Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Mideast Peace--The Tough Dove Way, Gidon D. Remba

Mideast Peace—The Tough Dove Way

Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle, August 8, 2006


Gidon D. Remba

Israel is fighting a just and necessary war against the Islamic fascists of Hezbollah and Hamas, backed by Iran and Syria. Virtually the entire Israeli public—95% according to the polls—is behind Israel’s war of self-defense, left, right and center, including Peace Now, the movement of Israeli pragmatists which I have supported ever since its founding by a group of 348 reserve IDF officers in 1978 during the ground-breaking Egyptian-Israeli peace talks.

Shalom Achshav, as it is known in Hebrew, has never been a movement of pacifists, but a mainstream force of Israeli realists who believe that Israel must pursue peace with its Arab neighbors as aggressively and tough-mindedly as it prosecutes its just wars. Peace agreements—buttressed by a powerful military able to defeat aggressors and deter future attack—form an essential part of Israel’s security bulwark. Israel’s peace treaty with Egypt ended the series of multi-front wars Israel suffered during the first twenty-five years of its existence. The peace treaty with Jordan a decade ago has helped keep Israel’s eastern flank secure from cross-border terror attacks and ground assaults from radical Arab states. Shalom Achshavniks, in short, are tough doves; or, in the words of Israel’s former Chief of Military Intelligence Yehoshafat Harkabi, Machiavellian doves. (Yes, Harkabi too was one of us, along with a fair number of contemporary Israeli generals, intelligence and security officials).

But in the ornithology of Mideast war and peace, doves must sometimes fly like hawks, protecting Israel by the sword when necessary. That’s why, for me, some of the paragons of the Peace Now way also happen to be among Israel’s most illustrious war heroes, men like Yitzhak Rabin, Moshe Dayan, Ezer Weizman, and even Ariel Sharon, who though hawk’s hawks for much of their careers, all became tough doves, each in his way (and if only imperfectly). Some have even dubbed Israel’s military campaigns in Lebanon and Gaza the first Peace Now-run wars. Defense Minister Amir Peretz is, after all, a veteran leader in Shalom Ashchav, while other dovish cabinet ministers from the Labor Party, like Education Minister Yuli Tamir, one of the movement’s co-founders, have been among the war’s most vocal champions.

If the UN cease-fire fails, Israel should hit Hezbollah hard with an expanded ground campaign, push its Katyusha rockets north of the Litani River beyond firing range of much of Israel, paving the way for the entry into southern Lebanon of a large, well-armed NATO-led multi-national force to oversee the Lebanese army. Israel should decimate Hezbollah’s ranks and weapons, inflicting a painful blow on Iran’s proxy militia for its chronic aggression. But while it fights and once the guns fall silent, Israel should apply diplomatic leverage as well, and on three fronts: Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank and Gaza.

Hezbollah has used Israel’s continued control over the Shaba Farms, which the UN certified as part of the Golan Heights, as a pretext to continue its attacks against the Jewish state since the IDF withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000. The Bush Administration appears to have concluded that it would promote Israel’s security and regional stability if Israel ceded the Shaba Farms to the UN. The IDF would redeploy from this small area and permit the new NATO-led force to patrol it, along with all of southern Lebanon and the Syria-Lebanon border (replacing the feckless UNIFIL toy soldiers). The UN Security Council would ultimately turn the territory over to Syria, as part of an exchange for verified Syrian cooperation with a truce in Lebanon and blocking the re-armament of Hezbollah. Syria, which has long displayed a willingness to transfer the area to Lebanon, would proceed to do so, giving Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora a powerful political tool to galvanize the Lebanese public against Hezbollah and its remaining weapons.

There are those who claim that giving the Shaba Farms to Lebanon via Syria is tantamount to surrendering land in response to Hezbollah’s attack on Israel, thus rewarding aggression and violating the international law principle that territory should not be acquired by dint of war. But this objection is off the mark. Syria and Lebanon would receive a sliver of land in exchange for their full cooperation in disarming Hezbollah, accepting a potent multi-national force to patrol southern Lebanon and their common border, preventing new arms from reaching Hezbollah from Iran. This moralistic and legalistic objection, as is so often the case with rightist complaints, ignores what’s best for Israel’s security.

What’s best for Israel’s security is for the U.S. and Israel to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran, isolating Hezbollah’s patron Iran and providing Syria with Western economic and political incentives in trade for its willingness to cut Hezbollah off cold. Those rewards should include a renewal by Israel and the US of the aborted talks with Syria over a land for peace deal in the Golan Heights, talks during which Syria had agreed to “dismantle Hezbollah” as part of a peace treaty. Perhaps it would be the same cold peace that Israel achieved with Egypt. We, and Israel, should be quite content with that, the best of many far worse options. As Prime Minister Menachem Begin used to say, “I’ll take a cold peace over a hot war any day.” Don’t trust the Syrians or the Lebanese? Me neither. Let’s take a page from Ronald Reagan’s book on the Russians: don’t trust, verify (with a twenty thousand-strong combat-hardened NATO force). Hold the Syrians’ feet to the fire when they make sweet promises. Give them some carrots, and speak softly, but carry a very large, bayonet-tipped stick. Make peace—the tough dove way.