"Separation between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary"

At 75 years old, Israel is still struggling to define its character and its project

"Separation between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary"

At 75 years old, Israel is still struggling to define its character and its project. Inside the country, hundreds of thousands of people have taken to the streets every week for more than four months to protest the government's plan to push through "reforms" that, if enacted, would make Israel an illiberal democracy. On its doorstep, failing to define what future it envisions with its Palestinian neighbors in Gaza and the West Bank, Israel navigates between increasingly frequent cycles of violence against the former territory and the creeping annexation of the latter.

Thus, the sixteenth Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip in less than twenty years began on May 9 with strikes targeting Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders, in response to the firing of more than a hundred rockets into Israel the previous week. Named "Shield and Arrow", it lasted for five days, until Egypt's good offices secured a new ceasefire.

On the Israeli side, it has boosted public confidence in the exceptional capabilities of the country's security services, both operationally and intelligence-wise. On both sides, she came as a reminder of the price constantly paid by innocent civilians on both sides of the Israel-Gaza border.

However, with the firing of more than a thousand rockets towards Israeli localities, this new round of clashes is also a reminder that the Israeli army alone is not in a position to solve the Gaza problem and that problems of this type do not lend themselves to exclusively military solutions.

These events highlight the fact that, at a time when all eyes are on the domestic protest movement and the particularly difficult internal political situation, the Palestinian front nevertheless demands constant attention. As proven time and time again in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem, detonators are everywhere, capable of unleashing a new wave of violence at any time.

That is why, having devoted much of our adult life to defending Israel in the military, diplomatic and intelligence spheres, we are ringing the alarm bells for two reasons: the attacks on the institutions and the values ​​of Israel, under the guise of "judicial reform", threatens our democracy, and the absence of a decision on our national project with regard to the Palestinians is precipitating the slide towards a one-state "formula", forever mired in a conflict without issue, a reality that would threaten both our security and our Jewish identity.

We all view the threat to our democracy as the culmination of a militant process led, among others, by extremists bent on annexing the West Bank. For the first time in our history, their leaders, steeped in messianic ideology, sit in our government. The ongoing struggle for the soul of Israel brings together our two lifelong commitments: as citizens, in support of Israeli democracy, and as senior retired military officials, in the service of the country's security. .

We have come to the conclusion that the separation between Israelis and Palestinians is necessary to ensure the protection of all. We also believe, in the light of our expertise in the matter, that the security arrangements necessary for our defense can be negotiated and put in place in the context of the desired separation between the two peoples. Fourteen million people live between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea: 7 million Jews and 7 million Arabs. Two scenarios are therefore possible: separation within the framework of a definitive two-state solution or an endless conflict within the framework of a single state.

The continued de facto annexation of parts of the West Bank will inevitably lead to the collapse of the already fragile Palestinian Authority today. Israel will then be faced with a difficult choice: let Hamas, taking advantage of the power vacuum, seize the territories concerned, or else reoccupy the entire West Bank in order to prevent it.

We are under no illusions that the conditions for the two-state solution, which we are calling for, are far from being met. It is nevertheless crucial to preserve the viability of this option, first and foremost by reversing the trend in favor of the creeping, and accelerating, annexation of the West Bank. Furthermore, it is imperative that Israel defines its eastern border, preferably through negotiations, but failing that unilaterally.

Once this is defined, all who reside within the perimeter of our sovereignty must enjoy the full rights enshrined in our Declaration of Independence. Beyond this border and up to the Jordan River, the Israeli military will continue to provide security until arrangements that meet Israel's needs are negotiated and implemented.

Let's be clear: the CIS, of which we are a member, is not a partisan movement. Being aware of our country's security challenges and capabilities in this area, however, we have come to three conclusions. The first: we are stronger than all our opponents. The second: As Operation Shield and Arrow demonstrated once again, there is no military solution to resolving our conflict with the Palestinians. Third: In order for Israel not to have to give up its security, its Jewish character, or its democratic nature, we must reach an agreement that meets our defense needs, but also guarantees the sovereignty and dignity of Palestinians.

We want to hope that Israel's friends around the world share this analysis, based on our security expertise, of the dual threat to our country. We appreciate their support for all who are determined to defend our democracy and pave the way for a resolution of the conflict with the Palestinians. And we are certain that our vision, that of a State of Israel that tirelessly seeks peace with its neighbors and does not renounce on its soil either its security, its Jewish character or its democratic nature, will eventually be to take with.

(*) Matan Vilnai, Major General (retired), served as IDF Deputy Chief of Staff, Deputy Defense Minister, Cabinet Member of Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, and Ambassador to Israel in China. He chairs the movement of Commanders for Israel's Security (CIS). Ami Ayalon, Admiral (retired), served as Director of the Israeli Internal Security Service (Shin Bet) and Commander of the Israeli Navy. Tamir Pardo, Brigadier General (retired), was director of Israel's foreign intelligence service (Mossad). Dr. Nimrod Novik served as Special Ambassador and Diplomatic Advisor to Prime Minister Shimon Peres.