The recent rash of suicide bombings in Jerusalem and Haifa has temporarily pushed the issue of a Palestinian state to the back burner. Yet we can be sure that the idea of a Palestinian state in return for ``secure and recognized borders for Israel" will arise again. It behooves us therefore to ask what is meant by ``secure borders."
The most obvious definition of ``secure borders" is borders that Israel can defend. Since all proponents of a Palestinian state – particularly the Palestinians themselves – envision a return to the 1967 borders with minor adjustments, the question that must be asked is whether those borders are defensible.
The 1967 borders are only 11 miles wide opposite some of Israel’s most heavily populated areas, and would place Ben Gurion Airport, Israel’s major link to the outside world, within easy range of Stinger missiles. In the event of an all-out war with other Arab states, the Palestinians are capable of disrupting, with the arms already in their possession, the rapid mobilization of reserves upon which Israeli defense planners have always depended to offset the vast numerical superiority of the Arab standing armies. Without an Israeli presence in the Jordan Rift, Israel might soon find itself facing to the east an unbroken hostile Arab entity extending all the way to Bagdhad.
Nor is it credible to imagine that the Palestinian state would not arm itself heavily, even if it initially undertook to remain demilitarized. Sovereignty is not conditional. The international community would continue to recognize Palestine, even if it violated binding commitments not to create a standing army, just as today it rejects Israelis’ right to reenter Area A, despite Palestinian violations of every provision of their security agreements with Israel.
There can be no doubt, then, that a Palestinian state would severely compromise Israel’s ability to defend itself in any full-scale war.
In return for dramatically reducing its ability to defend itself, Israel would no doubt be offered American, and perhaps European, security guarantees. These too would not provide security. International guarantees proved worthless when Nasser closed the Straits of Tiran in 1967 and demanded that U.N. peacekeepers withdraw from the Sinai.
For Israel to rely on such guarantees would be to place herself willingly, and with the benefit of hindsight, in the position of Czechoslovakia circa 1938. In return for sacrificing strategic high places and defensive positions in the Sudetenland, the Czechs received Anglo-Franco security guarantees in case of a German invasion. Those proved worthless. No less an authority than Winston Churchill wrote of Munich that when great powers seek concessions from their weaker allies in return for security guarantees, they do so for their own good, not because they anticipate making good on those guarantees.
Those calling for a Palestinian state subscribe to the rationalist folly that the vast majority of human beings seek only to improve their material circumstances. For such ``rationalists" war is the ultimately irrationality since it rarely results in an improved material situation, especially for the thousands sure to die in the fighting. In the ``rationalists"’ eyes, Israeli security concerns are exaggerated. They are convinced that once they have their own state, the Palestinians will do everything possible to avoid endangering their little canton and cease to look longingly at Israel.
September 11 should establish that the world is full of people who do not share the rationalists’ assumptions about the goals or value of life. The cult of martyrdom and suicide bombings that has long pervaded Palestinian society establishes that the Palestinians are among the naysayers to the rationalist assumptions. So do the billions of dollars in economic damage the Palestinians have sustained over the past 14 months with nothing to show for it.
Three generations of Palestinians have been indoctrinated to believe that the entire area from the Jordan to the Mediterranean is rightfully theirs and that the retention of any land in Jewish hands is an ongoing stain on Palestinian honor. Not one Palestinian map has ever shown the state of Israel in any borders. It would be the height of folly for Israel to ignore that indoctrination and the remarkable candor with which Palestinians from Arafat on down have enunciated their strategy of staged conquest of all the territory they call Palestine.
``The blood of the lamb arouses the tiger," goes an old Indian proverb. To allow Arafat to present himself as having wrested a state by force of arms, after more than a year of nonstop violence, would only whet the Palestinians’ appetite for further conquest.