In yesterday’s post, I indicated my desire to reflect upon President Obama’s proposal rather than fall prey to my deeply visceral initial reaction. In this post, I decided to tackle what I know best first: the situation’s military dynamics.
From a military perspective, the idea that the Israelis should accept Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries as a starting point for negotiation is preposterous.
To make my argument, I will rely on my five years’ experience as a military officer. My primary responsibility was to serve as a member of the Opposing Force (OPFOR) in ten war games per year against American military brigades of between 5,000 and 8,000 soldiers each.
I participated in a total of approximately 100 simulated desert operations involving hundreds of tanks and armored vehicles and thousands of soldiers on either side.
As a member of the OPFOR, the Army trained me to fight using Soviet armored doctrine and tactics, the same tactics that Egyptian and Syrian forces would likely employ against the Israelis.
As the charts at the top and on the right show, reverting to Israel’s pre-1967 boundaries leaves Israel perilously vulnerable to its Arab neighbors. At its narrowest point, the distance between the West Bank’s western borders and the Mediterranean Sea is roughly between 10-20 kilometers.
The OPFOR, which was organized as a standard Soviet Motorized Rifle Regiment (MRR), could traverse 30-50 kilometers in 4-5 hours in open desert terrain and against a well-trained American Brigade. In other words, a single Syrian MRR staging in the Palestinian West Bank has the potential to cut Israel in half within a single day.
Granted, Israel’s forces are much better trained and equipped than the Syrians’ are. Furthermore, the fighting would proceed more slowly in this region because Israel is 92% urbanized compared to the open terrain of the Mojave Desert.
That said, Israel’s urbanized environment is another key concern. As Tel Aviv-Yafo lies within 10-20 kilometers of the West Bank’s western border, over 3.2 million Israelis (43% of Israel’s population) would be within conventional artillery range the instant the conflict started.
In other words, expect hundreds of thousands of civilian casualties.
Then there is the question of numbers.
The countries surrounding Israel (including the Palestinian territories) have a combined population of nearly 122 million to Israel’s nearly 7.5 million. In essence, the Arab population in Israel’s adjacent states outnumbers Israel’s population by over 16 to 1.
Would the United States ever give up a territorial buffer that would provide an enemy outnumbering it 16-to-1 with the capability to cut the United States in half in one day and expose a city that represented 43% of its population to massive artillery bombardment?
I think not.
To ask the Israelis to do the same is completely unrealistic.