Getting Back on Track: A Working Program for a New Era in Israel

previous section: Introduction

Wake-Up Call - A Work Plan for a New Era in Israel

Dan Ben-David

National Security Work Plan

Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish-democratic state necessitates an urgent and historic decision to preserve a solid Jewish majority within the sovereign borders of the country, a majority that should be maintained only through moral and legal means.  Hence, the determination of Israel’s borders must reflect demographic and defense considerations, even when these come at the expense of the Jewish people’s historic right to the entire Land of Israel.

Demographic considerations dictate not only avoiding the inclusion of densely populated Palestinian areas within the country’s borders, but also a focused national effort to encourage immigration and its absorption; to strengthen Jewish presence in areas of national and security importance, such as Jerusalem and its surroundings, the Negev and the Galilee; and unconditional refusal to allow the return of Palestinians to Israel.


¬      Ensuring Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish and democratic state, with a solid Jewish majority sustained only by moral and legal means.

¬      Providing security for Israel’s citizens.

¬      Separating from the Palestinians with the aim of reaching a final status agreement of “two states for two peoples” between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean.

¬      Establishing equality of civil obligations alongside equality of civil rights.

¬      Preserving and strengthening the Jewish people and reinforcing the ties between the State of Israel and the Jewish and Israeli communities abroad.

Policies Required for Achieving the Objectives

1.    A Strategic Plan for the Day after Disengagement from Gaza and Northern Samaria

The time has come for Israel to determine a long-term national defense strategy targeted at ensuring the future existence and the Jewish-democratic identity of the State of Israel.  There are 10.5 million people living today between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.  By the year 2020, this number will rise to about 15 million – of which 45% will be Jewish.  Preservation of the Jewish, democratic and Zionist identity of the State of Israel necessitates parting ways with the Palestinians.

The strategic work plan detailed here delineates a clear track that combines elements of various plans proposed separately by the reserve generals Ami Ayalon, Giora Eiland and Uzi Dayan, and by former U.S. President Bill Clinton.  It includes principles that, from Israel’s perspective, must be included in any final status agreement, it provides two alternative options upon which such a permanent agreement could be based – while prioritizing between them – and it also provides an option in the event that it will not be possible to reach a final status agreement that includes the essential conditions for Israel.

In the first stage Israel needs to call for negotiations with the aim of reaching a final status agreement within a defined period of time, based on sections A and B below:

A.      Six Principles on which any Final Status Agreement must be Based

·       Palestine will be the only state of the Palestinian people, just as Israel is the only state of the Jewish people.

·       The right of return of Jews will be realized in Israel and the right of return of the Palestinians will be realized in Palestine only.

·       Permanent borders will be mutually agreed upon by all sides, taking into consideration security needs, demographic realities and the 1967 borders.

·       The Palestinian state will be demilitarized and will not constitute a direct or indirect threat to the State of Israel.

·       Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.  There will be no change in the status quo of the holy basin, with freedom of religion and full access to holy sites guaranteed to people of all religions.

·       The final status agreement will mark the cessation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and an end to all mutual claims.

These principles include Israel’s red lines that guarantee its future security and character as well as Jerusalem as its capital.  Israel must not sign any permanent treaty that does not include an agreement by all signatories to these basic guidelines.

B.     Main Alternatives for Dividing the Territory (as part of a future final status agreement)

·       The preferred alternative: A multilateral agreement between Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan involving a three-way exchange of territory.

The population of Gaza is currently 1.3 million. In the year 2020 it is projected to reach 2.5 million. Apart from the severe problem of population density, Gaza faces a critical shortage of jobs. Employment of these workers in Israel – the policy in place since 1967 – represents a problematic long-term solution for both sides:

-       Palestinians are employed in Israel under conditions that violate basic Israeli labor laws.  Aside from the extremely problematic legal and moral implications of this, the end result is a crowding out of Israelis from the labor market and a severe blow to the wages of unskilled Israeli workers.

-       From the Palestinian perspective, the signing of a final status agreement needs to open before them a window of opportunity for achieving a significant improvement in their standards of living.  Such an improvement cannot come from menial labor in Israel but from large-scale investments in physical and human capital infrastructures in the Palestinian areas – financed generously and monitored closely by international donors and foreign experts once the agreement has been signed – which will provide jobs today and hope for the future.

