Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Conflict 101: Security Arrangements

In this post we discuss the security arrangements necessary for a two-state solution

Many of the security issues had been solved, more or less, through the Camp David Accords. In this area, the Palestinians demonstrated greater flexibility than in others. In practice, however, four factors suggest the gaps between the two sides are greater than they were in 2000:

1. Even if the Palestinians are able to address each of Israel’s demands, only part of the security issue will be addressed. The creation of a Palestinian State creates new security threats as Arab enemies could be allowed much easier access to Israel.
2. The solution defined in 2000 was based on the notion of a demilitarized Palestinian state. This is no longer feasible.
3. In 2000 Israel made concessions on two critical demands: exclusive Palestinian control over both Palestinian airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum (electronic frequencies). In future negotiations the Palestinians are expected to seize these concessions, which Israel will argue it no longer can afford to make.
4. The final security arrangements must address a direct threat from the Palestinians and the threat created if Israel finds itself in a military confrontation with another country.

Each of these issues is complicated by additional circumstances. The implications of the border issue mean that Israel would be opening up an additional front to its non-Palestinian enemies, giving them direct access to highly sensitive areas such as Jerusalem. While Israel has tried previously to negotiate an agreement whereby it controlled the border between the Palestinians and its neighbors, it is quite clear that no such agreement could be made today. Israel has learned from the mistake it made with the Philadelphia corridor in which it left the Gaza-Egypt border without a permanent agreement to devastating effect. Even if the Palestinians and the Jordanians agreed to an Israel-patrolled 70 kilometer border between the two, an effective security zone, the IDF says, would have to be at least 8-10 kilometers wide and contain permanent Israeli military outposts and infrastructure. There is no chance this will be agreed to. Accordingly, Israel would have no reason to maintain a presence at any border crossing points either. This would be like placing a locked door in the middle of a field. Essentially, there would be no Israeli presence on Palestine’s eastern border, exacerbating arms smuggling and giving its enemies an unimpeded path to Israel’s east.

The border impacts do not stop with Jordan. If Israel returned to the 1967 borders, an unacceptably dangerous situation would arise. Only one major road (Highway 1) would connect the capital with the rest of the country, drastically restricting movement to and from the capitol and creating a security problem along the lines of what the US is experiencing in Iraq with road-side bombing. Any Palestinian with an effective mortar or enough guns could hold the city hostage.

An additional issue is the security barrier. The Camp David negotiations were conducted in the spirit of the Oslo atmosphere, meaning the peace agreement would be conducive for greater cooperation and open borders that would generate economic and social gains. The Israeli approach since then has demonstrated the opposite approach: openness means risks, not rewards.

As far as the border with the West Bank is concerned, any treaty will have to adequately address a worst-case scenario for the Israelis, namely a collapse of a neutral Jordanian government. This concern has always been felt, and in the past Israel has pushed for a 10-20 kilometer wide security zone along the Jordan Valley. Response was expectedly negative. Israel was forced to compromise. First, it would be allowed to maintain several permanent facilities with armored battalions in the valley. And second, it would get three corridors through the valley to transfer people and supplies without Palestinian consent during emergency situations. Today it is likely that Israel would not be allowed these two compromises. The Palestinians are likely to argue that Israel no longer is threatened by Iraq and reject Israel’s demand that they not build houses or infrastructure near each of the corridors.

While the Palestinians have shown flexibility on the demilitarization point and agreed to a military force without fighter planes, helicopters, tanks, artillery, and other heavy weaponry, the weapons that pose the most immediate threat cannot be monitored. These demilitarization-proof weapons (rockets, missiles, and explosives) are easy to smuggle, hide, transport, and even make. There is no means by which this kind of weaponry could be kept out of reach of the Palestinians. The only practical way to reduce this threat is to control more territory, but the potential of this is zero in any agreement. The Israelis will, without a doubt, incur a sizable security threat if it reaches a permanent agreement with the Palestinians.

Airspace and the electromagnetic spectrum pose problems more significant now than in 2000. At Camp David, Israel softened its demands regarding airspace rights of a Palestinian state. Today Israel will not budge, at least not on the airspace above the West Bank. The military will argue, accurately, that without such control the air force will be unable to counter an aerial attack from the east. Meanwhile, the Palestinians are likely to oppose such a demand. Not only do they have the precedent established at Camp David, but air space is a natural component of a state.

The electromagnetic spectrum, essentially the virtual dominion, is likely to prove as problematic as the air space issue. Control of frequencies is a critical issue in large part because of the geographic challenges of the region: the short distances and altitude advantage of the Palestinians create real security problems for the Israelis. Should the Palestinians decide to mount a transmitter on a hill in Ramallah and broadcast on uncoordinated frequencies, civilian flights would not be able to communicate with Ben Gurion Airport. Moreover, channels in Israel are organized into civilian and military categories, an arrangement crucial for effective use for either purpose. Not only that, but much of Israel’s critical weaponry uses radio transmissions. The need to control the spectrum is a non-negotiable issue for the Israelis, though like the air space Palestinians are likely to oppose any Israeli control.

Israel has numerous intelligence bases in the West Bank that monitor activities there and in other countries and serve as an early warning system to compensate for limitations imposed by Israel’s geography. The Palestinians will argue that in a state of peace there will be no need for these bases in their territory, perhaps making an exception for stations that monitor other countries. Any compromise here would need a neutral third part to monitor the monitoring stations to see that Israel uses them for their intended purpose. The Israelis will strongly oppose this, leaving the questions of how many stations, what will their purpose(s) be, who will man them, how will they be accessed, who will control their access routes, and how long will Israel be allowed to have them unanswered.

These major issues acknowledged there are several other areas where Palestinian sovereignty will be legitimately challenged by the Israelis (though US-Japan after World War II may establish a precedent for this). First, will the Palestinian State be allowed to form military alliances or diplomatic relations? Israel will want a tight grip on a short leash on this. Second, will the Palestinians be allowed to quarter foreign troops, military trainers, or advisors in its territory? Israel will say no. Will Palestine be allowed to form a military? Israel will say a defensive security force only, and all involved would need to be completely mindful of any portrayal of any Palestinian force as a police force for Israel, which would undermine a peaceful solution by appearing to be a form of occupation. Should the Palestinians be forced to ban all armed militias, rout terrorists, confiscate illegal weapons, and install a comprehensive program to license and register all weapons in its state? Israel will demand yes, but the Palestinians may not be organized well enough to ensure these things happen effectively.

Should every security issue outlined above be addressed, Israel will still want to see immutable evidence that the Palestinians can and will dismantle terrorists and their infrastructure before it gives up any land. However, the Palestinians have refused to take these actions until Israel hands control of additional land over to them. The most common resolution to this has been the suggestion of an international force. However, experience does not make this a realistic option for Israel, having seen the failure of international forces to stop weapons smuggling and war several times in the past.

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