance system; second, security arrangements in the West Bank for the post-withdrawal era; third, an international economic effort to maximize both West Bank economic development and its interdependence with the economies of Israel and the more pro-Western Arab states; fourth, an explicit nuclear deterrence posture. Within such a national security package, the significance of the West Bank would decline. This would allow Israel to recognize Arab sovereignty over the entire West Bank and to withdraw from almost all its territory.


The first element in Israel's proposed national security package is an enhanced role in the Western alliance system. More precisely, Israel should be made an integral part of the alliance's efforts to secure Western interests in the Persian Gulf. This would increase Israel's deterrent profile: potential adversaries would be made aware that the Western alliance system has important stakes in Israel and that an attack on her could lead to a direct clash with the alliance.

Israel has often tried to justify continued American support by emphasizing its strategic importance to Western defense. So far, however, this contribution has been limited in scope. In peacetime it was manifested mainly in the field of intelligence and in special exchanges such as the technological research of captured Soviet weapons. In wartime, Israel has often served as a testing ground for America's modern weapons-systems. A more dramatic Israeli contribution occurred only once, in September 1970, during the Syrian invasion of Jordan. At the request of the United States, Israel rescued Jordan by denying Syria the ability to concentrate its entire armored force against the Hashemite Kingdom. However, such contributions were the exception, not the rule. America's commitment to Israel is strong, but it is based on a cultural, ideological and moral affinity-not on strategic interests.

In light of the revolution in Iran and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a need to strengthen the Western military presence in the Middle East has clearly emerged. A number of Israelis have suggested Israel's possible contribution to such an effort. On the whole, however, these offers were politely rejected. Clearly, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states would not agree to the United States defending them from Israeli bases. This would continue to be the case at least as long as the issues of the West Bank and East Jerusalem remained unresolved. Conversely, Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and the as yet unspecified solution to the problem of East Jerusalem should make a major Israeli role in the Western alliance possible. Negotiating Israel's withdrawal should be linked to its new role in the alliance: only if the latter is achieved would Israel be able to implement the former.

The United States should welcome such a quid pro quo. Washington is finding it increasingly difficult to sustain simultaneously its commitment to Israel and its interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. The Reagan Administration is particularly sensitive to this problem; many of its members are strongly committed to Israel and see it as a potential strategic asset to the United States, while many others are extremely attentive to U.S. interests in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Seen from this perspective, America must adopt an approach that would make its support of Israel not detrimental to its close ties with Saudi Arabia. The way to go about this would be to boost Israel's security, thereby allowing her to dispense with those elements of her present policy which the Saudis find most objectionable. By enhancing Israel's role in the Western alliance system while facilitating her withdrawal from the West Bank and a solution to East Jerusalem, the United States could approach the answer to her present dilemma.

Normally, the West Europeans would be expected to object strongly to such a scheme. In recent years they have lost no opportunity to encourage radicalism in the region and the rejection of the Camp David process. Their close ties with the PLO may lead them to reject overt strategic cooperation with Israel, irrespective of Israeli concessions in the West Bank. However, when confronting the issue, Europeans would have to consider that without the assumption of such a role, Israel would not make the aforementioned concessions. Their belief that there is some relationship between the resolution of the Palestinian problem and the security of oil supplies should lead Europeans to concur in Israel's enhanced role, should this permit settling the Palestinians' misfortunes.

Europe's additional fears concerning the Soviet threat to the Persian Gulf should lead it to support an enhancement of the Western alliance's military profile in the region-all the more so if this could be done without offending Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states. Finally, in formulating its response to an official American proposal of such a scheme, Europe would have to assess what America's reaction might be if it attempted to obstruct a plan allowing for Israel's withdrawal. Washington is becoming increasingly intolerant of the Europeans' habit of striking their own deals while enjoying the protection of America's defense umbrella. The Europeans are aware of this and are likely to refrain from further straining already precarious intra-alliance relations. Europe would murmur and complain, but in the end it would support this proposal.

What, then, should be Israel's new role in the Western alliance system? The new role should be derived from an appreciation of three principles: first, by virtue of its geographic location, domestic stability, utter reliability, highly skilled manpower, and extremely potent air, naval and ground forces, Israel has much to offer to the Western alliance. Second, the large-scale stationing of foreign troops in Israel should be strictly avoided. This is exceedingly important because among a nation of less than four million, even several thousand foreign troops may threaten the state's social fabric. Finally, America's new Rapid Deployment Force (RDF) is unlikely to function effectively before the second half of the 1980s. Yet, since threats to Western interests in the region may arise well before that date, there is a need for an interim "Rapid Reaction Force," more modest in size yet capable of instant action in the Gulf region.