Therefore, the preferred alternative for dividing the land is a multilateral agreement between Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Jordan that is based on three guiding tenets: maintaining Israeli sovereignty over main Jewish settlement blocs; finding a long-term solution to severe problems of population density and unemployment in Gaza; establishing an economic foundation that will provide an incentive for all sides to continue abiding by the agreement in the future.

Following are the main points of the preferred alternative:

-       Egypt will transfer to Palestine an area in Sinai adjacent to Gaza, on which a new city and large harbor will be constructed.

-       In return for the area received from Egypt, the Palestinians will yield to Israel areas containing large Jewish settlement blocs situated close to the green line, as well as minor border amendments.

-       As compensation for territory that will remain in Israel’s hands, Egypt will receive Israeli land in the Negev north of Eilat and adjacent to the Egyptian border.  This area will enable construction of an elevated or an underground land passage – approximately 20 kilometers in length – for vehicles and oil pipelines connecting Jordan and Egypt.

-       Jordan will gain direct land access to a port on the Mediterranean, with all the ensuing economic advantages.

The benefits to Israel, Palestine and Jordan are clear.  The advantage for Egypt results from defusing the explosive overcrowding and socio-economic pressure along its border with Gaza, from the taxes and tolls that it will collect from the vehicle traffic and oil flow to and from the Palestinian port city, and from the commerce that will materialize in Egyptian territory along the new route connecting the Palestinian city and the Jordan-Egypt corridor north of Eilat.

That said, it would be reasonable to assume that part of the traffic along the new route will come at the expense of traffic through the Suez canal, an outcome that will reduce – though not entirely eliminate – Egypt’s gains from the agreement (making American aid to Egypt, roughly 2 billion dollars a year since 1979, contingent on that Egypt’s acceptance of the agreement would act as additional “encouragement”).

·       The second alternative: In the event that it is not possible to reach a multilateral agreement, the second alternative would be a bilateral agreement between Israel and Palestine, along the parameters put forth by President Clinton in November 2000, with a minimal exchange of territory between the two countries.  Israel would receive settlement blocs situated close to the Green line plus minor border adjustments.  In exchange, Israel will give the Palestinians land in the Negev that is adjacent to Gaza.

·       The most problematic alternative which should be rejected out of hand: An agreement between Israel and Palestine that includes the transfer of territory from the Arab-populated “triangle” within Israel to Palestine in return for the settlement blocs.  Those who propose this alternative fail to take into consideration that the basic rights of every Israeli citizen include freedom of movement anywhere in the country, including the freedom to choose where to live.

How many of the residents of the “triangle” area will agree to remain in a house that is to be transferred to the sovereignty of a third-world country, with all the problems inherent in such a country? It is not unlikely that hundreds of thousands of Arab-Israeli citizens will simply prefer to move to Haifa, Tel Aviv or Jerusalem rather than to Palestine. In this context a legal issue may arise as to whether the extremely high civilian cost of the compensation paid to the Gaza strip evacuees could constitute a legal precedent for compensating those evacuating the “triangle”. In any event, this alternative will not solve any demographic problem – as seen by its proponents – since the same Arab population will remain in Israel, while the country loses its direct means of access to the Galilee via Wadi Ara.

It is possible that the true motivation of the proponents of this alternative is to revoke the citizenship of Israeli citizens by birth in order to compel them to move to Palestine.  However, such a policy is not only immoral, it is not feasible for a country dependent on trade and diplomatic ties – not to mention friendship – with the West.

C.     If a Final Status Agreement Cannot be Reached

It stands to reason that the conflict will eventually end in agreement between the sides.  But until then, Israel cannot afford to wait passively – in view of the grave ramifications that the default scenario will have on the future of the country.  Should it become apparent that there is no Palestinian leadership willing, or able, to reach a final status agreement with us along the principles laid out above, then Israel must act unilaterally to ensure its continued existence as a Jewish-democratic state.

The guiding principles of such a unilateral step are as follows:

·       Israel will continue to wage an unremitting war on terrorists and on the terrorist infrastructure in all its forms, in every location, and with all the legitimate means at its disposal, while at the same time demanding that the Palestinian leadership eliminate the violence, the terror and the incitement.

·       In lieu of an agreement, Israel will be free to determine its temporary borders and its security arrangements.  This entails initiation of an additional disengagement in Judea and Samaria to a temporary border that will enable the IDF to provide security and for Israel to maintain a solid Jewish majority within its borders.

