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Generals weigh-in on '67 lines

IDF General Dov Tamari rips apart the notion -- promoted in the wake of Prime Minister Netanyahu's visit to Washington -- that Israel must retain parts of the West Bank for its defense.

Below are excerpts from an article published Friday in Yedioth Ahronoth's "Seven Days" weekend supplement. Yedioth Ahronoth interviewed IDF Generals Dov Tamari and Aharon Zeevi-Farkash, both served as IDF intelligence chiefs.

The two also make a compelling case for the urgent need, for Israel's sake, to make progress on Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Bibi, It is Possible to Defend Israel from the 1967 Border Lines
by Ronen Bergman and Binyamin Tobias

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's speech to Congress reminded Brig. Gen. (res.) Dr. Dov Tamari--the former commander of the [legendary commando unit] Sayeret Matkal and who was the first chief intelligence officer in the IDF in the 1970s--of a story from the days of the beginning of his military career.
Tamari: "In the officers' course I did in 1956, we trained not far from Rosh Haayin. The scenario we were given in some of the drills was one that we recited like this: 'an enemy cell has broken through from Tulkarm in order to bisect Israel into two. You are the company commander, you have two submachine guns and a mortar, prevent the country from being bisected into two.' In 1956, this scenario elicited a smile from us, but when the prime minister says this in a speech to Congress and explains to the entire world that we will be incapable of defending ourselves against terror organizations that come from across the 1967 borders, I don't find it funny at all."

Q: What infuriates you about this statement?

"As I see it, one of the IDF's problems and of the politicians in general, is sometimes their thinking. They think, but only about what they have to think that minute. But when you recite, over and over, an accepted slogan and present it as statesmanship, for example: 'it is impossible to defend the State of Israel from the 1967 borders'--I find that to be very problematic."

Q: Why?

"Because of course it is possible to defend Israel from the 1967 borders. After all, we managed to defend the state even during the War of Independence, in the 1956 campaign and in the Six-Day War, when the balance of forces between us and the enemy was much worse, and we did a pretty good job. What are we being told today? That it is impossible to defend ourselves against Hamas, Hizbullah, and the Palestinians, from the 1967 borders? What are they compared to the armies with which we fought? In other words, I conclude from this that this is a [negotiating] position and that there is a very strong desire to believe in it, regardless of the reality on the ground."

Q: What do you think will happen this September, with the Palestinian declaration on the establishment of a state? Is this indeed a political tsunami or it much ado about nothing?

Zeevi-Farkash: "Judging by the situation at the moment, it could well be that the Americans and the Europeans will vote against or abstain, and therefore there will be no weight to the UN Security Council or UN General Assembly resolution. But basically there is another problem here: the Palestinians are liable to be left, after this vote, without any horizon. The meaning of this is that the overflowing lava that led to the earthquakes that we saw in Egypt and in Tunisia, are liable to also erupt here."

Q: Do you fear a regional explosion in September?

Zeevi-Farkash: "The Palestinian lack of diplomatic success, coupled with our stubbornness, which stems from a lack of understanding about the volcano we are sitting on--all these are liable to bring about an explosion. It is impossible to go on thinking that when everything is on fire in our neighborhood, we are in a sterile zone that the flames don't reach and that what goes on around us will not have an effect on us and on the Palestinians.

"I thought that Bibi's speech was impressive, but he could have made it two years ago already. If he really thought that no matter what nothing will happen in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, why did he have a problem saying 'yes, but' to the Palestinians two years ago? The problem is that  Bibi's speech did not fix the problem of delegitimization that Israel will face in September."

Q: Must Israel still worry about the problem of legitimacy?

Tamari: "One of the factors that make it possible to conduct military campaigns against our enemies in the world is the sense that the military campaign is vital, and that is precisely what legitimacy means. And the fact is that the judge of legitimacy is the international community. We did not have a problem with legitimacy in 1948 or in 1956, not in 1967 and not even in 1973. But now, if we do not ensure legitimacy, we will lose our ability to use our military might."


Tamari: "I ask myself how it happened that until 1967, the IDF ended wars with good military results, and that since 1967--the War of Attrition, the Yom Kippur War, the first Lebanon War, the Second Lebanon War and everything in between--we did not have good military results."

Q: How do you explain that?

"The truth is that we've never, including the War of Independence or the Six-Day War, have ever won any war. If we had won any war, perhaps there would be no more wars. We had impressive military successes up until the Six-Day War, there is no doubt of that, but no triumphs. I think that in the last 40 years we were not successful, from a military aspect, in any of the wars."

Q: Why did that happen?

"From a technological aspect, the IDF is on a par with the leading armies in the world, and in any event--is far above any Arab army or an organization like Hizbullah. But there is no correspondence between the technological capabilities and the military results we achieved."

Q: So where does some of the money go that the security establishment takes?

"I have one answer--and you won't like it: to repair the previous, unsuccessful, wars."

(Translation by Israel News Today)