Gold contends that thr regulation refutes arguments that Israel’s risks have weakened or that emerging technologies will compensate for a territorial retreat.
Gold issued the paper, which was written by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, which he directs, out of fear that the opposing viewpoint is gaining ground in Washington.
“Some reduced Israel’s security problems to ‘occasional acts of terror,’” Gold said, quoting a remark made by former Obama administration official Ben Rhodes. “That is a mischaracterization of the problem Israel faces, but I think it is how it is understood by some security experts and non-experts who have access to the highest levels in Washington.”
He also cited reports from 2016 and 2020 from the Center for a New American Security, arguing that elaborate technological solutions and foreign troops could take the place of Israeli troops on the ground.
Before joining the Biden administration, US Deputy Assistant Secretary for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs Hady Amr was an adjunct senior fellow at CNAS, according to Gold.
The report also comes ten months after Israel declared that it was halting its intention to expand its control over major parts of Judea and Samaria, including the Jordan Valley, as outlined in Trump’s peace plan, opting to make peace with the UAE.
Gold sought to relay the view that defensible land borders, which would include the Jordan Valley, are still relevant, and are “the fundamentals of the Israeli security mainstream,” referring to the positions of former prime minister Yitzhak Rabin and former foreign minister Yigal Allon that the Jordan Valley is essential to Israel’s defense.
Defensible Borders for Israel: An Updated Response to Advocates and Skeptics argues that, despite recent changes in the region, “the fundamentals of Israel’s strategic situation remain unchanged, especially its need for defensible borders. True, regimes in the Middle East may change, but the mountain ridge in the West Bank remains a constant in Israeli considerations.”
The report also points out that the regional situation is not necessarily stable, that all of Israel’s neighbors were impacted by the Arab Spring a decade ago, and some are failed states.
The concept of defensible borders for Israel is anchored in UN Security Council Resolution 242, passed at the end of the Six Day War, which stated that Israel has the right to “secure and recognized boundaries.”
Referring to suggestions that Israel withdraw from the West Bank to pre-1967 lines, Gold pointed to the violence that followed Israel’s withdrawal from Southern Lebanon and Gaza, which prevented Israel from effectively blocking weapon smuggling into those areas to target Israel.
In 2005, the year Israel withdrew from Gaza, 179 rockets were fired at Israel; in 2012, 1,506 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel in one week.
Superior airpower is essential, but it was not enough to stop the buildup of weapons in Gaza, and it will not be enough in the West Bank.
Brig.-Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of analysis for IDF Intelligence, writes in the report’s introduction that monitoring and other technology are not a suitable substitute for troops.
“Israeli forces have to be present on the ground to take immediate action against imminent threats,” Kuperwasser wrote. “Israel cannot rely on foreign forces, and detection devices can at best give some early warning or signal in real time that the border has been penetrated, but these devices cannot do much about it. The idea that Israeli intelligence collection assets will be deployed in strategically important locations but access to these locations will be through Palestinian-controlled areas is simply not feasible.”
Israel lacks “strategic depth” because it is so narrow at its center – at one point, the distance between the Mediterranean Sea and the 1949 Armistice Line is only nine miles – and the mountains of the West Bank overlook Israel’s population center along the shore.
As a result, in the broadest sense, the topography of the Jordan Valley gives Israel a major advantage. The Jordan Valley stretches from the lowest point on Earth, the Dead Sea (1,300 feet below sea level), to the highest point in Judea and Samaria (3,300 feet above sea level).
The IDF could exploit the terrain to defend Israel from a conventional attack or an insurgency campaign, the report explains. It would also likely give the IDF more time to call up reservists in the event of a ground attack.
“As long as ground forces remain the decisive component in Israel’s national security strategy, then terrain, topography, and strategic depth have not lost their relevance,” Gold wrote. “They have always been – and still remain – critical components that Israel needs for defensible borders.”