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General Amidror’s Gift

Yaakov Amidror is a retired Israeli Major-General and currently head of Binyamin’s Netanyahu’s National Security Council.   This is a bit surprising, though not because of Amidror’s political views:  he opposed, for instance, the evacuation of Gaza, and called for retaking it.   No, it’s surprising because Amidror is not particularly bright.   How else to explain his excellent case for the defensibility of Israel’s 1967 borders, in an article arguing those borders are indefensible?

Amidror’s argument is based on the idea that you need to secure your borders by ‘defense in depth ‘.  How deep is deep enough?  We only get one number:

“In Cold War Europe, Western military planners understood that it is not the “borderline” that is decisive but rather the “defensive depth.” In Europe this included the entire width of Germany up to the Rhine (over 200 kilometers).”

Oh yeah, and we’re told that, with new military technologies, estimates have “almost doubled in recent years”.   We hear that in 1967, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended Israel keep a chunk of the occupied territories for defensive purposes, to “control the prominent high ground running north-south”.

It’s hard to put all this together.   Controlling some high ground doesn’t  give Israel anything like 200km, yet that Cold War estimate must now need to be doubled.   Is Israel somehow less vulnerable than Europe?   One would have thought the opposite.   And ‘controlling the high ground’ seems a bit medieval given Hizbollah’s rockets, not to mention the much better stuff possessed by every other ‘Arab’ country in the region.  So one might well conclude that having every bit of the occupied territories won’t do one bit of good, because, pretty clearly, it won’t provide anything like the defensive depth that Amidror’s military authorities prescribe.

It get worse, because if military authority is to be heeded, Israel’s neighbors also need defensive depth, which by any comparable measure would include, well, all of Israel.    Recent history does not exactly suggest that Israel’s neighbors should have any less concern for defensible borders than Israel itself.

But all this is small potatoes compared to the great big spud offered up by Amidror, so nice he highlights it:  “While a policy of pre-emptive attack could theoretically create the necessary depth for defense, if the threat to israel were to emanate from states that formally were signatories to peace treaties, the chances that an Israeli government would violate them with pre-emptive action are nil.”

As the nerds say, ROTFL.   Amidror has no professional competence in politics, and his pronouncement shows he’s no gifted amateur, either.  I fear to insult the reader’s intelligence by spelling out what went wrong for him, but bear with me.

Israel is the country of ‘The Samson Option’, a phrase attributed to several Israeli prime ministers.  In its moderate form, it calls for massive nuclear retaliation against any attack which threatens Israel’s existence.   Its less moderate version is articulated by the not unrespectable Martin van Creveld, professor of military history at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and sometime lecturer at the U.S. Naval War College.   Van Creveld tells us that “”We have the capability to take the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen before Israel goes under.'”

Now the world, as I understand it, contains quite a few unarmed (not to mention underage) civilians whose nations are big buddies of Israel, not to mention all such persons in “states that formally were signatories to peace treaties”.   Israel has, again and again, almost joyously asserted its iron-clad determination to stop at nothing in the exercise of its very generously conceived right of self-defense.   The chances that it would be let its cities burn and its citizens die in the streets out of scruples about signatures on a peace treaty are…  nil.  What’s more, Israel’s whole strategy of deterrence depends on suggesting that, as Moshe Dayan famously declared, “Israel must be like a mad dog, too dangerous to bother.”   Amidror’s pronouncement is exactly the sort of thing to which Israel does not and, in its own strategic view, must not commit itself.

In short, Amidror has given us decisive reason to think that Israel’s 1967 borders are indeed defensible.   He has then made a lame joke.   This adds up to a case for the defensibility of Israel’s 1967 borders, from none less than the current head of Israel’s National Security Council.

Michael Neumann is a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, Canada. Professor Neumann’s views are not to be taken as those of his university. His book What’s Left: Radical Politics and the Radical Psyche is published by Broadview Press. He contributed the essay, “What is Anti-Semitism”, to CounterPunch’s book, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. His latest book is The Case Against Israel. He can be reached at: mneumann@trentu.ca