The third of these principles has been advanced by the head of Israel's Center for Strategic Studies, Major General (Res.) Aharon Yariv. In a lecture delivered in Washington a year ago, General Yariv pointed out that:

the brittleness of the situation in the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, especially the fragility of the Saudi regime, suggest that the West may not have at its disposal the time-span of two-to-three years [for the realization of the RDF]. The likelihood of surprise incidents [such as the November 1979 assault on the Grand Mosque in Mecca] occurring again in Saudi Arabia or in neighboring states, with much stronger reverberations and ensuing difficulties for the flow of oil, is considerable.

To address the challenge, Yariv suggested, in the framework of a Western "broad front strategy of offense-defense," that:

a relatively small ground and/or amphibious force, even with a limited amount of heavy equipment-when permanently deployed in close proximity to the critical area, and enjoying good naval and air support-can still serve as a Rapid Reaction Force (RRF). By early arrival on the scene-possibly in concert with a force supplied by a local partner-and by taking immediate action, it might resolve a crisis situation that otherwise would escalate to a degree demanding major military involvement with all the attendant dangers. The RRF should be able to operate with the same surgical accuracy, swiftness and decisiveness that characterized the Entebbe rescue mission. Moreover, the very presence of such a potential may deter radical trouble-makers, or Soviet proxies, and avert dangerous crises.2

In line with the three principles enumerated above, Israel could make a number of contributions to the Western alliance. First, Israel's air bases, including the two new bases now being built in the Negev, could be adjusted to make them interoperable with the U.S. Air Force. This would allow their use for the staging of operations such as those envisaged above for the Rapid Reaction Force, and later for the Rapid Deployment Force. In addition, Israeli bases could be used for the staging of bombing operations. For example, if the Soviets were to begin an invasion of the Persian Gulf, operations could be staged from Israel to hit chokepoints in the Soviet advance. Second, munitions, fuel, food supplies, drinking water, communications equipment, and medical gear could all be pre-positioned in Israel. Such pre-positioning would have the advantage of proximity to critical areas where the deployment of the RRF and the RDF might be required. The critical importance of large quantities of drinking water became apparent during the latest exercise held by elements of the U.S. 101st Airborne Division in Egypt (Operation Bright Star). The prepositioning of jet-engine fuel would allow for air-refueling operations by KC-135 tankers to be launched from Israeli bases, thus extending the ranges of such tactical aircraft as the FB-111.

Third, Israel could provide "real time" intelligence on domestic developments in the region. Such intelligence would be required for the timely employment of the Rapid Reaction Force. In addition, Israel could help in providing some air and naval cover for such a force. Fourth, should a military clash require the deployment of America's airpower in the farther corners of the region, Israel's land-based airpower could be employed to defend U.S. aircraft carriers. If these carriers were stationed in Israel's proximity, Israel's Navy could also be used for that purpose. Finally, in a grave crisis, Israel's air and naval forces could defend strategic chokepoints, such as the straits of Bab el Mandeb.

In planning and preparing for such contingencies, Israel would be able to share with the Western alliance its rich combat experience in the region. Such sharing could take the form of employing Israeli advisers in desert warfare exercises held in the United States; the presence of U.S. training staffs in similar exercises held in Israel; joint planning for contingencies requiring U.S.-Israeli cooperation; and the joint conduct of war games.

Finally, Israel may have a number of contributions to make in the event that the alliance became involved in a prolonged, high-attrition military conflict in the Gulf. Israel could fulfill a wide variety of supportive and back-up roles for the combatting forces; for example, high-quality maintenance as well as excellent medical services could be provided. The surge capability of Israel's armament industry could play an important role as well, particularly since ammunition shortages are expected to be a critical problem in a battlefield characterized by the extensive use of modern armor and precision-guided munitions.

One hopes that threats requiring the utilization of the aforementioned schemes would never materialize. Nevertheless, in order to gain maximum East-West deterrence as well as to ensure smooth execution should the need arise, the various modes of strategic cooperation would have to be exercised repeatedly. Such exercises would have to include all echelons, from each nation's top political leadership to the smallest unit involved. Joint exercises would enhance Israel's deterrence vis-à-vis its potential regional rivals, constituting living testimony to the alliance's interest in Israel's security and contributing to the likelihood that attacking her could lead to an alliance-wide response.