Implementation of this strategic national security initiative means putting our destiny into our own hands. It will strengthen the personal and national security of Israel’s citizens and it will ensure the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish, democratic and Zionist state.  Even if it will not be possible to reach a final status agreement in the foreseeable future, this initiative transfers the conflict with the Palestinians onto a track that we will be able to deal with as long as necessary – a fact that may help spur Palestinian understanding that time is no longer on their side.

2.    Security

·       Provision of security also includes the immediate completion of the security fence. The fence is a vital and proven defensive measure for saving lives and for fighting terrorism. In areas that Israel is already protected by security fences – along the Jordan river, the Golan Heights, the Lebanese border, and around the Gaza strip – these barriers have proven to be very effective in preventing the infiltration of terrorists. The security fence must therefore be completed at once.

-       The route of the fence should be as close as possible to the Green Line in order to limit, as much as possible, the link between the urgent security need for the fence and the political and diplomatic implications on future final status agreements that may emanate from its placement.

-       Jewish communities outside the fence should be protected with barriers along their municipal boundaries and by protection of the main traffic arteries connecting them.  That said, these difficulties should be taken into consideration when determining the scope of the subsequent unilateral disengagement (in the absence of an agreement between the sides).

·       The world-wide campaign against terror.

-       Israel must continue to support the campaign against terror led by the United States and assist it in every possible manner.

-       Israel should encourage directing the campaign against Syria, Iran and the Hezbollah and should promote steps leading to the dismantling of the terror infrastructures in Syria and Lebanon.

·       The threat from unconventional weapons of mass destruction.

-       It is vitally important to prevent the development of nuclear and other unconventional weapons in the area, with diplomacy as the primary means for achieving this goal.

-       The new international norms perceive for the first time a linkage between terror and unconventional weapons of mass destruction.  This is an important opportunity that Israel can and must utilize as leverage in an unwavering campaign against the acquisition of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons and of ballistic capability by Iran and Syria.

-       Should diplomatic efforts prove unsuccessful in preventing Iran from attaining nuclear capability, and if it becomes apparent that in the aftermath of such diplomatic failure the United States and its allies will not take military action against Iran before it passes the nuclear threshold, then Israel must itself neutralize this existential threat. Under these circumstances, Israel should employ any means necessary to ensure that neither Iran – nor any other country in the area – acquires a nuclear capability.

·       The Israel Defense Forces

-       The IDF is the people’s army within a democratic country with an independent judicial system and led by a freely-elected and legal government.  The very fact that all this needs to be explicitly stated is an indication of the deep chasm currently dividing some parts of the country’s population from others.  Under these circumstances, it is important to reaffirm the need to reject any form of organized refusal on the part of IDF soldiers to obey commands.

-       It is important that the IDF should continue to be the people’s army, in which soldiers from all walks of life must serve.  Conscripts must receive salaries for their service, which is not currently the case.

3.    Equality of Rights alongside Equality of Obligations

One of the most important civil rights is the right to democratically choose our representatives, who determine the kind of country we live in, its character, the extent of dangers that our children will face, the key issues that affect our quality of life – and at times, even our very existence.

·       The right to vote is a basic right that should be given:

-       Only to citizens living in the country – who must bear the consequences of their choice.

-       Only to those who obey the laws of the country.  A person whose freedom is taken away by society should not be given the freedom to participate in determining the agenda of that society, as long as he is in prison.

·       Equality of rights is a fundamental condition of democracy.  Equality of obligations should be regarded in the same manner.  In a society that requires its citizens to pay a heavy price, in terms of blood and taxes, it is inconceivable that wide sections of the population have the right to participate in determining the price – but are exempt from paying the resultant costs.  All of Israel’s citizens share the same fate.  Full equality of rights and obligations is a prime expression of this and a key factor in instilling a common sense of partnership and purpose.

-       Israeli Jews:  Israel does not force any citizen to live here.  A Jew who chooses to live in the Jewish state must take part in its defense.

-       Israeli Arabs:  Although there is still much that needs to be done to improve the conditions faced by Israel’s Arab citizens, it is important to stress that throughout the entire Arab world there is no other true democracy that even approaches Israel’s standard of living. Therefore, not only Israeli Jews but also Israeli Arabs must understand that they have a lot to lose if Israel should cease to exist.


-       As long as there continues to be a compulsory military draft in Israel, then every Israeli citizen must serve their country – either in the army or in national civilian service to the community and the country.  Just as discrimination on the basis of gender, religion or ethnicity must never be tolerated when it comes to providing rights, then it is inconceivable that different measuring sticks can apply when it comes to imposing obligations.

