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Zombie threat: Rebuttal of the arguments against 67 borders

A lot of people appear to be concerned about the “indefensibility” of 1967 borders. A lot of people also seem to be worried about the prospect of Zombie apocalypse. Far be it from me to imply that there is any overlap between the two groups. Nonetheless, these two notions have one thing in common: much like Zombies, the threat posed by 1967 does not exist.

This is not an original point: it has been made by commentators as diverse as Jonathan Chait and Josh Marhsall, and many others, I am sure. Their general message has been that the Israeli security establishment has long concluded that the threat of a massive invasion by conventional military forces has vastly diminished and as a result, the concerns raised by the border that existed before the occupation in 1967 are no longer very relevant.

In this post, I would like to offer a more systematic rebuttal of the “indefensible” borders argument. As a proxy for this position, I will refer to a popular video, which purports to outline Israel’s security concerns in the framework of negotiations with Palestinians.

As I have already explained, this line of argumentation inevitably implies support for annexation of the entire West Bank and Israeli rule over millions of Palestinians. Nonetheless, it may be worthwhile to examine the points raised by this video on their merit, regardless of their implications.

1967 war – The video states that during the war, Israel was attacked by four Arab armies on three fronts. This statement, as well as the graphic accompanying it, are largely correct, but highly misleading. The war began with a surprise preemptive air strike by Israel on the Egyptians. Arab counterattacks on Israeli territory amounted to limited air strikes (with the few planes they had left), some artillery shelling, and two relatively minor territorial moves in Jerusalem and the Northern front. The vast majority of offensive action during the war, from its initiation to the last moment, was undertaken by Israel. This is actually demonstrated by the video, which shows no ground forces crossing into Israel’s pre-1967 borders. I am not even going to go into their absurd portrayal of UN Security Council resolution 242 (just read the full text), because I want to focus this post on security issues.

Jordan rift valley – The video points to two threats this valley is supposed to block. First, a conventional military attack (armored, the graphic implies). Such an attack on this front is highly unlikely, and is not considered a significant threat by the IDF, which has no plans to fight Jordanian, Iraqi and Iranian armored forces. Even if they were to attack, these forces have numerous ways of circumventing the valley. Second, the video argues that the boundary could be a crossing point for terrorist weapon and knowledge. However, such arms and knowledge have been able to cross through Israel’s own borders, including the Gaza-Egypt border, when Israel controlled it. The Jordan border has been relatively quiet because the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is keeping it that way, not Israel.

The mountain ridge – Here, the video notes that Israel would be very vulnerable to rocket attacks from the West Bank Mountains. This is the only claim in the video that is not misleading. Israel has been able to prevent rocket attacks from the West Bank because it controls it, and this has not been the case in Gaza or Lebanon. The solution proposed, however, is an oxymoron. If Israel controls the mountain ridge (or “key points” thereof) and the Jordan valley, it controls the entire West Bank. There is no room left for a Palestinian state, “demilitarized” or otherwise. Of course, permanent control of millions of Palestinians is itself a security headache, not to mention many other moral and political issues.

Unified Airspace Control – There is really not much point in discussing this issue, since there is no significant Palestinian opposition to this idea. I should mention, however, that it is also misleading, as this is not, and has never been, a major security concern for Israel. Moreover, Israel has become so dominant in terms of its air force capability that it is unlikely to be challenged on this front.

Arteries of Transportation – This may be the video’s most intentionally misleading argument. The graphic shows numerous transportation arteries, the vast majority of which runs within the 1967 borders. To say that Israel must control these arteries is to say that it should control Tel Aviv. The video tries to create an impression that is a major bone of contention, which is totally false. There are some exceptions, though. Some of Israel’s major arteries pass through the West Bank. Of course, this was a choice motivated by expedience and convenience, not necessity. No part of Israel would be disconnected from another, if the West Bank is ceded.

In summary, this video contains five major claims, of which two are false and two are irrelevant. The only claim that stands up, about the threat posed from West Bank mountain ridge, is a genuine concern, although it could probably be managed through deterrence and countermeasures. Even if they could not, Israel has not hesitated to invade both Lebanon and Gaza to deal with such threats, so it seems odd to argue that withdrawing from the West Bank would pose insurmountable security problem. Israeli “security” concerns regarding 1967 lines are largely an artifact of fabrication and paranoia, much like Zombies. Only, in this case, the consequences are dead real.

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    COMMENTS

    1. plo

      We, the Israeli people, chose a right wing president. Get a break. Next one is Liberman.