An enhanced role for Israel in the Western alliance system would differ markedly from past suggestions that Israel should trade its control of the West Bank for an American security guarantee. Whereas a guarantee would institutionalize dependence-with a debilitating effect on the nation's morale-the concept advanced here would establish interdependence. Israel would be dependent on the Western alliance, but the alliance would also become more dependent upon Israel. Thus, relations would be characterized by a far greater degree of symmetry than is the case with unilateral security guarantees, increasing the likelihood that the concept would be acceptable to Israel's body politic. In addition, since it would rest on enduring mutual interests, the commitment would enjoy far greater credibility.

The most important difference, however, is that whereas past suggestions implied that an American guarantee would itself provide a solution to Israel's security problems, the proposal for an enhanced Israeli role in the Western alliance is presented here as only one element in a new Israeli national security package. It is based on the conviction that there is no quick-Fix, single-factor solution to Israel's security problems once she has withdrawn from the West Bank. The effort to reduce the risks entailed in such a move must be pursued by a number of avenues simultaneously.


The second component of the package involves security arrangements in the West Bank following Israel's withdrawal. These should include prohibiting the introduction of heavy armaments into the West Bank for Arab forces, and, conversely, permitting the stationing of Israeli early-warning systems, surface-to-air missiles, and pre-positioned stocks in very limited areas. The limited real estate required for these purposes should be leased, without prejudice to Arab sovereignty over the entire West Bank. Also, emphasis should be placed on avoiding friction with the area's residents. Therefore, the large-scale stationing of Israeli ground forces in the West Bank should be strictly avoided.

There are three reasons why Israel's eastern front is extremely sensitive. The first is its proximity to Israel's population and industrial centers. The strip between the pre-1967 lines and the Mediterranean Sea is only eight to 13 miles wide, and contains 67 percent of Israel's population and about 80 percent of its industrial capacity.3 This puts most of Israel's cities well within artillery range of the West Bank. The second source of the front's sensitivity is the enormous military forces facing Israel from the east. In 1980 the forces of the so-called Eastern Front-consisting of Iraq, Syria and Jordan-included some 24 divisions, with 5,670 medium tanks (almost twice the size of the British and French medium-tank forces combined), 5,200 armored personnel carriers, 4,450 artillery pieces, and 1,030 combat aircraft.4 Even if Iraq were able to employ only a part of its forces against Israel, the latter would still be engaged on her eastern front by some 17 divisions, including 4,670 medium tanks and 750 combat aircraft.5 Finally, Israel's own military forces, though extremely potent when fully mobilized, are highly dependent on ample warning. More than two-thirds of Israel's order of battle is in the reserves.

The combination of geographic constraints, the size of her adversaries' forces, and the dependence of her own forces on the mobilization of reserves, makes Israel's defense on her eastern front exceedingly difficult. To avoid fighting a high-attrition war amid her population and industrial centers, Israel must mobilize in time and engage her attackers beyond her narrow frontier. Prior to the 1967 War, this was inevitably Israel's "forward strategy." The weak link in this is Israel's ability to mobilize her reserves in time and effectively. Thus, her strategy is based on four prerequisites: maximum distance between Arab military forces and Israel; proper strategic warning; the capacity for mobilization without interference; and the ability to delay the attacking forces.

Major Arab forces should be kept as far away as possible from Israel's essential core. This is necessary to increase the time-span between those forces' initial movement and their arrival in areas near Israel's essential core. Widening this time-span would permit Israel to mobilize her reserves and to engage the advancing forces far from her population and industrial centers. In order to achieve this, Israel must insist that the entrance of other Arab military forces (e.g., Syrian, Iraqi or Saudi forces) into Jordan be prohibited, as well as the stationing of heavy armament in the West Bank by Jordanian or Palestinian forces.

Proper strategic warning requires stationing intelligence-monitoring and sensoring installations on a number of mountaintops in the West Bank. This requirement results from the absence of proper alternatives; airborne early-warning systems are important but do not constitute an effective alternative to land-based installations. Furthermore, suggestions that such installations should be operated by the United States-supplying Israel with end-products-must be rejected. Israel must have complete confidence that all data acquired will be made available to her. The transmission of such data through middlemen involves excessive risks; in order to prevent Israel from "overreacting," such middlemen may refrain from transferring data concerning movements of Arab forces. Israel must insure herself against such eventualities by insisting that these installations be operated solely by Israelis.