-       Since the main need of a country at war is an army strong enough to deter enemies, to provide early warning, and to win decisively when war is thrust upon it – and since this is the reason for a compulsory military draft in the first place – then Israeli society needs to issue a clear message regarding the need for conscripts to choose military service rather than civilian national service.  This national preference must be expressed in an incentive structure that distinguishes between the length of the respective services. Civilian national service should be 33% longer than service in the Israel Defense Forces.

Once each citizen serves his or her country, there will be a lightening of the burden on those who serve – including in the length of service – and an increase in the common sense of purpose, in the pride in one’s country, and in the will to strengthen Israel as our collective home.

4.    Preserving and Strengthening the Jewish People and the Ties between Israel and the Jewish and Israeli Communities Abroad

Slowly but surely, almost without notice, the thread that binds Jews in Israel with the Jewish communities abroad is steadily unraveling.  This is a process that both sides are responsible for, a process that is going to end badly if the leadership – here and there – doesn’t comprehend the big picture, understand its implications, and have the foresight to navigate us to safer shores.

As far as the Jewish communities abroad are concerned, no explanations were required for the generation that survived the holocaust regarding the necessity of a home in which the Jewish people could exist, defend itself and flourish.  The next generation, which grew up during the 6-Day and Yom Kippur wars, did not need reminders that above the third temple hovers a clear and present danger.  Both generations could be proud not only of our ability to build around us one of the world’s strongest defensive shields, but also – and perhaps, in particular – they could take pride in the incredible development of Israeli society in non-defense realms during the post-independence years.

Since then, the violent existential threat has thankfully receded – and with it, the sense of urgency and closeness between both sides (in Israel and abroad) of the subsequent generation. The process that our children’s generation is undergoing today will have profound implications on the future – if not the existence – of Judaism world-wide. 

Israel’s image is not what it used to be, and this is no coincidence.  Our national priorities have changed from top to bottom, and the consequences should surprise no one – with all that this implies regarding the future link between the young generation of Jews living abroad and within Israel.

·       Young people in Israel need to learn from the communities abroad that Judaism is not a simple binary decision: i.e. that one’s choice set is not limited to being either orthodox or secular.  Otherwise, when the religious option is viewed as binary, the result is that many of our children are growing up not just secular, but increasingly anti-religious.  The implications of this are disturbing, and they do not bode well for a country that wishes to continue as the home of the Jewish people.  It is vitally important that our children become much better acquainted with their brethren abroad – to be exposed to Jews who can show them a different face to our religion, heritage and culture.

·       For Jewish young people overseas, the problem is different, but no less serious.  In countries where assimilation is rapidly increasing, there is a growing need for young people to be exposed to a Judaism beyond the confines of the orthodox, conservative and reform synagogues and temples.  They need to see a proud, vibrant and successful Jewish people with religious and non-religious lifestyles that can complement and substantially enrich their current outlook on Judaism.

Israel cannot remain content with its role as a Jewish safe haven.  It must become the home that all Jews – wherever they may be – can and should be proud of and want to identify with.  From the perspective of Jewish communities abroad, the time has come to switch from fund-raising for issues such as poverty and education that the Israeli government is both responsible for and has sufficient funds to deal with – once it gets its priorities straight – and focus on programs, like Birthright Israel (Taglit), that bring young people here from abroad so that they may see with their own eyes the national home of their people, and get to personally know some of its inhabitants.  In doing so, they will provide an invaluable contribution to broadening our own children’s perception of the essence of Judaism.

Additional points of emphasis:

·       Education of overseas youth on Israel, its heritage and the Hebrew language is an important means for strengthening the bond between Jewish communities abroad and Israel.

·       Israel should continue to support the immigration of Jews to Israel – the sovereign national home of the Jewish people.

·       The destiny shared by Israel and Jews throughout the world necessitates a common struggle to protect Jews against all forms of anti-Semitism and against attempts to delegitimize the State of Israel.

·       Israel should recognize the unique character and needs of the Israeli communities abroad, to encourage them to join together, and to forge closer ties with them.  Israel should assist these communities in promoting Israeli education and culture, and in particular, the teaching of Hebrew.  It should encourage visits to Israel, service in the IDF by the children of Israelis abroad, and to encourage their return to Israel.

next section: Socio-Civic Work Plan