CPS' special conference to discuss issues on the agenda
The Council for Peace and Security held a special conference during June 2016 to discuss issues on the agenda. Held at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) in Tel Aviv, it was attended by some 200 participants. A panel discussion entitled “Two Peoples – One State?” was moderated by Linoy Bar Geffen included MK Omer Bar Lev (Zionist Union); journalist and Ha’aretz columnist Ari Shavit; Major General (Res.) Gershon Hacohen; and journalist Emily Amrousi. Following this panel, MK Ofer Shelah (Yesh Atid) led a discussion on Israel’s security approach. The audience also took an active part in the discussions.
We are enclosing a summary of the opening remarks of CPS chairperson Brigadier General (Res.) Gadi Zohar that outlines CPS goals and plans for the immediate future:
Our Goal: To Ensure Israel’s Survival as the Nation State of the Jewish People and as a Democratic, Egalitarian, and Secure Country
In recent years, the Council for Peace and Security (CPS) has changed the focus of its activities. After concentrating for many years solely on security issues, we have shifted our focus and are now working to influence public discourse from a broad-based understanding of national security needs. Our central goal is to ensure the long-term survival of the State of Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and as a democratic, egalitarian, and secure country.
We do not profess to do the job of Israel’s security establishment. We were active in and devoted all our efforts in that arena for many years. Our intention is not to offer advice to security organizations regarding best defense of Israel. We have full confidence in the IDF, the Israel Security Agency, the Mossad, and the other security organizations.
Our task is to transform the knowledge and experience we have accumulated over decades of work in the security services, the diplomatic service, and academia into thoughtful and practical insights in the field of national security. We seek to share these insights with the general public and with national leaders.
Israel has recently heard categorical assessments from senior security figures, including Moshe (Boogie) Ya’alon, who until recently served as defense minister; Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eisenkot; IDF Intelligence Corps chief Herzi Halevy; Benny Gantz; and even Ehud Barak. The message of all these distinguished figures is the same: for the foreseeable future, Israel does not face an existential threat from any state or non-state player in our region.
Alongside the absence of an existential threat, some of these same figures – together with other reliable and informed commentators – have repeatedly emphasized that new regional political and security opportunities have emerged. These opportunities allow Israel to put forward its own initiatives to change the current reality and to propose its new ideas, without jeopardizing national security.
We believe that the State of Israel is at a dangerous and dramatic crossroads, despite the apparent absence of any immediate threat, and despite the fact that the Israeli public feels that the status quo is reasonable and even positive. The level of security is reasonable, particularly in comparison to neighboring countries. The economy has survived global crises and is fairly stable. Fortunately, internal tensions between Jews and Arabs have not led to a general flare-up, and the different “tribes” that comprise Israeli society are learning to live together in a satisfactory manner.
So what’s the problem? The problem is the threat that we cannot see and do not feel in our daily lives, a genuine and imminent threat that has accompanied us for 50 years: the process that, slowly but surely, is leading us to a one-state reality.
The emerging single state will not have a firm Jewish majority. It will be undemocratic, discriminating against the 40 percent or more of its citizens who will be Arabs and refusing to grant them basic civil rights. Alternatively, it will be a state in which we find ourselves sharing power with those who do not wish to live together with us, but want to displace us from the area between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean.
This is the clearest and most tangible danger facing the State of Israel. Yet as a nation we are evading it, and refuse to devote any thought or action to preventing its realization.
We in the CPS are dedicated to our mission and are doing everything in our power to alert the political leadership to this threat. We are also working to bring this issue of utmost national importance to the attention of the general public.
Security is not just about fences, arresting Palestinians who enter Israel without permits, or even acquiring a fleet of F35 fighter jets. Peace is not just about ceremonies on the White House lawn. Israel will only achieve peace and security when it decides that it can and must separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It must do so not in order to realize the Palestinian people’s desire for national self-determination, but first and foremost in order to ensure the survival of the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people and as a secure and democratic nation. This is the realization of the Zionist vision, and this is the path we must follow for our own sake and that of the next generations.
If we do not accelerate our efforts to separate ourselves from the Palestinians, we will sooner or later reach the point where separation will no longer be possible. The Israeli settlements in the West Bank are developing and expanding due to natural growth, even without new residents coming to live there. In these crystallizing realities, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to evacuate 100,000 Israeli citizens.
At the same time, and due to the same reality, Palestinians are increasingly aware of the advantages of sitting back and waiting for demographic processes to play out. Growing voices among the Palestinian leadership and public prefer a “one-state solution” in which they will enjoy equal rights and all the good things that Israel bestows on its citizens. As the Palestinian public looks out at the disintegrating Arab world, it is tempted to prefer a future as part of the stable State of Israel, assuming that it will eventually be able to take control of the state from within.
Israelis legitimately question our ability to separate ourselves from the Palestinians by way of an agreement, would we want to. We still have to ask ourselves whether we can afford to maintain a status quo that is leading us to a single state and the shattering of the Zionist dream.
The answer is clear. We cannot afford to allow such a future to happen. We do not have the privilege of closing our eyes and deluding ourselves when the outcome of the path we have chosen is so clear. We do not have the luxury of throwing away our future without serious public discussion and a conscious national decision.
There is no debate in Israel surrounding the most significant issue that pertains to our future as a Jewish and democratic state. National leaders are failing to explain where they are taking us, while the opposition – in its desire to appear patriotic and statesmanlike – is failing to challenge the leadership.
The Council for Peace and Security which has always stood at decisive crossroads of Israel national existence, must make its voice heard on this critical issue. Accordingly, we are committed to making every possible effort to encourage public debate, and to influencing the general public, to democratically elect national leadership that is committed to Israel's future as a Zionist, democratic, and egalitarian state.
We are currently preparing to launch a public campaign in the coming months. The aim of this new initiative is to penetrate the barriers of public consciousness and promote awareness of the dangers of a one-state reality -- a State in which the Jews that would sooner or later constitute a national minority.
We are determined to prevent the Zionist vision from coming to an end.
Brigadier General (Res.) Gadi Zohar
Chairperson, Council for Peace and Security
To watch General Zohar's speech (Hebrew) - click here
To watch the panel discussion (Hebrew) - click here
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