Prohibiting the Arabs from introducing heavy armaments into the West Bank would also affect Israel's capacity to mobilize without interference. This is because her mobilization centers are well within artillery range of the West Bank. It is true but irrelevant that these centers would always remain well within the range of Arab surface-to-surface missiles. For some years, at least, artillery will continue to enjoy far greater accuracy. Nevertheless, Arab forces could attempt to interfere with Israel's mobilization process by air-to-surface operations. To prevent this, Israel must engage her adversaries' combat aircraft as early and as effectively as possible. For this purpose, Israel must be permitted to station a number of surface-to-air missile batteries in the West Bank. This would complement Israel's efforts to maintain its present air superiority through the qualitative development of her airpower.

Israel's ability to delay attacking forces could derive much benefit from the stationing of Israeli ground forces in the West Bank. However, no Arab negotiating partner-be it Jordan, the PLO or local Palestinian leaders-would acquiesce in such an arrangement. Israel should also be interested in avoiding the stationing of large forces in the area. Such forces would be a constant source of friction with the local population, and this would jeopardize the stability of any arrangements reached. Therefore, measures to delay incoming forces should be low manpower-intensive. Israel must acquire the best available technologies for this purpose. In the West Bank, measures to delay attacks should be based, for an unspecified interim period, on the pre-positioning of weapon stocks in a limited number of facilities. When warning of attack is received, the manpower required for their use could be quickly transported to these facilities, thus allowing rapid mobilization and deployment. Ordinarily, only very limited manpower will be required to maintain and defend these stocks.

Again, it should be emphasized that none of the security arrangements enumerated above requires much real estate. The limited land required should be leased by Israel, without prejudice to her recognition of Arab sovereignty over the entire West Bank. It should further be noted that these arrangements do not by themselves guarantee Israel's ability to withstand the threat from its eastern front. However, combined with continuous provisions to maintain its conventional strength, and with other measures to enhance its deterrence-including an integral role in the Western alliance and an assertive nuclear posture-the proposed arrangements reduce the threat to an acceptable level.

Finally, there is one threat for which the arrangements suggested here do not provide an adequate answer: namely, the threat of terrorism. Many fear that terrorism directed from the West Bank against Israel will grow once Israel withdraws from the area. To be sure, withdrawal would seriously curtail Israel's ability to combat terrorism from the West Bank. Israel's capacity for intelligence penetration of the area's population would be more limited, and it would no longer be free to conduct searches, arrest suspects, and interrogate, judge and imprison them. Israel would be forced to a more defense-oriented mode of combatting terrorism from the West Bank, with all the ensuing risks.

A measured assessment of the risks of terrorism, however, must take account of the problem's relative importance. Yearly, Israel's casualties from terrorism amount to from one-tenth to one-fifth the number of casualties caused by traffic accidents. Terrorism has resulted in many personal tragedies, but for the nation it does not constitute a major strategic threat. In Israel's case, a national strategy which is otherwise sound should not be rejected simply because it does not provide an answer to terrorism. One may also argue that with Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank-allowing for a resolution of the Palestinian problem-the incentives for terrorism would diminish. In addition, the future Arab sovereign of the West Bank would have a strong vested interest in arresting terrorism.

The balance of power between Israel and either an independent Palestinian state or a Jordanian-Palestinian federation would remain extremely one-sided for a number of decades to come. Israel could easily halve the new unit by a mere administrative decision to block communication between the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Palestinian or Jordanian-Palestinian leadership would be interested first and foremost in their state's integrity and would therefore wish to avoid this. Thus, Israel's constantly looming threat to intervene militarily should terrorism get out of hand would force this leadership to arrest the problem quickly and forcefully.


A major potential threat for Israel is that following her withdrawal, the West Bank will drift toward radicalism and its new rulers will initiate either terrorist or more organized forms of violence. The third component of the proposed security package addresses this threat. Its basic premise is that the ability to deter terrorism should be augmented by a network of incentives barring the West Bank's possible radicalization. These incentives should include a dramatic development of the West Bank economy, as well as making it interdependent with the economies of Israel and pro-Western Arab states.

