Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Hidden Bomb in the Innocuous-Seeming Pumpkin

Now that I think of it, there was something strategically important in Obama's speech. He mentioned Palestine's borders with "Israel, Egypt, and Jordan". It seemed at the time an unnecessary and merely rhetorical amplification of "borders with Israel". But it isn't.

If Israel retains the line of fortified settlements along the Jordan River (right edge of the map) that the Prime Minister mentioned in his speech after the President's, Palestine would not have a border with Jordan. There is no territorial issue with Jordan. The Hashemites claim nothing west of the river.

The 'border with Jordan' question is a question of who will be on the other bank of the river from Jordan -- the Israelis or the Palestinians. For Obama to mention Palestine's border with Jordan is to say that he opposes Israel retaining the Jordan River line of fortified settlements. This line of fortifications goes directly to the question of defensible borders. It also clarifies what the Prime Minister meant by referring to the bad old days when Israel was only nine miles wide.

Even in the unlikely event the Palestinians were sincere in their willingness for Palestine to be demilitarized, what would prevent an Arab or Iranian army from crossing the river unopposed and planting itself on the Israeli border? Without the Jordan River Valley fortifications, the American and Palestinian promises that Palestine would be a demilitarized state would not be worth the paper they were written on.

Without the Jordan River Valley fortifications, Israel could be quickly cut in two by an armored column driving nine miles across the level Plain of Sharon (left edge of the map). Israeli defenders would have almost no room to maneuver tanks and artillery. Israel would face almost certain defeat.

The Arab surprise attack that began the Yom Kippur War in 1973 almost achieved this. Only the territorial depth of Judea and Samaria and the Sinai Peninsula kept Israel from being over-run in the first few hours of the war. So the question is far from academic for the Israelis. Indeed the majority of middle-aged Israelis alive today remember personally fighting for their and their country's survival in that war.

With those fortifications, an Arab or Iranian army approaching from the east would be faced by IDF tanks, artillery, infantry, and attack aircraft in serried tiers behind the Jordan. Major tank and troop barriers in depth have been constructed in the desert there which are impractical on the densely populated Plain of Sharon.

To defend against Palestinian attacks behind the lines from Jericho, the IDF stations nearby its elite Israel Army Drum and Bugle Corps which has traditionally been successful against Jericho's defenses.

Territorially Israel is still only nine miles wide. But militarily its frontier is at the Jordan River. The Prime Minister wants to keep it there. The President does not.

This is a good, indeed a complete, reason to support the Prime Minister and oppose the President. Including opposing his re-election if need be.

Note in the map above that there is a line of Jewish settlements (the black dots in the blue-green areas toward the right of the map) in the Jordan Valley and no Palestinian settlements except Jericho (the orange and red blotch near the Dead Sea) there. The Jordan Valley is largely desert.

The map also shows what else the President meant by Palestine being a "contiguous" territory. One can see that Jerusalem separates Palestinian settlements in Judea, centered on Hebron, from Palestinian settlements in Samaria. Contiguity presumably means connecting not just Gaza and the rest of Palestine with a highway, but also connecting Palestinian parts of Judea with Palestinian parts of Samaria with a second highway.

The obvious route of such a highway is into Israel, through the eastern part of Jerusalem, and then back into Palestine and on to Ramallah. Which raises a difficult question indeed. Putting the eastern part of Jerusalem on the highway between two of the three parts of Palestine would make the eastern part of Jerusalem effectively the center of Palestine and its natural capital.

But for three thousand years Jerusalem has been the capital of Israel. We have prayed either in or facing Jerusalem all three thousand of those years. Israelis are united and unwavering on the proposition that Jerusalem is our eternal and indivisible capital. So are Judeans abroad with any sense.

Which means that the highway connecting Palestinian parts of Judea with Palestinian parts of Samaria will necessarily have to go around Jerusalem, presumably through Jericho.

There is a certain fitness about this. Jericho was one of the capitals of the Ummayad Caliphate, the first great Arab conquest empire from the year 661 to 750. One can still see the ruins of the Ummayad Caliphs' palace there. Jerusalem on the other hand has never in its long history been the capital of anything but ancient and modern Israel.

So the central issue in the upcoming quarrels, uh, I mean negotiations, will be whether there will be a Hebron to Ramallah highway and, if there is, whether it will go through the eastern part of Jerusalem (i.e. into and out of Israel) or whether it will go only through Palestinian territory, via Jericho. When and if negotiations are resumed, that is some of what they will be arguing about.

There is an oft-repeated claim that Jerusalem is the third holiest place in Islam in spite of not being mentioned anywhere in the Koran. The implication is that this somehow obliges the world to make it Palestine's capital.

The two holier places than Jerusalem are Mecca and Medina. Yet the capital of Saudi Arabia is Riyadh, 500 miles away. So the holiness of places to Muslims apparently does not oblige them to make those places their capital. It didn't in the 7th Century for the Ummayad Caliphs of Jericho and Damascus, nor in the 8th Century for the Abbassid Caliphs of Baghdad. Unless of course they are trying to make up reasons to demand territory from Israel.


  1. Anonymous1:51 AM

    Just be honest, what you really want is for all the Palestinians to simultaneously die so you can take their land. That would solve all of your problems, wouldn't it?

  2. What I really want is for all the Irish to simultaneously die so we can take their beer. And their potatoes.

    Actually just the stupid drunken bigoted ones. The ones who vandalize property and then childishly and stubbornly refuse to take any responsibility for their primitive behavior. Die! Die! Die!

  3. Anonymous3:59 PM

    I am not Irish. I am a Palestinian Arab (Now atheist) who lives in London and is heavily involved with communist party. Now answer the question, do you or do you not want to see the Palestinians living a parallel life, in some prison camp perhaps (dotted with armed Israeli guards ordering an occupation) Would this not be easier and 'safeguard Israel's security'?

  4. Pretending for the moment that Anonymous is who she says she is. You are a perfect example of what you say you are. The Palestinians have as promising a future as the communists. Both are the tail ends of movements that peaked decades ago and which have been irrelevant for a long long time. I remember communists at Berkeley in the 1960's -- you were brainless fossils even then. Even with a monopoly of force you were such corrupt failures that you couldn't maintain power in countries with unbroken authoritarian histories.

    It is no coincidence at all that you have embraced the Palestinian cause. Like communism it relies on ideological commitments and ignores and denies all facts of the real world.

    Your atheism speaks volumes about you -- you have transferred your belief in Allah to a belief in the party in spite of its irrelevance and its being contradicted by the verdict of all mankind from Vietnam to Venezuela.

    You have transferred your belief in Allah to a belief in a Palestinian movement that is as corrupt and incompetent, and as irrelevant, as communism.

    The decades-long afterthought of Arafatism in the Middle East is as dead as the decades long afterthought of Stalinism in Russia.

  5. Anonymous5:27 PM

    Lol! Silly man.

    I bet you're a shoes first, then trousers sort of guy, Jack.