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100 ex-generals to Bibi: Reach a Palestinian, regional accord now

Security makes a comeback in peace. If the generals avoid mistakes of the past and put action behind words, they could have an impact.

File photo of Prime Minister Netanyahu holding a security briefing with IDF generals, July 18, 2014. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)

File photo of Prime Minister Netanyahu holding a security briefing with IDF generals, July 18, 2014. (Photo by Haim Zach/GPO)

Over 100 retired and reserve generals, brigadier-generals and senior police officials, including a former head of the Mossad, have signed and published a plea to Prime Minister Netanyahu to reach a reach a regional-based two-state diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In impassioned language, they state their credentials as fighters in Israel’s wars who “fought powerfully on behalf of the state,” and were “impressed by your [Netanyahu’s – ds] wise leadership during Protective Edge.”

They then state their fear that the operation over the summer,

could turn out to have been in vain if we don’t learn that we must take action to prevent the next war. The government of Israel and its citizens do not have the privilege of sitting around with arms folded. The time has come to take responsibility for our future and take up the historic opportunity that has been presented to us following the operation.

Retired IDF Gen. Nati Sharoni, one of the signatories, told +972 Magazine that the historic opportunity relates to the fact that Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and various Gulf states are prepared to revive the Arab Peace Initiative following Protective Edge. The letter was published in Yedioth Ahronoth, one of the top-circulating Hebrew daily papers, along with a double-spread article interviewing some of the signatories.

The authors called upon the still-painful memory of the surprise 1973 Yom Kippur War, “a war whose source was diplomatic blindness of the leaders of Israel,” they write. “We are terrified that the same blindness will undermine the opportunity before us.”

The generals make two interesting points. First, they emphasize the regional approach, which seems to be gaining traction in Israeli discourse lately. And tucked into the letter is the assertion that the West Bank and Gaza must be dealt with simultaneously and together – in contrast to the government’s de facto policy of separation.

We therefore call on you to adopt the regional-diplomacy approach and open negotiations with moderate Arab states and with the Palestinians (in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as one), by leveraging the Arab-Saudi initiative and conducting negotiations over its items…

It is not the first time I have heard senior security figures insist that Gaza and the West Bank must be resolved in an integral way for a diplomatic resolution to advance security. (Gen. Sharoni, like many others, avoids the term “peace,” because he doesn’t believe that idealized peace with Arab states will be achieved any time soon.)

But the overriding theme is that a two-state diplomatic resolution is the real means to security in the region. “The wisdom of leadership is to realize the limits of force. You need to know that there are limits to force,” said Gen. Sharoni.

The writers also push the bar by repeatedly referring to “moderate Arab states,” practically an oxymoron in the mainstream Israeli narrative. While many Israelis still view the Middle East as a single blob of fanatical Islamic terror states poised to devour tiny Israel, they make pragmatic distinctions between regional actors.

You know that the moderate Arab states wish to advance a diplomatic agreement with us that will allow us to cope together with our common enemy[sic]…You know that this is the real answer to the Iranian threat and the threat of terror from ISIS, Hamas, Hezbollah, al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations. And you know that only the regional-diplomatic approach and agreements with the moderate Arab states have a chance of bringing an arrangement with the Palestinians, stability, security and economic success.

They conclude: “We know what is needed to achieve security for Israel, and we know that regional cooperation will contribute to it…Lead – and we will stand behind you!”

The pessimistic reading of this initiative is that during the Oslo years, the Left over-promised when it linked the peace process with security, failing to anticipate or cope with the violence of spoilers. It will be hard to get people to believe again that peace equals security – especially if standards are set too high.  Remarkably, day after day, I still hear Israelis believe that the occupation maintains security. Declarations have been made before, the “Gatekeepers” have stated their criticism, the Council on Peace and Security (retired high-level IDF officers for a two-state peace, several of whom signed the letter) has existed for years – and yet nothing changes.

Still, 100 of the highest-ranking figures from deep inside the military establishment are more meaningful to mainstream Israel than a handful of young people who breach social norms by refusing combat or intelligence reserve duty.

But if the generals wish to move from calling for change to helping make it, they should consider further steps: first, they should maintain ongoing public pressure rather than a single shot, and recruit more people and join those people outside the security establishment who are committed to the cause. Asked if follow-ups are planned, Sharoni responded that he would continue to warn publicly against the dangers of the emerging one-state reality and the need for a change of policy. “Do we have a choice?”