Terrorist activity would lead to Israeli reprisals, and organized hostilities initiated by the West Bank's rulers could lead to large-scale Israeli punitive action, if not to the reoccupation of the area. If the West Bank's economic lot improved, its residents and leaders would stand to lose much more by launching hostilities. A similar effect would be gained if the area's economy remained interdependent with Israel's. Once the economy of the West Bank had become interdependent with that of the more pro-Western Arab states as well, the latter would have significant leverage over the former's policies. Since the social, political and economic interests of such oil-rich states as Saudi Arabia favor regional stability, a constant effort to dissuade West Bank leaders from adopting modes of violence could be expected.

To be sure, economic interdependence by itself cannot provide peace and stability. If anything, the causal relationship between interdependence and peace tends to be in the reverse direction-without a strategic and political framework providing general stability, economic relations do not reach a level allowing the creation of interdependence. Clearly, there is a feedback relationship: once interdependence is established, the costs of dissociation increase, thereby enhancing stability and peace. However, an appreciation that interdependence can only cement the blocks arranged by a proper strategic and political framework is required, so that unwarranted expectations-and, later, unnecessary disappointments-could be avoided.

Although a high level of interaction presently characterizes the economic relations between Israel and the West Bank, this does not automatically translate into economic interdependence. Dependence implies a relationship to which no readily available alternatives exist. The West Bank presently exports to Israel almost two-thirds of its total exports. However, this is partially due to politically motivated restrictions imposed by Jordan and other Arab states on imports from the West Bank.6 Were these restrictions lifted in the framework of a comprehensive political settlement, the distribution of the West Bank's exports would change dramatically. Much more of the area's products would then be sold to Amman and the wealthier Gulf States. The same applies to the area's imports, of which 90 percent are from Israel.

The realm of employment provides a more accurate measure of interdependence. A look at this realm reveals that dependence is indeed mutual, if not symmetric. At present, important sectors of Israel's economy cannot function without manpower provided by the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. This is particularly the case with Israel's tourism, construction, and, to a somewhat lesser degree, agriculture.7 For the West Bank's residents, wages earned in Israel constitute one of the principal means of support. Other outlets for manpower exist in the Gulf states, but they require West Bank residents to part from their families and work hundreds of miles away from their homes. Also, most Arab states have restricted the admission of Palestinians. Thus, alternatives to the wages earned in Israel are not readily available. In this sense, interdependence between Israel and the West Bank is symmetric. A political settlement enabling the continuation of this interaction would maintain interdependence.

The establishment of economic interdependence between Israel, the West Bank and the more pro-Western Arab states requires region-wide development projects. Such projects should be based on Palestinian labor, Saudi financing, and American, European and Israeli technology. They would also provide the framework for the resettlement of the Palestinian refugees, a massive enterprise long overdue. For this purpose, a number of new cities should be constructed in the more arid areas of the West Bank. These cities should be organized around new sources of energy and should allow the manufacture of goods that are competitive in the markets of the Arab world at large. To enhance Israeli-West Bank interdependence, a limited number of industrial parks should be established along the pre-1967 lines. Labor-intensive industry could be placed there, utilizing Israeli capital and technology, and providing an additional source of employment for the returning Palestinians.

The implementation of regional development projects should be gradual, so that the area's traditional social and economic fabric is not fatally wounded. Likewise, the return of Palestinian refugees would have to be conducted slowly and with great care. The formation of a proper infrastructure would require enormous effort, notably in the construction of housing, industrial structures, telephone networks, and road, water and sewage systems. In addition, skilled Palestinians should be recruited worldwide to fill posts in the project's management and prevent its being viewed as "foreign." In short, the third component of the proposed security package calls for an American-initiated, Saudi-financed Marshall Plan for the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The gradual implementation of the enterprise would provide the region's residents with an enduring stake in the stability of a political settlement.


The proposed web of economic interdependence between Israel, the West Bank, and the more pro-Western Arab states would diminish the odds of a possible drift to radicalism, but would not eliminate it entirely. Fundamental national aspirations and the imperatives of high politics may take priority over economics; if the Palestinian leadership were to identify an avenue to the complete liberation of Palestine, considerations of economic well-being could be neglected. Similarly, an integral role for Israel in the Western alliance would enhance its deterrence, but would not exclude the possibility of another war. In the face of reasonable odds of success, an all-Arab coalition might be willing to tackle the alliance. North Korea and North Vietnam have both done this successfully.

