A Trip Across Israel Shows How Vulnerable the Country Is
On a trip to Israel in 2007, my friends and I drove across the entire width of pre-1967 Israel — from the security barrier at the Green Line near Tulkarm to the Mediterranean Sea at Netanya. The Green Line is currently the boundary between Israel and what is commonly called the “Occupied Territories.” And it would be Israel’s border with a Palestinian state if the international community had its way.
My friends and I filmed our entire journey. It took less than 20 minutes, including getting lost. You can see the video here.
We made the video so that people outside of Israel could experience for themselves how frighteningly small and intrinsically vulnerable the country really is. Our route was entirely in the Central District and took us through a well-populated part of the country.
The Algemeiner recently published a very informative article by Martin Sherman entitled, “The Perils of Palestine in Pictures.” In it, he illustrates with photographs how close the West Bank is to important locations in Israel, such as Ben Gurion airport and major office buildings. These locations could be threatened by terrorists or hostile armies operating from an independent Palestinian state.
Our video tries to make a similar point.
Although Sherman’s piece is very informative, there is another important point to be made. In almost all of his pictures, taken from the “West Bank,” you can see the Mediterranean Sea in the background. Not only can you see important Israeli infrastructure near the Green Line, but you can see across the entire country. These facilities are near the Green Line, not out of choice, but because there is no place else to put them.
The inhabited part of Israel goes from the sea to the foothills a few miles away. The country is tiny — more like a small US state. Its population is mostly concentrated in an area even smaller, more like the size of a county. Most of the country is sparsely inhabited desert. The majority of Israelis live within 15 miles of the West Bank.
Why is this important? Because the country’s enemies can make it impossible for Jews to live in Israel. These enemies are not solely the two million Arabs in the West Bank. They are the populations that surround Israel for hundreds of miles in each direction, and number in the hundreds of millions. Although Israel does have peace agreements with the governments of Jordan and Egypt, the populations of these countries are no more reconciled to its existence than other Arab and Muslim peoples. Israel cannot assume it will be at peace with these countries forever.
In America, issues of security are abstract. The enemy is distant and the threat is not always clear. We have the luxury of speculating on the danger posed by immigration or the situations in Afghanistan Iraq, Syria and Libya. For Israel, however, there is nothing speculative about the threat. The enemy is, literally, just down the road.
The US Census Bureau reports that the average American spends 24 minutes commuting to work every morning. It takes less time to cross Israel than it does for most Americans to get to work. I do not think many Americans (or anyone else for that matter) would feel comfortable empowering people 20 minutes away who have often tried to kill them.
To summarize, one cannot fully understand Israel’s security needs without taking into account how inconceivably small it is. Israel’s fundamental vulnerability presents a constant temptation for its enemies. One does not have to believe in the settlement enterprise or a greater Israel to see the need to keep military control of the West Bank. One only has to value the lives of Israelis and the safety of the country.
Israel could only contemplate giving up this territory if its adversaries were very different in thought and deed from how they are today.