Next, the generals should sharpen the point not clearly stated in the letter: the last five years and three wars have proven, hopefully, that status quo of Palestinian statelessness and Israeli military rule is a security liability for Israel. Suicide bombs have been replaced with rockets, but the occupation remains the primary source of Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, and certainly of Israeli violence against Palestinians. The idea that occupation defends Israel is bankrupt.

Third, the generals should get to work: join track-two initiatives, generate proposals for post-occupation security arrangements, do what generals do best — get the plans in place. The letter pleads to stop making excuses; the tough guys should help see that there are none.

Related:
In the confrontation between Bibi and Obama, Palestinians are a sideshow
Netanyahu’s status quo strategy: Thwarting a Palestinian state
Israeli settlements, U.S. policy: The gap between values and actions

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    1. Pedro X

      The 100 ex-generals should join the political process and run for office. If they win, they can implement their plans for peace.

      In the meantime, the person most Israelis trust to navigate the ship of the Israeli state is Prime Minister Netanyahu. Netanyahu by his limited use of force in Gaza displayed that he understands that force has its limitations or costs. However, this does not mean that there is a solution to the conflict.

      Like the use of force, diplomacy has its limits and costs given the support of terrorism and the positions taken by the Palestinians. Palestinian rejectionism of the underlying reasons for peace, two states for two peoples and security for both, prevents a solution of the conflict. In 2010 two polls confirmed that over 80% of Palestinians are not prepared to comprise on the baseless right of return, without which there can be no settlement. 2014 Washington Institute for Near East Policy found that 60% of the Palestinians reject permanently accepting Israel’s existence and instead suggest their leaders “work toward reclaiming all of historic Palestine, from the river to the sea.”

      A Palestinian PSR study in the same month found that 72% of Palestinians supported the import of Hamas weapons and tactics into the West Bank. The majority of Palestinians reject the two state solution in favor of a military solution, no matter how ridiculous that choice is.

      So, the only solution may be to continue to manage the conflict until Palestinians have a change and are prepared to accept a two state solution which recognizes Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. This means that Palestinians must give up the wrong of return and accept a settlement as the end of the conflict.

      Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Leaving aside the question of just how cherry picked these results are or aren’t, the obvious flaw here is that you are treating transitory inherently dynamic opinion polls from one time and place as if you were sampling unchanging geological rock strata for their mineral content. There is no acknowledgement whatsoever here of how polls would shift if Israel accepted the Arab Peace Initiative. My guess is that the polls would shift hugely.

        Reply to Comment
        • Joel

          “My guess is that the polls would shift hugely.”

          A newly formed Palestinian State, brimming with destitute, returned refugees from Syria, Lebanon and Iraq,etc, is going to accept Israel?
          Fat chance.

          Brian ‘oops moment’ is Israel’s doom.

          Reply to Comment
          • Weiss

            Whining about Israel’s doom will not bring peace…

            Confiscating more disputed land for settlement expansion will not bring peace.

            Clinging to the Far Right where Fascism lies will only bring more bloodshed and Fanatical Extremist behavior…

            Fascism is NOT a Jewish value … Yet it is now in the core of the Israeli Leadership.

            How quickly WE Jews forget…

            As the persecuted gleefully become the persecutors…

            Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, right

            Joel: “Brian ‘oops moment’ is Israel’s doom.”

            Let’s accept (for the sake of argument) that a newly-minted, fully-independent state of Palestine begins to mindlessly fire massive numbers of rockets into Israel.

            One thing Israel isn’t going to do is just sit there and bemoan its inevitable betrayal and impending doom.

            No. Israel will shout its outrage to the world and then launch “Operation Defensive Shield With Extra Doses Of ‘Roid Rage(tm)”

            Honestly, why are Zionists such drama queens?

            Even if the IDF ends this endless occupation it will still be perfectly capable of monstering any military force that the Palestinians would be able to scrape together.

            Heck, the disparity between the two would be in the ratio of about, oh, conservatively, somewhere in the region of infinity-to-zero.

            Still not enough, apparently.

            Apparently all Zionists are as chickenshit as Netanyahu.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            “One thing Israel isn’t going to do is just sit there and bemoan its inevitable betrayal and impending doom.”