      Reply to Comment
    2. directrob

      I think you forgot the fact that the movie claims Israel was given a right for new defensible borders. A claim that is simply not true.
      .
      Time to learn peace brings secure borders not weapons.

      Reply to Comment
    3. ARTH

      Even if all of this was true, it hardly justifies the settlements and the resulting confiscation of Arab land and water. The arguments of the “security right” have to be separated from those of the “settlement right.” The ultimate issue concerning “The Occupation” is human rights and that is just what the Palestinian Arabs are denied, in every sort of unjust way.

      Reply to Comment
    4. max

      ARTH, you have a valid point, that clashes with the national and human rights of the Jewish people in Israel.
      Would you suggest that they commit suicide, or simply leave for greener pastures earlier?
      Are you denying the fact that the hostilities started before the ’67 war, indeed before ’48? Or that no Palestinian leader has recognized Israel’s right to exist as the embodiment of a Jewish Home?
      In Netanyahu’s views, returning to the pre-’67 situation makes no sense, as it’ll simply invite a new aggression: what do you know to fault him?

      Reply to Comment
    5. Joni

      Although the movie has its flaws, this rebuttal is as flawed. Answering your points:

      1967 – Your point (that Israel’s attack was the first attack) actually support the need for defensible border. Israel attacked first in 1967 *because* of its indefensible borders. Most Israelis believe that if Israel had not attacked first the war would have taken longer, with many more dead and Israel existence put in danger. Defensible borders will provide more strategic depth and stability and will reduce the need of attacks like the one in 1967.

      Jordan rift valley – So what if right now there is no threat coming from Jordan. Do you know the future? Do you know what will happen in Iran, Iraq and with the Hashemic kingdom? Are you seriously saying that Israeli presence in the Jordan river can do nothing to reduce the amount of smuggling and terror in case there will be such in the future? How can you tell now what technologies can be used in the future to be applied in such situations? I’m sorry, but your claim as if IDF presence in the Jordan river makes no difference on the security of Israel makes no sense to me.

      The mountain ridge – I don’t see how you go from “Israeli control on key points of the mountain ridge and the Jordan valley” to “There is no room left for a Palestinian state”. Can’t you do the necessary land swaps so there will be enough room?

      Reply to Comment
    6. Roi Maor

      Joni – Israel attacked first in 1967 because that had given it a major tactical advantage, and because of its reliance on reserve forces, which meant it could not sustain a state of high alert as long as the Arab states. 1967 borders in the West Bank had absolutely nothing to do with that, because of one simple fact: Israel did not want a fight in the West Bank, and pleaded with the Jordanians to avoid such a conflict, even after launching its preemptive strike. The major threat was posed by the Egyptians (which were also the target of the preemptive strike), and there, Israel had retreated to the 1967 borders more than 30 years ago, without being imperiled.

      Jordan Valley – Yes, we do not know what will happen in the future. But the reason this threat seems unlikely is because of these states’ strength, not because of their intentions. If they grow strong enough to strengthen Israel on the conventional battlefield, they will also have ways to circumvent the Jordan valley. I did not say Israeli presence in the Jordan valley makes no difference, but I do think this difference is minor, and the reason are provided in the post.

      The Mountain ridge – The West bank is composed of the Jordan Valley and the Mountain ridge. There is no land swap that could replace the entire West Bank.

      Reply to Comment
    7. The settlement maze is more exposed than Netanyahu’s quote of nine miles, because it is a maze.

      The next logical assertion (as occurs in an expansions), is that only a rectangle (river to sea) is defensible.

      But, that belies the fact that security is constructed of two concerns: good relations with neighbors and military defensibility.

      Netanyahu seems to apply that thinking in 80/20 terms, 80% defensibility, 20% good relations.

      The reality of successful security is the opposite proportion, 80% good relations, 20% defensibility.

      In the stock market, those that invest by emotion (greed and/or fear are the two), lose. When the masses get to recognize that a trend exists that they can join, its usually close to passing or already passed. And, that the trend itself, the groupthink, creates its own demise.

      The Netanyahu campaigns in the US this week appealed to “reasoning by emotion”.

      Success becomes dangerous.

      Reply to Comment
    8. max

      “The settlement maze is more exposed than Netanyahu’s quote of nine miles, because it is a maze.”
      That’s why Netanyahu said that only the large blocks will stay within Israel, so your next sentence is irrelevant
      .
      80/20 – I wonder where you got these figures from, but again your details are besides the point: based on his view of historical reality, Netanyahu concludes that exposing his neck today risks resulting not in good relationship but losing his neck. I haven’t see you challenging his reasoning.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Netanyahu hasn’t said anything specific, which is a big part of the problem.

