Last updated on: 5/22/2008 10:48:00 AM PST

After the Removal of Saddam, Does Israel Still Need Control of the West Bank for Strategic Purposes?

General Reference (not clearly pro or con)

Iraqi Attacks on Israel 1948-1991
1948 18,000 troops / 120 armored cars
1967 Four Iraqi brigades (one armored, one mechanized, two infantry)
1973 Two armored divisions (500 tanks, 700 armored personnel carriers)
1991 39 Scud Missiles (no troops)

PRO (yes)

Gal Luft, PhD, Executive Director of the Institute for the Analysis of Global Security (IAGS), in a 2004 Brookings Institute analysis paper titled "All Quiet on the Eastern Front?" wrote:

"With the decline of the Iraqi military the Arab-Israeli military balance has shifted in favor of Israel and that in the short run the threat of an eastern front no longer exists. But despite the improvement in Israel's strategic posture, it is premature to assume that the threat from the east has been permanently removed and that the [Jordan] Valley [in the West Bank] is no longer essential to Israel's security."

2004 - Gal Luft, PhD 

Dore Gold, PhD, former Israeli Ambassador, in a Feb. 7, 2006 article titled "After the Hamas Victory: The Increasing Importance of Israel's Strategic Barrier in the Jordan Valley," posted on the website of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, wrote:

"After the 2003 Iraq War, it became commonplace in parts of the Western policymaking community to assert that, since the U.S. had eliminated the threat emanating from the armored formations of Saddam Hussein, Israel could relax its traditional territorial claims for defensible borders in the West Bank. The argument was further reinforced by the fact that Israel had a peace treaty with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan since 1994. This led many observers to the conclusion that Israel no longer needed to control its strategic barrier in the Jordan Valley that served as its primary line of defense since 1967.

The massive electoral victory of Hamas in the Palestinian parliamentary elections has created an entirely new strategic reality for Israel which vastly increases the importance of the Jordan Valley for Israel's security in the near term. In this case, however, the Jordan Valley's role in Israel's defense is not to serve its traditional function as a steep strategic barrier blocking a numerically superior conventional military attack on Israel's eastern front. Its new role must be understood in the context of the increasing terrorist threat emerging to Israel's east."

Feb. 7, 2006 - Dore Gold, PhD 

CON (no)

Thomas L. Friedman, MA, New York Times foreign affairs columnist, in a Dec. 11, 2003 editorial titled "Breaking and Entering," wrote:

"By destroying Saddam's regime and the real strategic threat posed to Israel by Iraq, the Bush team has taken away one of the strongest security arguments from Israeli hawks: that Israel needs to keep the West Bank, or at least troops on the Jordan River, as a buffer in case Iraq again tries to come through Jordan to strike Israel, as it has done before."

Dec. 11, 2003 - Thomas L. Friedman, MPhil 

Yossi Klein Halevi, MA, Contributing Editor to The New Republic and a Senior Fellow of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, in a May 5, 2003 article published in The New Republic titled "Local Victory," wrote:

"Still, for Israel, this is a time of reprieve. To begin with, there's relief at the disappearance of a potentially existential threat... The collapse of the only Arab regime that dared to attack the Israeli home front in the last three decades has helped restore Israeli deterrence, which many here believe began to erode when Israel refrained from retaliating against Iraq's 1991 Scud attacks. Given that much of the Arab world identifies Israel with the United States, America's victory in Iraq is seen as a surrogate Israeli victory.

But the most important gain for Israel is that, for the first time since 1948, there is no longer a threat of an 'eastern front,' that is, a Syrian-Iraqi military alliance. In all its wars with Israel, Syria relied on Iraq for backup. During the 1973 Yom Kippur War, for example, Iraqi reinforcements were so crucial that Syria nearly reconquered the Golan Heights... Israel's fear has long been a joint Syrian-Iraqi invasion through Jordan. Now, without Iraqi backing, the antiquated Syrian army poses little conventional threat."

May 5, 2003 - Yossi Klein Halevi, MA