            Rockets from the West Bank, Gaza and Hezbollah along with massive tunnels infiltrations is Israel’s doomsday scenario.

            Even if Hezbollah sat on the sidelines, how many years of being ‘double teamed’ from Gaza and the West Bank, could Israel withstand? How much blood and treasure?

            If Israel even APPEARS to look weak, she is as good as doomed.

            Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            The distinction is, that if Israel allows a Palestinian state to happen (and for at least the last five to ten years, Israeli leadership was by far the biggest hurdle to any two-state-solution), then they’ll actually be in their right to attack a Palestinian state with force should the Palestinian military attack first (imagining that Israel would allow a militarized state), or they’d be in their right to conduct operations if the Palestinian security forces couldn’t cope with terrorism.

            Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, right

            Correct, Felix. Joel appears to be under some mistaken believe that if Israel ends this occupation then it is surrendering its right to defend itself against an armed attack launched from that territory.

            Where he got that idea from is a mystery.

            If the IDF completely ends this endless occupation – I mean, really, really ends it, not that bogus “disengagement” nonsense – then Israel’s “right to self-defence” becomes undeniable.

            Any attack by a newly-minted state of Palestine can – and will – be met by force from the IDF, and the Israelis are far, far better armed than any opponent.

            It wouldn’t be a fair fight, and that’s not even taking into account that the IDF doesn’t fight fair.

            Reply to Comment
          • Yeah, right

            Joel: “Rockets from the West Bank, Gaza and Hezbollah along with massive tunnels infiltrations is Israel’s doomsday scenario.”

            Really? If you say so.

            And if that “doomsday” arrived how long would it take the IDF to overrun all of the rocket launching sites, and all of those infiltration tunnels?

            A week, perhaps?

            You know, two days to mobilize the troops, and three days to overrun anything worth overrunning.

            After all, it only took the IDF six days to defeat Egypt, Syria and Jordan combined.

            Standards have slipped, apparently.

            Joel: “If Israel even APPEARS to look weak, she is as good as doomed.”

            Nah, even if you bad-mouth the IDF it will still be vastly more powerful than the combined forces of Hamas and Hezbollah.

            The Two H’s can hurt Israel – in a painful pinch-my-arm sort of way – but they can’t pose an “existential” threat to Israel.

            Not now.
            Not ever.

            Reply to Comment
        • Gustav

          “My guess is that the polls would shift hugely.”

          Guess?

          The stakes are much too high to get it wrong. One of the Generals invoked 1973. But he seems to have learnt the wrong lesson.

          The only reason we survived the 1973 surprise attack was because we didn’t withdraw so the initial successes of Egypt and Syria did not translate into cutting our country in half.

          Of course, the General’s point is that had we withdrawn unilaterally prior to 1973, the Egyptians and Syrians would not have attacked.

          But can we be sure about that? Or would it have turned out like our unilateral Lebanon and Gaza withdrawals? But with much worse consequences …

          Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            You got a 100 — count em — of your Generals insisting on the urgent necessity of moving forward as a STRATEGIC SECURITY NECESSITY but General Joel and General Gustav here got it all figured out otherwise. Amazing country where the extremely accomplished Mossad Chief Dagan openly scorns the Prime Minister’s dangerous fear mongering.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            And you have thousands, including Generals and other Mossad leaders, who don’t agree with the hundred. But general Brian who lives in the US, picks the ones he wants to believe.

            Hey, both Israel and the US are democracies. We are entitled to believe whomever we want to believe.

            I gave my reasons why I disagree with the 100. But your only reason for believing what you believe is because someone else says whatever they say. Contrast: I listen but I also think for myself. YOU however, only listen and quote OTHERS. That’s ok. We humans need followers too. After all we are a herd animal …

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Oh, ja wohl!, you’re such an independent thinker! Hilarious! And on the contrary, how many Gatekeepers agree with Dagan? Face it, there are so many former Shabak and Mossad leaders, men who have forgotten more than you and I will ever know about your true security needs, who agree with Dagan and disagree with Generalissimo “Frei-Denker” Gustav von der Okkupation. Give it up. You embarrass yourself.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Ja wohl?

            Now you are truly being yourself Brian dear. And you are still not saying anything.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Satire is lost on the humorless.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “Satire is lost on the humorless.”

            Only humorless satire is lost on the humorless.

