Two months ago, on November 5, Secretary of State Kerry attended a ceremony in Tel Aviv marking the eighteenth anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. Kerry lauded Rabin as “a great man of peace,” praised Rabin’s efforts to resolve Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians, and urged rededication to Rabin’s vision.
Secretary Kerry is now striving to achieve agreement between the parties on elements of a peace accord, including security arrangements and future borders. Media reports claim that in the coming weeks he will present his own blueprint addressing these issues. Kerry has repeatedly insisted Israel’s security is a non-negotiable priority in his quest for a path to peace.
Given his warm praise of Rabin and Rabin’s perspectives on the parameters of a genuine, durable peace, one would expect any blueprint from the Secretary of State to incorporate what Rabin defined as areas vital for Israel’s defense.
Rabin, like the authors of UN Security Council Resolution 242 – still the foundation stone of Israeli-Arab peace negotiations – recognized that Israel’s pre-1967 armistice lines left the nation too vulnerable to future aggression. He insisted Israel must hold onto a significant portion of the West Bank to block traditional invasion routes and to protect both Jerusalem and the low-lying coastal plain, the latter home to some 70% of the nation’s population. In his last speech in the Knesset before his assassination, Rabin declared:
The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines.
And these are the main changes, not all of them, which we envision and want in the permanent solution:
A. First and foremost, united Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev — as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
B. The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.
C. Changes which will include the addition of Gush Etzion, Efrat, Beitar and other communities, most of which are in the area east of what was the ‘Green Line,’ prior to the Six Day War.
D. The establishment of blocs of settlements in Judea and Samaria…”
Nothing has changed in the last eighteen years that would diminish Israel’s need to retain the areas referred to by Rabin. The topography of the region has, of course, not changed, and the nations around Israel have not become more peaceful or more reconciled to Israel’s existence.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision of defensible borders for Israel essentially conforms to the parameters laid out by Rabin.
However, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas has categorically rejected the territorial accommodations upon which Rabin insisted. He has indicated he will never recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state, as the product of that national self-determination universally accorded other peoples, including Arab peoples. He denies any Jewish historical link to the land of Israel. He praises those who seek Israel’s destruction and clearly aspires to an accord that renders Israel more vulnerable and ultimately indefensible.
According to media reports, aspects of likely proposals by Kerry include, at most, a time-limited Israeli presence in the Jordan Valley and, in general, fall far short of the areas cited by Rabin as vital to Israel. Some media reports even claim that Ambassador Martin Indyk and others working under Kerry have been trying to persuade former and present Israeli security officials to issue public statements downplaying Israel’s need for defensible borders.
Whatever alternatives Secretary Kerry, and the Obama administration, might propose to Israel’s having borders it can defend, and however much those alternatives are characterized as assuring Israel’s safety, they will in fact be a repudiation of Rabin’s legacy in his defining of key territorial requirements for Israel’s survival and well-being. Any such dismissing of the Rabin parameters should be rejected by Israel and challenged by all those genuinely concerned with the Jewish state’s security.