Sunday, August 28, 2005

The secular case for the West Bank

The mainstream media generally portrays Israel’s desire to hold on to parts of the West Bank as having to do with Jewish religious zeal. Although Judea and Samaria (West Bank) played a huge role in Jewish history, most Israelis want to retain at least some control over parts of the said territory because of its strategic value rather than for messianic reasons.

To understand the strategic importance of the West Bank one must appreciate Israel’s topography. The West Bank is the kidney bean shaped area that juts out from the Jordan River in the east. I drew the boundary myself, so please excuse any slight border inaccuracies. It is important to note that the light brown colored areas indicate elevation. The green areas along the coast are about sea level; the dark green along the Jordan river and dead sea are below sea level.

The distance from the Mediterranean sea to the border of the northern West Bank is about ten miles. From 1948-1967 Israel was a mere ten miles wide along its most populated areas, the coastal plain. What’s more, this area is overlooked by the mountainous West Bank. Thus, a drive from the Mediterranean sea going east starts on flat, level ground which gradually becomes hilly after about ten miles. Within a very short period of time the hills become steeper as the elevation rises. Finally, one reaches the ridge of the Judean and Samarian mountain ranges. Jerusalem (where I drew a circle), for example, is situated on the ridge of the mountains between Judea and Samaria. As one continues east, the land makes a dramatic plunge down to the Jordan River valley and Dead Sea—the lowest point on earth. Any invading army from the east would have to make a difficult steep climb up the eastern slopes of the West Bank in order to attack Israel’s narrow waist. The West Bank provides Israel a measure of strategic depth as well as high-ground from which to better defend itself.

There is nothing in International law that precludes Israel from retaining some of the West Bank. Resolution 242 calls on Israel to withdraw from “territories occupied” in exchange for peaceful borders. 242 does not call on Israel to withdraw from “the” territories or “all” the territories. The exclusion of the definite article “the” was intentional. The drafters of the resolution understood that Israel was a victim of Arab aggression and that Israel had a right to defensible borders in the future.

The West Bank is very different from the Gaza strip. In the event of a final status peace agreement, expect Israel to retain settlements located close to the 1967 border, as well as the sparsly populated desert areas east of the ridge of the West Bank mountain ranges. And if you think Israel will relenquish the 15 or so Jewish neighborhoods built in "east" Jerusalem after 1967, home to some 150,000+ Israelis, you are sorely mistaken.

Update 8/29/05:

Sharon: Not All Settlements in Final Deal

Interviewed on Channel 10 TV, Sharon insisted that all of the main settlement blocs would remain under Israeli sovereignty, but "not all the settlements of today in Judea and Samaria will remain," calling the West Bank by its biblical names.


Blogger airforcewife said...

So far, in such arguments, I always end up saying, "Um, when else in history have we forced a state to give back territory it gained in a war where they were the objects of aggression?"

Occassionally, some idiot says, "Well, you know, Saddam and Kuwait..."

Which tells you about how well public schools are doing their jobs.

Anyway, for the most part, they can't answer.

6:08 AM  
Blogger semite1973 said...

You're right. Also, Israel all ready gave up the vast majority of all territory gained in the 6 Day War when she returned Sinai to Egypt in exchange for the peace treaty. Now Gaza has been returned, and additional parts of the West Bank will probably be returned. But the Arabs should get used to the fact that the clock is not going to be turned back to the eve of June 1967.

7:30 AM  

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