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Wednesday, December 5, 2012
[Words of wisdom] Building in Jerusalem: A Strategic Imperative, by Prof. Efraim Inbar

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA: Words that should be engraved on the entrance
door of every think tank and security establishment: "Designing stable
defensible borders in accordance with the current, yet transient,
state-of-the-art technology and political circumstances is strategically
foolish" ]

Area E1 is of vital importance for the political future of Jerusalem and for
Israel’s chances to establish a defensible line along its eastern border.

Building in Jerusalem: A Strategic Imperative

by Prof. Efraim Inbar


BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 190, December 5, 2012

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Despite mounting international pressure, Israel must
follow up on its recent declaration to build in and around Jerusalem,
particularly in Area E1, which connects the capital to the settlement of
Maaleh Adumim. Creating continuous Jewish settlement in that area is
necessary to enable Israel to have secure access to the strategic Jordan

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu must ignore the Pavlovian response
of the international community against building in Jerusalem, particularly
in Area E1. The fate of the Jewish State depends largely upon the government’s
ability to take immediate action and to populate the area that links
Jerusalem to Maaleh Adumim with thousands of Jews.

Maaleh Adumim, a settlement of over 40,000 Jews east of Jerusalem, serves as
the linchpin in establishing an effective line of defense along the Jordan
Valley against aggression from the east. Building a Jewish-populated
corridor to Maaleh Adumim will prevent the division of Jerusalem and secure
the only safe route via which Israel can mobilize troops from the coast to
the Jordan Valley if necessary. Jerusalem’s importance to the Jews is not
only historical and religious. Rather, Jerusalem also holds strategic
importance in controlling the only highway from the coast of the
Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan Valley, along which Jews are able to travel
with little interference from concentrations of Arab population.

Those who object to Jewish presence in Area E1 express concern for
Palestinian contiguity, which is a deceptive argument. Free travel between
Samaria and Judea can be arranged quite easily by constructing overpasses or
tunnels. (Ironically, the Palestinians suggest these arrangements in
response to Israeli concerns regarding the Palestinian demand for a corridor
between Gaza and Judea that would divide Israel in two.)

The main issue, however, is Jerusalem. The Palestinians plan to populate
Area E1 with Arabs in order to create demographic contiguity between Samaria
and East Jerusalem, thereby facilitating the division of the city. Such a
development would also isolate Maaleh Adumim and undermine Israeli claims to
the Jordan Valley. The only way to prevent the realization of these
Palestinian plans is to settle Jews in Area E1.

Many pundits claim that Israel no longer needs the Jordan Valley as a shield
against aggression from the east. They argue that the peace treaty with
Jordan renders the dangerous threat of the eastern front’s proximity to
Israel’s population centers and economic infrastructure a thing of the past.
Yet this is a very short-term perspective, motivated by a desire to convince
the Israeli public that the Jordan Valley is militarily dispensable. Such a
view ignores the immense potential for political upheaval in the Middle
East, perceived American weakness, the greater political role of radical
Islamists, and the growing pressures upon the Hashemite regime. The
destabilization of Hashemite Jordan and Saudi Arabia, an emboldened and more
radical Syria, and the reemergence of the eastern front as a credible threat
are not far-fetched scenarios.

Advocates of turning over the Jordan Valley to the Palestinians discount its
topographical importance by referring to current military technology that
allows for precision strikes from a distance. They argue that the ability to
launch defensive strikes from the coast eliminates the strategic need for
the Jordan Valley as a means of defense. However, these armchair strategists
overlook the history of military technology, which shows a clear oscillation
between the dominance of offensive and defensive measures over the
centuries. The belief that the technology of today – which temporarily
reduces the importance of topography – will remain unchallenged constitutes
a dangerous strategic fallacy. Designing stable defensible borders in
accordance with the current, yet transient, state-of-the-art technology and
political circumstances is strategically foolish. Therefore, if Israel wants
to maintain a defensible border along the Jordan Valley it needs to secure
the road that leads there from the coast, via an undivided Jerusalem and via
Maaleh Adumim.

Netanyahu will be put to the test to prove that his rhetoric about a united
Jerusalem and the incorporation of settlement blocs – such as Maaleh
Adumim – into Israel has substance. Former American President George W. Bush’s
promise to allow the incorporation of settlement blocs is to be capitalized
upon in this context. We should also remember that the US has opposed
Israeli settlement efforts since 1967 and only rarely did American
objections have an impact on Israeli decisions on this issue. Moreover, the
Americans can be persuaded to tacitly go along with linking Maaleh Adumim to
Jerusalem if a clear strategic vision based upon the principle of
territorial compromise is presented.

While the strategic wisdom of indiscriminately settling the Land of Israel
is not compelling, a selective settlement policy focusing on areas within
the Israeli consensus, including Maaleh Adumim and the Jordan Valley, can be
pursued with little foreign interference. Such a policy should be
complemented with the removal of illegal posts located outside the areas of
consensus, and even with a gradual freeze in allocations to isolated
settlements. Such a policy reflects the preference of a large majority of
the Israelis.

Area E1 is of vital importance for the political future of Jerusalem and for
Israel’s chances to establish a defensible line along its eastern border. It
is imperative to build homes for Jews there. Hopefully, Netanyahu will soon
send the bulldozers to create vital irreversible facts on the ground.
Prof. Efraim Inbar is a professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan
University, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, and a
fellow at the Middle East Forum.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the
Greg Rosshandler Family

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