Eiland Has No Partner

Giora Eiland's plan to exchange territory between Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Egypt and Jordan proves he is out of touch with reality.

In reading Giora Eiland's complaints about the decision-making process surrounding the disengagement plan, one is filled with amazement: Where does the man think he is living? Until a week ago, he headed the National Security Council, and during his military career, he was head of both the Planning and the Operations directorates of the Israel Defense Forces. Could this be the extent of his grounding in Israel's culture of governance? It begs the comment: "Good morning, Mr. Eiland. You have discovered that crucial decisions are often made because the leader or one of his senior aides has a stomachache, or due to a wife's headache."

Eiland told Ari Shavit in an interview (Haaretz, June 4, 2006) that the disengagement plan was a missed opportunity of historic proportions and that the decision to proceed with it was made without an orderly strategic discourse. His view is seconded by former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya'alon. Anyone who reads a recent book by Ephraim Halevy, former head of the Mossad and Eiland's predecessor at the National Security Council, would learn that he is also dismayed at the way in which George Bush's June 2002 vision of a two-state solution, which he considers a huge diplomatic coup for Israel, turned into the road map, which he regards as serious trouble. Halevy, like Eiland and Ya'alon, lays the blame for the failings on Ariel Sharon's working environment - and though they do not name names, they are referring to the diplomatic hyperactivity of Dov Weissglas. Putting aside the attention that Weissglas and his deeds merit, it is amusing to witness these individuals bemoan work methods ingrained in this country's leadership for generations. Instead of dealing with them, openly and with determination, while they held senior posts, they deemed it sufficient to unload their frustrations after retirement. It is also astonishing to witness s-h-o-c-k-e-d Knesset members jumping on the bandwagon following Eiland's criticism, as if they had just discovered America.

Were these senior civil servants to consider the ways in which other crucial decisions in the diplomatic and security realm were made, they would discover - without going into the actual results of these decisions - that many other conscientious professionals like themselves fell victim to the Israeli culture of governance. They would find, for example, that the Six Day War was managed by a single man, Moshe Dayan, who determined its scope and results. They would ascertain the erroneous considerations that led him to set the borders of greater Jerusalem. They would remember that the Oslo Accord was formulated behind the back of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, who paid Shimon Peres in kind by stitching together the peace treaty with Jordan. They would discover that even when it appears that an orderly decision-making process was carried out by the government, as in the case of the Lebanon War, when the man pulling the strings has a secret objective, he will achieve it behind the backs of the prime minister and his cabinet. Cumulative experience shows that often, important decisions are made when a dominant figure in the heart of government has a worldview and the necessary leadership and determination to implement it - irrespective of the formal procedures for deliberation.

Eiland's gripe also deserves a comment on the substance of his stance. He supports a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that was put forth five years ago by professor of geography Yehoshua Ben Aryeh. The main points of the proposal: Add 600 square kilometers of the Sinai (from Rafah to El Arish) to the Gaza Strip. In return, Egypt would receive 200 square kilometers of the Negev (in the Paran Desert area), and also a land crossing to Jordan. In the West Bank, the Palestinians would give up - for the sake of the Israeli settlement blocs - territory equal to what they would receive from Egypt. The weakness of this solution lies in counting chickens before they have hatched: Neither Egypt nor Jordan have expressed agreement. Furthermore, Eiland (and Ya'alon as well) in effect reject the possibility of Israel and a Palestinian state existing within the 1967 borders. They assume that demographic, economic and geographic factors do not enable a Palestinian state comprised of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to be viable, and such a solution would therefore also not provide security for Israel. This is a morbid outlook that questions Israel's ability to live side by side with its neighbors and ignores the existence of peace treaties with Egypt and Jordan.