Finally, the proposed security arrangements in the West Bank would improve Israel's ability to withstand a massive assault from the east. However, these arrangements are no panacea in the security realm. Israel would still be assuming a significant measure of risk by withdrawing from areas so close to her population and industrial centers. The "Eastern Front" states, with Palestinian aid, might well wish to put these three components to a test by initiating a massive conventional assault against Israel. The proposed arrangements should help defeat the challenge, but the costs involved could be exceedingly high.

The Middle East will be increasingly characterized by fire-intensive, high-attrition warfare. The proliferation of high-technology weapons in the region guarantees that this will be the case. Under these conditions, if Israel's withdrawal were to create Arab expectations of success in the battlefield, the price of defeating the challenge would be critically important. Due to the demographic and financial imbalance between Israel and her Arab neighbors, the cumulative costs of war could have a devastating effect on Israel's survivability, even if she won each of these encounters. In Israel's case, the problem of deterring war thus assumes particular importance, more so than for almost any other non-nuclear nation. And the imperative for successful deterrence will further increase as conventional defense becomes more difficult. Economic constraints already impose limitations on Israel's ability to cope with the expansion of the Arab armed forces. This would further reduce the spectrum of threats which Israel can withstand at acceptable costs. Finally, by the end of this decade, Arab conventional challenges may be supported by nuclear weapons. Iraq may possess enough fissionable material for a nuclear weapon by 1985, and is likely to enjoy a rudimentary deliverable nuclear force by 1990. Other Arab countries will follow suit, and-with possible imported shortcuts-may even precede Iraq. This will dramatically extend the spectrum of threats facing Israel in the years to come.

Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank and the Gaza Strip might well reduce the Arabs' motivation to wage war against Israel, but it would not eliminate this motivation entirely. Arab challenges to Israel's survival might yet recur. Since the aforementioned components of the proposed security package do not fully meet the dangers entailed in such recurring challenges, an additional deterrent is needed. Therefore, Israel should develop the capability and adopt an appropriate strategy and doctrine for overt nuclear deterrence. This comprises the fourth element in the proposed national security package.

In terms of capability, Israel should develop nuclear weapons in a quantity and of a yield sufficient to demolish salient targets in each of the Arab states. The suggested doctrine is counter-value-that is, threatening the destruction of cities and resources. It should consist of a simple but intentionally vague declaration that any attempt to cross Israel's borders by a significant military force would be countered with extremely high levels of punishment. The strategy's purpose would be to deter the Arab states from pursuing most forms of violence against Israel by letting them know that she possesses the means for devastating punishment.

Would the adoption of a nuclear deterrence posture deter the Arab states from posing strategic challenges to Israel's survival? To what extent would a nuclear posture deter or reduce lower levels of warfare such as limited conventional wars, wars of attrition, or guerrilla warfare? What would be its effect once Arab states adopted similar postures?

These questions deserve a thorough analysis, far beyond the scope of this essay. But I contend that an overt nuclear posture would indeed provide Israel with effective deterrence. Nuclear weapons also enhance stability, because they favor states trying to defend their sovereignty and survival. Deterrent confrontations are determined by the relative ability to inflict punishment and the relative willingness to absorb punishment in order to win the issue under dispute. States possessing more than a minimal arsenal of nuclear weapons will be able to inflict enormous punishment on each other. In confrontations between such states, the winner will therefore be the one who has the most at stake. The state more willing to absorb punishment will run higher risks; the state less willing to run risks will have to back down. The state defending its sovereignty and survival is likely to manifest far more willpower than a potential offender because its survival is likely to be much more important to it than to a possible intruder. The offender will then face an opponent willing to undertake enormous risks; the balance of deterrence will tilt against him. Therefore, deterrent confrontations, given nuclear weapons, will be won by the state defending its essentials.

If Israel adopted a nuclear deterrence posture, she would stand an excellent chance of deterring Arab efforts to challenge her basic survival. This would continue to be the case even if the Arab states adopted nuclear deterrence postures of their own. The issue of Israel's survival will be more important to her than Israel's destruction will be to her neighbors. Once her survival is threatened, she will demonstrate greater willingness to run risks. The balance of deterrence will tilt in her favor. Finally, Israel's nuclear posture might also deter neighbors from opting for lower levels of violence, such as limited mobile war, wars of attrition, and guerrilla warfare.

