After Hebron

In the wake of the Hebron agreement, the imperative for Israel (and the United States) has been to formulate a coherent strategy for the next phase.

Issue: Spring 1997

A strategic retreat is the most difficult of all maneuvers. This is the nightmare that has tormented all Israeli leaders since the modern Arab-Israeli peace diplomacy began after the October 1973 war. But the experience of this diplomacy has taught Israel certain lessons; three are fundamental.

First, as is often pointed out, there is an asymmetry built into the negotiation in that Israel is asked to give up the physical buffer of territory in exchange for political commitments, which are by their nature more easily reversible. Israel's dilemma is that these political quids pro quo, though intangible, can be quite real--not only buffer zones that add to strategic warning, but broader strategic gains such as splitting the coalition of Israel's enemies, keeping international pressures off Israel's back, strengthening the U.S. strategic position in the Middle East, and so forth. These may be not only useful, but vital.

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