CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY www.CenterforSecurityPolicy.org
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's Planned Withdrawal from the West Bank:
A Threat to U.S. Interests and Security
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Background: Israel's new Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is scheduled to visit
Washington, DC later this month in order to secure administration and
congressional support for his plan to withdraw Israeli civilians and the
Israeli military from between 90-95 percent of the West Bank and large
sections of the city of Jerusalem. On the budgetary side, Olmert asserts
that the implementation of his plan will cost $10 billion and he intends to
seek U.S. financing to underwrite this cost.
Olmert's plan involves expelling between 50,000-100,000 Israeli civilians
from their homes and the destruction of between 50-100 Israeli communities
in the West Bank and the redeployment of Israeli military forces to
garrisoned positions. He claims that this plan will enhance regional
stability, improve Israeli security, increase the prospects of peace between
Israel and the Palestinians, and boost Israeli and American standing in the
international community. These claims are identical to those advanced by
former prime minister Sharon when he advocated Israel's withdrawal from the
Gaza Strip which took place last September.
- Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip last year failed to do any
of these things. Indeed the actual consequences of the withdrawal have been
the exact opposite of what Sharon predicted. A reenactment of that operation
on the West Bank - which is both 20 times larger than the Gaza Strip and
vastly more significant on a strategic level - will exacerbate the failure
of the Gaza withdrawal strategy to the detriment not only of Israel's
national security, but the stability of the Jordanian regime and American
national security interests.
- Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip fomented the transformation
of Gaza into a Taliban-like state. The Palestinians perceived Israel's
decision to retreat to the 1949 armistice lines as a victory for Hamas and
the jihadist ideology that negates Israel's right to exist. This perception
contributed greatly to Hamas' stunning electoral victory in the Palestinian
legislative elections in January. Under Hamas's leadership, Palestinian
society is being swiftly transformed into an Islamic extremist society like
- After Israel withdrew, Gaza was flooded with terrorists and terror
armaments that passed through Gaza's international border with the Egyptian
Sinai. Katyusha rockets, anti-aircraft missiles and advanced anti-tank
missiles have all been brought into the area.
- Al Qaeda, Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards all set up
forward operating bases in Gaza. Hamas itself has become a client of Iran.
- The destroyed Israeli settlements in Gaza are now used as
terror-training camps and as missile-launching sites. Israeli artillery and
air strikes against terrorist elements in Gaza since the withdrawal have
been ineffective in preventing the escalation of missile, rocket and mortar
attacks against all Israeli cities and villages bordering Gaza.
- An Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank will cause a similar
situation to arise in the areas abandoned by Israel. But unlike the Gaza
Strip, the West Bank provides the Palestinian and global terrorist elements
that will operate freely in the area with the ability to launch missile and
rocket attacks against all of Israel's major cities, highways and civilian
air traffic taking off and landing at Ben Gurion airport. While Olmert
claims that Israel will be protected because the completion of the security
barrier between the West Bank and Israel will be completed by the time
Israel carries out the retreat, that barrier will be unable to protect
Israel from missile and rocket fire on its densely populated cities.
- Even if the IDF retains a presence in the areas after the expulsion
of the civilian population is accomplished, its counter-terror capabilities
will be compromised by domestic political considerations, international
pressure and the increased military capabilities and basing prerogatives for
local and global terrorist elements.
- The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan will be destabilized by Israel's
withdrawal from the West Bank. Jordan's citizenry is 80 percent Palestinian.
Al Qaida, the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas all have a strong presence in the
country. A redeployment of Israeli military forces will degrade Israel's
ability to prevent the convergence of these terror forces on the east bank
of the Jordan River with those on its west bank for the purpose of toppling
the Hashemite regime. Al Qaeda commander in Iraq Abu Musab Zarqawi, a
Jordanian citizen, has already attacked the regime and called for its
overthrow. Hamas has similarly committed itself to the overthrow of the
The following are the likely impacts of an Israeli withdrawal from the West
Bank on U.S. national security:
1. Establish a new terror refuge in the West Bank that will serve as a
training ground for terrorists who will fight not only against Israel and
Jordan, but also against U.S. forces in Iraq.
2. Weaken U.S. logistical capabilities in Iraq. The destabilization of
Israel and Jordan through the establishment of a Taliban-like regime in the
West Bank will endanger the overland supply route used by U.S. forces from
Israeli ports through Jordan and into Iraq. This will increase U.S.
dependence on Persian Gulf ports and thus motivate Iran to create crises in
the Straits of Hormuz.
3. Enhance the prestige of declared enemies of the U.S. including Iran,
Syria, al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, Wahhabist extremists in Saudi Arabia and
Salafist extremists in Egypt at the expense of the U.S. The widespread Arab
and Islamic perception of Israel as a U.S. client state will cause an
Israeli retreat and the consequent destabilization of Israel and Jordan to
be perceived as a strategic defeat for the United States. This will motivate
thousands throughout the world to join the forces of global jihad against
4. Decrease motivation to cooperate with the U.S. in the war against
Islamofascism throughout the Arab and Muslim world. The perceived victory
for the global jihad will harm U.S. efforts to gain the support of regimes
and individuals in the Arab and Islamic world such as leaders like Gen.
Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. He, like democracy activists in Iraq, and
advocates of Islamic moderation in Europe, will be undermined by the
perceived strategic victory of the jihadist forces in the aftermath of
Israel's withdrawal from the West Bank.
In light of the above the U.S. should not lend its support to the Israeli
premier's planned withdrawal from the West Bank. Instead, it should
encourage him to pursue strategies that will deny victories for forces at
war with both the United States and Israel.