Basil Liddell Hart, the British military strategist and commentator, noted 75 years ago that while war places a boundary on the strategic horizon, comprehensive strategy looks beyond war to the peace that follows it. Ariel Mayor Ron Nahman of the Likud yesterday chose a rude but popular phrase to express his view of the government's strategic horizon: CYA (cover your ass). Nahman was referring to the the decision about the separation fence, but the definition is good for practically every other matter that Israeli governments have touched in the last decade. Since the signing of the Oslo accords and until today, except for one failed attempt by Ehud Barak, no government has presented the public with an "overall strategy" that takes into account the peace after the war.
The vacuum that results whenever the political echelon does not reveal its strategy on the issues of war and peace, is filled by generals and various interested parties. When the politicians refuse to state what they regard as the permanent borders of the country, officers sketch the boundaries with the separation fence; when the decision-makers refuse to deal with the future of a quarter of a million Palestinian Jerusalemites, public opinion dictates the "Jerusalem envelope," adding another 50,000 Palestinians to the city; when the government ignores the demographic problem between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River, a handful of settler activists, including ministers, get their hands on more budgets to invest in the small Jewish communities in the West Bank and Gaza; when instead of talking about peace and its benefits, the politicians incessantly discuss terror and its damage, hope gives way in the public discourse to despair.
The success of the peace with Egypt shows something about the importance of a strategic horizon. In his doctorate on the army's influence over shaping policy, Kobi Michael, who was one of the founders of the joint Israeli-Palestinian patrols in the territories, compared the similarities and differences between the Oslo process from 1993-2000 to the process with Egypt, from 1977 to 1982. Michael notes that in both cases these were far-reaching national political processes, requiring territorial concessions, including the evacuation of settlements.
But while the government had clear concept of the framework of the permanent agreement in the peace agreement with Egypt, no such clarity existed in the case of Oslo. The peace treaty with Egypt set an implementation period, which lasted three years, and at the end the process of transition from war to peace was completed with the formulation of a formal, final peace. The treaty specifically defined the withdrawal dates and the terms of the IDF's redeployment each time. But in the Oslo case, the implementation of the interim period was greatly influenced by political developments and terror incidents. The definitions of the various areas - A, B and C - was not accompanied by precise, clear definitions of the territories to be evacuated, nor were new lines of deployment drawn.
As opposed to the Egyptian case, among other reasons because of the presence of a civilian population, the Oslo agreement dictated continued IDF friction with the Palestinians. In the absence of a clear concept of the nature of relations that should be formed with the Palestinians, the IDF's concepts of security needs, resulting from that very friction, dictated reality. Lacking any political instructions, the IDF, willingly or not, became the serial interpreter of the government's (lack of) policies.
Three years of unnecessary friction brought the army's senior commanders to the conclusion that if they don't take strategy into their own hands, the politicians won't. When the government doesn't decide on a political strategy to put an end to the war over the disputed land, the army has no choice but to create a security border, in a desperate attempt to end the terror resulting from the conflict. When the political echelon declares war on the Palestinians, for the glory of CYA, all one can do is hope that among the generals there are some who will be looking over the horizon to the peace that follows the war.
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