      We are left with the question “do I trust Netanyahu?” or “do I trust Israel?” to manifest a clear and consented peace?

      The settlement maze is what we’ve got now. Even the large settlement blocs extend deep in the West Bank, and in peninsula (exposed).

      I don’t know what would be the least exposed border, but the settlement blocs are.

      Again, that leaves the continued expansion to a rectangle as the only possible “defensible” border, which would require extended gross isolation of Israel, even among those that see parts of Netanyahu’s logic.

      The significance of the combination of defensibility combined with constructed good relations (a controllable/creatable result of determined actions), is that security really is constructed of the two, and relying much more on good relations than on military defensibility.

      I’m not sure if that is possible, was ever possible, or whether it was ruined as a prospect by 2006 and 2008/9.

      The course of the river needs to be changed, intentionally and well-designed. The currently channeled paths lead to oblivion.

      Reply to Comment
    10. max

      I love this “Netanyahu hasn’t said anything specific”
      What did the Palestinian side say? They haven’t even acknowledged Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state (Netanyahu provided the parallel), so talks about this or that exact line are quite premature at this stage.

      Reply to Comment
    11. ARTH

      Dear Max:
      I deny nothing.
      I suggest that you read what I wrote more carefully and not through the prism of your ideological projections upon me.
      AR.

      Reply to Comment
    12. max

      Arth, I re-read and you’re right: I apologize.

      Reply to Comment
    13. The PA very clearly has accepted Israel’s right to exist as Israel, and implemented many features to accomplish that, including prosecution of terrorist activity directed at Israel, convincing the Al Aqsa Martyrs to hand in their weapons.

      The PA had submitted a specific proposal to the Netanyahu regime, which the Israelis refused to even open.

      Its not really a good faith approach. It is not called on the carpet largely because of the gullibility and actually disinterest of the American Congress.

      Rather than acknowledge that the PA did submit a specific proposal to further negotiations, the story of their supposed reluctance to negotiate is spun and believed.

      If peace is a valid goal, then why not pursue it in earnest?

      Why not initiate a 5-year settlement construction moratorium, in fact? And test what occurs. Five years is a short period.

      Reply to Comment
    14. abban aziz

      First off, your analysis is moot because you continue to repeat the mantra of “67 borders.” There is no such thing as 67 borders. Obama, the PLO, the UN, Israel, EU, have never ever said anything about “67 borders.” Read Obama’s transcripts, nothing about “borders.”

      It was an ARMSTICE LINE. Obama is insisting Israel dramatic territorial concessions even though each other Israel has withdrawn it has not brought peace but more violence and instability.

      The Palestinians don’t have a plan of self-government. Abbas was elected to a 4 year term yet he is in his 7th. Fayyad isn’t even an elected official. The PNA is totally reliant on foreign aid to survive. Hamas rules Gaza and totally rejects Israel as a state.

      I mean…really, what more can Israel do? How about the Palestinians compromise for a change.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Ezra

      this comment was removed

      Reply to Comment
    16. Y.

      I am glad to see that Roi has decided to share his expensive military experience in order to elucidate us on the question of the 67′ borders… Oh, wait, he doesn’t have any.

      A) 67 war – Roi is missing the point. Israel was safe _because_ it attacked first. Unfortunately, this is not a luxury one can always rely on. If this was like the 73 war, Israel would not have had the backward defensive lines it had back then and would not exist.

      B) Jordan rift valley – the existence of other avenues of attack does not mean we have to leave one open, no more than the ability to break windows means we have to always leave the door open.

      C) The mountain ridge – if Roi had followed his argument he’d have to reject this too. After all, sooner or later some Palestinian would be able to fire _one_ rocket out of the WB. At which point Roi (consistently) would point out that Israel could not completely cover the WB. Since Israel can’t ever guarantee itself 100%, per Roi we have to reject the 99% alternative…

      D) Arteries of Transportation – this misstates the argument significantly. See for example [1] for what is being talked about.

      [1] http://www.acpr.org.il/publications/books/06-Zero-steinitz.pdf

      Reply to Comment
    17. Roi Maor

      @Y.- “I am glad to see that Roi has decided to share his expensive military experience in order to elucidate us on the question of the 67′ borders… Oh, wait, he doesn’t have any.”

      LOL. If only that were true.

      Reply to Comment
    18. Y.

      In retrospect, this was far too personal from me and I apologize. Nevertheless, you wouldn’t fall into my classification as a military expert.

      Reply to Comment