            Talent you ain’t got Brian. You are just part of the herd, a follower.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            @Brian

            The Gatekeepers message was not ‘make peace at any cost’. Their message was ‘talk to the Arabs’, a message I wholly support.

            Remember. The generations that the Gatekeepers were in power, there was little or no dialogue at all with the Arabs.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            That’s the whole point of “The Gatekeepers.” These men only grasped the truth for their country and felt free to speak it AFTER they left power and were at several years removed–less so for Diskin–from the seductions and privileges of power. So you only reveal how little you understand.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            I understand that the Middle East is region where change is swift, and usually for the worse.

            Could the Gatekeepers have foreseen the collapse of Syria and Iraq, the rise of ISIS (which is now in Sinai.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            “Hey, both Israel and the US are democracies. We are entitled to believe whomever we want to believe.”

            No. None of us is “entitled” to believe “whomever we want to believe.” We have a duty to try to discern the truth and to act honorably. In your version of Israeli “democracy” the tyranny of the majority rules, so Israel is democratic for Jews, Jewish for Arabs. The American Founders were much wiser about the problem of the tyranny of the majority. So they wrote a Constitution and developed a truly independent Judiciary to defend that Constitution, an arrangement which crucially protected the rights of minorities against the tyranny of the majority. Israel’s toothless high court exercises only a very weak version of this protection. And then there is the issue of the excessive power of lobbies and monied interests wielding undue influence. Uri Avnery:

            http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1414780973/

            “BINYAMIN NETANYAHU is no fool. Chickenshit or not, unlike Ya’alon he is considered smart and intelligent. So what is he doing?

            There is method in his madness.

            Netanyahu grew up in the United States. When his father was boycotted by Israeli academia, which refused to take him seriously as a historian, the family moved to a suburb of Philadelphia. Binyamin prides himself on having an intimate knowledge of the US.

            What is he thinking about?

            He knows that Israel controls the US Congress. No American politician could possible be reelected if he voiced even the slightest hint of criticism of the “Jewish State”. AIPAC, the most powerful lobby in Washington (apart from the National Rifle Association) will see to that. The powerful grip the Jewish lobby has on the media is a further guarantee.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            “No. None of us is “entitled” to believe “whomever we want to believe.” We have a duty to try to discern the truth and to act honorably.”

            By that, you mean YOUR truth right?

            The problem which I have with YUR truth though, Brian dear, is that I don’t think that IT IS the truth. I actually think that what I advocate is THE truth.

            So, as I said before. both the good old US of A and my country are democracies. You believe that your truth is the truth, I believe that my truth is the truth. Our task is to try to convince each other that what we say is right and that the alternative is false.

            If we succeed, that’s one way in which democracy works. If we fail, then we agree to disagree. That is another way in which democracy works. But if I try to twist your arm, or you try to twist mine to convince each other of OUR truth, then that ain’t democracy. That is totalitarianism which I think extremists tend to advocate. I am a right winger. But not an extremist right winger. That is why I would never twist your arm to try and force you to believe what I believe.

            But if you try to twist MY arm then all you’ll prove is that you are an extreme left winger who advocates totalitarianism. And by the way, you won’t even succeed in twisting my arm because I know how to look after myself.

            Reply to Comment
          • Eliza

            Now, now Gustav – what have you got against followers? Surely they deserve, if not your respect, some lip service to their usefulness.

            Cos, I’ll tell you one thing, without us follows, there would be no leaders. Its us follows, that create leaders, not the other way around.

            Reply to Comment
          • Eliza

            Memo to self – I wish I could spell; alternatively a bit of read and edit would be nice. Its ‘followers’ not follows.

            Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            Nice to see that more and more people, even inside Israel, and even within the political establishment, have to admit that Israel is and was (at least for the last 10 years) the biggest hurdle (by far) to peace and a just two-state-solution.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            @Brian

            General Joel has figured out that the lessons of 1967 and 1973 no longer apply.
            This is ASYMMETRICAL war.

            A long, zero sum game.

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Yet again you reveal how little you understand. Any number of real generals in your own army will tell you that in asymmetric warfare especially, and especially in your own situation, there is no ultimate military solution, no zero sum game, that any real solution must be political.

            Reply to Comment
          • Joel

            “..there is no ultimate military solution, no zero sum game, that any real solution must be political.”

            Tell that to the Palestinians, whose polled opinions are for continuing ‘the struggle’ to liberate all of Palestine.

