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PALESTINIAN BUS BOMBING & ISRAELI SECURITY REQUIREMENTS

Bus attack highlights Israel's need for effective security arrangements on West Bank as part of permanent peace accord with Palestinians.

Alert Israeli civilians prevent massacre that could have killed and maimed many passengers and torpedoed Kerry mission.

IDF Gen. Amos Gilad: "U.S. hi-tech proposals will not prove effective against West Bank terrorism…IDF must be deployed along the Jordan River and have right of hot pursuit after terrorists."

 It was potentially the most dangerous Palestinian attack since U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry started his current mission to conclude a peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians. This was the scene:

 Early on the afternoon of December 21st, an Israeli bus is traveling in the Tel Aviv suburb of Bat Yam. A youngster notices an unattended black bag, which had been placed near the rear door of the bus. Israelis are understandably wary of such situations. So the teenager points it out to fellow passenger, David Papo, who immediately gets up and approaches the suspicious object. Moving gingerly, Papo opens the bag and the yells to the bus driver, "It’s a bomb!" Driver, Michael Yeager, hits the breaks, opens the bus doors, and yells to his passengers, "Get out!"

Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu said: "The message to all Israelis is, keep your eyes open!"

 It was undoubtedly the most serious attack in the current surge of terror from the West Bank, and came against the back drop of Secretary Kerry's relentless effort to advance a peace accord. It recalled the deadly wave of bus bombings from the west bank that murdered hundreds of Israelis during the second intifada. It triggered the IDF's defensive shield operation in 2002 that rooted out the terror infrastructure. IDF Chief of Staff, Moshe Yaalon, who now serves as Israel’s defense minister, headed that campaign. What is the situation today? The Palestinian security forces of president Mahmud Abbas are still credited with doing their job in cracking down on Hamas and other terror groups in the west bank. However, bear in mind that Israel recently released hundreds of Palestinian terrorists "with blood on their hands" in a good-will gesture to persuade Abbas to return to peace negotiations. Past experience has shown that some terrorists released from prison revert to violence, and it is believed that once again they are providing a tailwind to the current terrorism, not only from the West Bank but also from Gaza. However, Israeli security officials say there is still no sign that this is the beginning of a new intifada uprising.

Israel recently released hundreds of Palestinian terrorists "with blood on their hands" in a good-will gesture to persuade Abbas to return to peace negotiations.

 The Israeli government is committed to releasing a new batch of prisoners shortly, and there is a mounting opposition in Israel in the wake of the mounting Palestinian attacks. Opposition Knesset member, Shaul Mofaz, a former defense minister and IDF Chief of Staff, called on the prime minister to reconsider, saying that no world leader would agree to do free convicted killers under the current circumstances. Within Netanyahu's Likud party, some backbenchers have also decried another prisoner release before they serve out their sentences. However, Netanyahu is committed to Kerry and Abbas, and the grapevine has let it be known that Israel will honor its commitment.

 Above and beyond the immediate consequences of the bus bombing, the attack illustrates Israel's need for solid security commitments on the west bank as part of a future peace treaty. From the strategic aspect, the whole width of the area stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River is a mere 40 miles. Remember this includes Israel's main population center of greater Tel Aviv, as well as the west bank. Moreover, the old 1967 Green Line (actually the ceasefire line of 1949 at the end of the Arab war "to drive the Jews into the sea") is only nine miles wide. In effect, this is less than the length of Broadway in Manhattan. You don't have to be a military expert to realize that returning to the 1967 line cannot provide Israel with a reasonable strategic depth to defend against any future assault on its eastern flank. In fact, immediately after the six-day war, President Lyndon Johnson sent a delegation of generals from the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, headed by Gen. Earl Wheeler, to conduct a study on what territory Israel needed for its self-defense. On March 9th, 1983, the wall street journal published what had been their confidential findings:

Overall, it would appear that Washington is backing Israel when it comes to security, while supporting most of the Palestinians on territory.

 "Returning Israel to pre-1967 boundaries would drastically increase its vulnerability. Israel would be threatened by West Bank artillery and tactical SAMs (surface-to-air missiles), a sword constantly over its head, and the need to maintain readiness with prohibitive mobilization costs. For stable future Arab-Israeli agreements, Israel must feel it can wait out a crisis, rather than strike preemptively. Israel should retain … the Gaza strip, mountains and plateaus on the West Bank, the Golan heights east of Quneitra, and all of Jerusalem."

 Obviously the Joint Chiefs of Staff understood Israel's nightmare of an Arab offensive from the west bank that could severe the Jewish state at its narrow waist. At present, a retired US general, John Allen, with a backup team of 160 American officials, on a scheme that could provide a reasonable solution to Israel's legitimate security concerns, while establishing a Palestinian state on the west bank. It is by no means an easy mission; it may prove to be impossible. Overall, it would appear that Washington is backing Israel when it comes to security, while supporting most of the Palestinians on territory. Allen has proposed that IDF forces be deployed along the western bank of the Jordan river for a period of ten years – such a buffer zone would block arms and hostile forces from entering the west bank from Jordan. Abbas has rejected this out of hand as an infringement on Palestinian sovereignty. On the other hand, Jordan's king Abdullah the second, is said to favor the idea because it would drive a wedge between Palestinians on the west bank and the Palestinian community in Jordan, which now constitutes a majority in his kingdom. 

...this strategy results in a lot of "collateral damage" – the killing and wounding of many innocent Afghan civilians. The IDF's counter terror operations on the West Bank do not work that way.

 Some Israeli officials think Gen. Allen has drawn on his experience in the Afghanistan theater to devise hi-tech solutions, such as the extensive use of drones and satellites. Air strikes are then called in to attack militants on the ground. However, this strategy results in a lot of "collateral damage" – the killing and wounding of many innocent Afghan civilians. The IDF's counter terror operations on the West Bank do not work that way. Israel's Shabak secret service depends on "HUMANIT" intelligence, an extensive network of agents in the field that enables pinpoint targeting on the ground, often before terrorists can act. Relatively speaking, Israel's counter terrorism operations on the west bank cause far fewer civilian casualties than the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.  

 IDF Gen. Amos Gilad, who serves as an advisor in the defense ministry, has said: "Hi-Tech is not the solution unless it is anchored to intelligence gathering in the field. If we totally evacuate the West Bank our counter terrorism effectiveness will be lessened. Pilotless drones, if not coordinated with intelligence, are ineffective, and I do not see a suitable replacement."

...there is a national consensus that the Jewish State must not risk national suicide in order to grant the Palestinians their state, which they could have had more than six decades ago if they had also accepted the Palestinian Partition Plan of 1947.

 Summing up, the question is how to devise a new counter terrorism system to prevent a return to more bus bombings in Israel, or even far worse, while granting the Palestinians true independence. It is fair to say, both on the right and left in Israel, there is a national consensus that the Jewish State must not risk national suicide in order to grant the Palestinians their state, which they could have had more than six decades ago if they had also accepted the Palestinian Partition Plan of 1947. More recently, Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip without adequate security arrangements – in fact, with none at all. Hamas, which expelled Abbas and Fatah from Gaza then took over and launched cascades of rockets across the border at Israeli communities. Israel then retaliated, and a massive escalation followed. When it boiled over Israel was forced to launch massive ground operations into Gaza, such as Cast Lead. This is what is now at stake.

 

 David Essing


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