However, Israel's ability to deter such limited challenges would depend on the nature of the issue under dispute. Israel is unlikely to deter Arab efforts to regain some of the territories she has occupied since the June 1967 War. Her neighbors see these territories as their own, while Israel lacks a national consensus on the question of Israeli sovereignty over these territories. Thus the Arabs are likely to care more about these territories and will demonstrate greater willingness to run risks. In any effort to regain them, the balance of deterrence will tilt in the Arabs' favor. However, once Israel withdraws to borders that more nearly approximate the lines she held prior to the 1967 War, the balance of deterrence will turn to her advantage. She would be determined to resist Arab efforts to go beyond these lines or to harass her within them. Israel would care more and would be bound to deter such efforts successfully. Under such a policy, the adoption of a nuclear deterrent strategy can be expected to yield important benefits. Thus, as the fourth component of the proposed national security package, Israel's nuclear posture will deter major Arab challenges to her survival, and where she withdraws to the pre-1967 lines her posture will also deter more limited Arab threats.

Once Israel developed a nuclear capability, she would be wise to adopt a declared posture. Such a posture would have a number of advantages. First, it would provide Israel with a credible deterrent threat; the Arab states would be certain of Israel's ability to inflict heavy punishment upon them. Second, it would facilitate the elaboration of a sound doctrine. Proper doctrines reduce the likelihood that nuclear weapons would be misused. A doctrine has better chances of being sound if the process of its elaboration involves the participation of a large number of people. In the case of nuclear weapons, this should include soldiers, statesmen, physicists, civilian strategists, and the like. The ability to draw on a wide variety of opinions must come at the expense of secrecy. Hence, the development of sound doctrine necessarily involves disclosure.

The risks and dangers involved in the absence of sound doctrine become most apparent at times of grave crisis. It is then that decision-makers, acting under enormous pressure and extremely severe time constraints, cannot pause to reflect afresh, and tend to rely on Standard Operating Procedures (SOPS). If the SOPS have been elaborated wisely within a doctrine, disaster may be averted. If absence of disclosure prevents the development of sound doctrine, and SOPS are developed in an incomplete manner, the worst may indeed occur. Situations that have not previously been envisaged may elicit either paralysis or overreactions. The result could be costly for all parties involved.

The third advantage of a disclosed deterrent is that it facilitates the development of a "strategic dialogue" between the conflicting parties. Such a dialogue would lead to mutually shared definitions of what is likely to result in nuclear retaliation. This, in turn, would significantly reduce the danger that war may occur through misunderstanding. If war was initiated, mutually shared concepts and definitions would facilitate the maintenance of thresholds and thereby reduce the threat of uncontrolled escalation. Furthermore, disclosure would allow the conflicting parties to communicate to each other their respective doctrines. The parties could then modify their own postures and doctrines so that these constituted an effective response to all aspects of their counterparts. Such a doctrinal dialogue then facilitates both the prevention of war and the efforts to keep war controlled once initiated.

The final benefit of a disclosed nuclear deterrent is that it would permit public discussion of the implications of nuclear weapons for the regional system. Newspapers would write about it, universities research and then teach it, and politicians would address it. Above all, television would bring the realities of life in a nuclearized region to most homes. A process of familiarization with the facts of nuclear life would take place in the Middle East. Both the elites and the masses would be objects of this process, and this would minimize the pressure of some segments of the Middle East elites on their respective governments. Aware of the constraints imposed by nuclear weapons, such as the constant possibility of massive nuclear retaliation, many would cease demanding that their governments follow unreasonable aggressive policies. In the Arab world the effect of this would be to reduce pressures to pursue policies aimed at Israel's destruction. Belligerent elements within the Arab body politic are likely to lose ground.

In Israel the effect would be similar. A disclosed deterrent would reduce pressures to take frequent preventive action. In addition, it would enhance the government's ability to persuade both the elites and the masses that it is possible to withdraw to borders not very far from the pre-1967 lines without jeopardizing Israel's survival. In general, a disclosed deterrent would decrease domestic opposition to moderate policies. Appreciation of the security provided by nuclear deterrence would reduce the sense of paranoia which so seriously afflicts Middle East publics and politics.