            Brian. Do you talk to Arabs, or only Jews?

            Reply to Comment
          • Felix Reichert

            Those polls only shifted after Israel had succesfully sabotaged the peace process for the last 10 years or so.

            Reply to Comment
      • rose

        We are so desperate that also such a poor letter – in which the generals clarify also that they were “impressed by your [Netanyahu’s – ds] wise leadership” during the last Gaza War – becomes a reason for hoping something.

        Reply to Comment
      • Hats off to both the generals and the young conscientious objectors who brave real hardships for their stand. Some support for them from retired military personalities would be a welcome additional pressure on the government to end the occupation that threatens the viability of Israel.

        Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Wow …

        Uri Avnery, Oracle of all wisdom. Fawn, people, fawn … Kiss uri’s feet. Quick!

        Reply to Comment
      • Brian

        Thank you for pointing us to this, Bruce. Avnery, who I love, is correct that ”every word Binyamin Netanyahu has ever uttered in favor of peace and the Two-State solution was a blatant lie….Any American diplomat who does not know this should be transferred at once to Micronesia (or Palau).” The idea that Bibi is “afraid” is true in a narrow coalition managing sense, but his cowardice fits hand in glove with his meek obeisance to his father’s sick credo. That obeisance is total. Netanyahu truly is a true believer. He is too weak to develop anything more, anything higher, beyond it. Whether the Americans understand this and ignore it for various reasons having to do with their own machinations or their own imprisonment in the iron grip of AIPAC is another question altogether.

        Reply to Comment
    2. “Every word Binyamin Netanyahu has ever uttered in favor of peace and the Two-State solution was a blatant lie. For him to advocate a Palestinian state is like the Chief Rabbi advocating eating pork on Yom Kippur.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. Kolumn8

      This was organized by Amnon Reshef, formerly chairman of the “Council on Peace and Security”, a group that has yet to see a withdrawal it hasn’t approved.

      I don’t have a particular problem with calls for negotiations in general, but it feels that letters and reports like these come out at the insistence of the American embassy in Israel. Same with previous PR efforts by “Israeli businessmen” in support of Kerry’s initiative. It would suggest that Kerry and company are cooking up a new regional initiative. I wonder if Qatar and Turkey will be invited.

      My view is that there is in fact harm in failed negotiations. It forces both sides to take harsh positions to maintain public support and when the negotiations fail those positions must be reinforced via hard-line rhetoric and actions. Until there is a reasonable chance for success there is no point in having negotiations. And there is no chance of success until the Palestinians accept the principle of two states for two peoples.

      Reply to Comment
    4. bar

      Don’t you love Israeli democracy in action?

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        Bar

        Now you have gone too far. These guys will never salute Israel’s democracy.

        Reply to Comment
        • Ray

          Some of the most egomaniacal and amoral leaders in history were elected “democratically.”

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Jimmy Carter for instance?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ray

            Netanyahu. Manipulative, narcissistic and ruthless. Yet you all seem to love him.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            He is today’s medicine which we must take.

            The appeasement medicine which some of our other leaders tried did not work.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ray

            Bibi is the “medicine” to nothing. He’s just good at self-promotion.

            Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            You take your medicine. We will take ours. Ok?

            Reply to Comment
          • Brian

            Even the quintessential Netanyahu supporters don’t want to be caught dead admitting they love him. LOL.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Brian

      This comment section is an interesting window on the tenacious rabid right and cheerers for the Rabin-murderer and incessant anti-Abbas inciter. Read Rachlevsky today in Haaretz on incest.
      http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/.premium-1.624454

      Reply to Comment
      • Gustav

        You are beginning to sound shrill and hysterical Brian dear.

        Reply to Comment
        • Brian

          You really should get a subscription to Haaretz. It’s indispensable for understanding the situation. Dear.

          Reply to Comment
          • Gustav

            Really? That will be the day …

            It is funny you thinking that you understand things better because you read publications like Haaretz in the states. While you think that we whose feet are on the ground here but who also travel, see a lot and read a lot, don’t understand better than you do. That is a kind of Hutzpah which only SOME Jews have. See? That is why I really accept that you are Jewish. Most non Jews simply don’t display such arrogance. Instead, those who take your position tend to come across as either haters of Jews, or lovers of Arabs, or someone with vested interests or just plain old ideologues with an axe to grind.

            Reply to Comment
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