Applying Israeli Law to Judea and Samaria Is Worth It
The suggestion that the application of Israeli law to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria would severely undermine Israeli interests, and jeopardize Israel’s peace treaties with Jordan and Egypt and Israel’s overall ties with Arab countries, is divorced from the Israeli track record and Middle East reality.
The resurgence of the Jewish state from the ashes of World War II to global prominence — despite systematic adverse global pressure and Arab wars and terrorism — has demonstrated that there are no free lunches for independent nations, especially in the Middle East.
For example, in 1948, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding father, did not wait for a green light from the White House before declaring independence. He was aware that a declaration of independence would trigger a costly Arab military invasion. The CIA estimated that it could subject the Jewish people to “a second holocaust.” However, Ben-Gurion concluded that achieving a supreme goal was preconditioned upon the willingness to pay a supreme cost. Indeed, the war against the Arab invasion consumed 1% (6,000) of the Jewish population (600,000). Fending off the Arab invasion, Israel expanded its borders by 30%, and did not retreat to the suicidal 1947 lines, despite brutal global (including US) pressure. The pressure on Israel dissipated, but Israel’s buttressed borders were preserved.
In 1967, Prime Minister Levi Eshkol preempted a planned Egypt-Syria-Jordan joint offensive, in defiance of a strong red light from the White House (“Israel will not be alone unless it decides to go alone”), and despite prominent Israelis who preferred the venue of negotiation and mediation. Eshkol was aware that Israel’s existence, in the violently intolerant and unpredictable Middle East, required a firm posture of deterrence, which could entail a heavy cost. In the aftermath of the war, Eshkol reunited Jerusalem and renewed Jewish presence beyond the 1949/67 indefensible Green Line, in spite of very heavy US and global pressure.
In 1981, Prime Minister Menachem Begin ordered the destruction of Iraq’s nuclear reactor, notwithstanding the menacing red light from the White House and the opposition by the Mossad, and additional Israeli defense and intelligence authorities. The naysayers feared that this would trigger a global Islamic assault on Israel; would produce a European boycott of Israel; and would create a rift with the US. Begin acted anyway, and was right to do so.
Later that year, Begin applied Israeli law to the Golan Heights, disregarding the brutal US opposition, which included the suspension of a major US-Israel strategic accord and the supply of advanced military systems. The heavy US sanctions were replaced by an unprecedented US-Israel strategic cooperation, and the Golan Heights have become an integral part of the Jewish State.
The aforementioned Israeli leaders defied international pressure, and therefore were burdened with a short-term loss of global popularity. However, they earned long-term respect for their willingness to defy the odds at severe cost.
Some believe that an Israeli application of its law to the Jordan Valley and parts of Judea and Samaria would threaten the Israel-Jordan and Israel-Egypt peace treaties, and could abort the burgeoning relations between Israel and the Arab Gulf States. Such a school of thought misperceives the Arab national security order of priorities, which has always demoted the role of the Palestinian issue. It ignores the significant role played by Israel’s posture of deterrence in the national security strategy of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Oman, and Kuwait.
For instance, the 1994 Israel-Jordan peace treaty (which sidestepped the Palestinian issue) reflects Jordanian national security priorities. Just like all Arab regimes — and especially since the 2010 eruption of the still raging Arab Tsunami — the pro-US regime in Amman is highly vulnerable, domestically and regionally. Irrespective of its pro-Palestinian rhetoric, Jordan’s actions — since 1949, when it occupied Judea and Samaria and prohibited Palestinian political activity — have represented the overall Arab view of the Palestinians as a role model of intra-Arab subversion and terrorism.
Jordan’s Hashemite regime considers the proposed Palestinian state a clear and present lethal threat. At the same time, it considers Israel’s posture of deterrence as its most effective line of defense against lethal threats, domestically (Palestinian, Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, and hostile southern Bedouin subversion) and externally (Iran’s ayatollahs, Iraq, and Syria). Jordan considers Israel a unique source of intelligence and counter-terrorism assistance. Also, Israel supplies water to the 1.5 million refugees from Syria, and provides Jordan with commercial access to the port of Haifa and price-discounted offshore natural gas.
Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states, as well as Egypt, regard Israel as a most reliable and effective ally in the face of mutual threats, such as Iran’s ayatollahs, the Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS, Turkey’s Erdogan, and potential tectonic spillovers from Iraq and Syria. This Saudi-Israel congruence of national security interests eclipses, by far, the role played by the Palestinian issue in Riyadh’s order of national security priorities. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia appreciates the potential Israeli technological and scientific contribution to the diversification of its oil-dependent economy. In fact, some argue that Riyadh considers the proposed Palestinian state a potential rogue regime, siding with its archenemies.
Thus, the national security concerns of the pro-US Arab countries is advanced by a reinforced Israeli posture of deterrence. On the other hand, a hesitant, appeasing, and retreating Israel, which sacrifices its independence of national security action on the altar of overseas green lights, whets the appetite of terrorists and rogue regimes, which threatens the national security of Jordan, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and all other pro-US Arab countries, thus undermining vital US interests.
Yoram Ettinger is a former ambassador and head of Second Thought: A US-Israel Initiative.