The central thrust of this essay is the creation of a new Israeli national security package, providing a new strategic context in which the West Bank's current pivotal role in Israel's security is altered, thus allowing Israel's withdrawal from the area. The willingness to carry out such a withdrawal is a prerequisite to the implementation of either a "real autonomy" or the "Jordanian option." Given a willingness to withdraw, both are feasible avenues to a comprehensive Arab-Israeli accommodation. And, on balance, they involve a similar mix of risks and opportunities. Essentially, both constitute "Palestinian" options: the "real autonomy" would quickly lead to a "small" independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; the Jordanian option would over time lead to a large Palestinian state, encompassing the Gaza Strip and both banks of the Jordan River.

The advantages of the Jordanian option are in the short range. King Hussein is bound to have a strong moderating influence in the West Bank, and the area's demilitarization would be more feasible, since it would limit arms in only one part of a country. The option's disadvantages would be evident in the long run. Once domestic politics caught up with Jordan's demography, the Hashemites would be derailed, and Israel would face a large Palestinian state. For Israel, one strong Palestinian neighbor is far worse than two weak ones.

The first option-a "small" Palestinian state-involves short-range risks. It would be more difficult to demilitarize an entire state, and there would be some question as to the state's economic viability. However, lack of viability would make it even more dependent upon Israel, and this would have a moderating influence upon it. In the long run, it is preferable to have the Palestinians divided between two states-a small Palestinian state and a more survivable Hashemite kingdom of Jordan-with the former being engulfed by the latter as well as by Israel. Thus, the two options entail a similar distribution of dangers and benefits. Indifference to the choice between them is not an unreasonable conclusion.

In principle, therefore, Israel should be willing to negotiate either of these options with any Arab representatives, provided the latter fulfill two conditions: first, that they recognize Israel's right to exist and accept the stipulations of U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338; second, that their political standing among West Bank Palestinians is sufficiently strong to merit confidence that they can implement effectively whatever agreements are reached.

None of the components of the security package proposed in this article would require immediate implementation. The implementation of the security package should be incremental, and linked to Israel's withdrawal. The realization of both must be tied to the gradual fulfillment of the political accommodation reached. More urgently needed is the initiation of a detailed strategic dialogue between the top leaderships of Israel and the United States. The dialogue should take place immediately after Israel's next elections, currently set for June, and before the two governments become locked into fixed positions and policies. It should also be conducted prior to comprehensive talks between the United States and other leaders in the region. The most sensitive issues blocking further progress toward political accommodation in the Middle East are those involving Israel's security. Therefore, it is imperative that Israelis not conclude that the talks aim merely at formalizing a deal already negotiated with Israel's neighbors. Hence the importance of conducting a dialogue with Israel first. Finally, it is important that the talks be secluded from media pressure, in much the same way as were the negotiations of the Camp David Accords.

The Israeli-American strategic dialogue should consist of a thorough analysis of the fundamental interests of both nations, and of the ways in which they may be accommodated. A mutual understanding should be reached on three central issues. First, on the construction of the new national security package allowing for Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank. This should also include a discussion of the measures needed to gain European and pro-Western Arab support of the package. Second, a common understanding with regard to the political steps to be taken toward a more comprehensive Middle East accord. In this framework, a common approach should be adopted regarding the ways of eliciting a Palestinian or Jordanian-Palestinian partner to the settlement, under either of the aforementioned options. Third, a mutual understanding should be reached on the general principles for a solution to the problem of Jerusalem. The solution should provide for the city's continued unity, while allowing a measure of Arab jurisdiction over some of its parts. In this context, the fundamental religious concerns of parties as diverse as Saudi Arabia and the Vatican could be accommodated.

Only after Israel has gained the support of her staunchest ally, the United States, on all three issues, will she be able to initiate the difficult steps toward a comprehensive Middle East settlement.

1 Aryeh Shalev, The Autonomy: Problems and Possible Solutions, CSS Papers, No. 8, Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, Center for Strategic Studies, January 1980, p. 44.

2 Aharon Yariv, "Challenges in the Middle East: Regional Dynamics and Western Strategy." Lecture delivered at a conference jointly sponsored by Tel Aviv University's Center for Strategic Studies and Georgetown University's Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, D.C., April 28, 1980.

3 Aryeh Shalev, "The Strategic Significance of the West Bank," Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, Center for Strategic Studies (forthcoming 1981).

5 Ibid.

7 See Mark A. Heller, "Political and Strategic Implications of a Palestinian State," Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, Center for Strategic Studies (forthcoming 1981).



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  • Shai Feldman is a research associate at the Center for Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv University.
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