The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs study Defensible Borders for a Lasting Peace focuses on Israel's minimal territorial requirements to enable it to defend itself, based on a purely professional military perspective. As such, the analysis that follows provides content to the well-known phrase "secure and recognized boundaries," as stated in UN Security Council Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967, and reaffirmed as "defensible borders" by various U.S. administrations and the U.S. Congress throughout the years.
The chapters in this report are based on a conference on the subject of Defensible Borders held jointly by the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, headed by MK Yuval Steinitz, and the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in November 2004. All the presentations here were updated and expanded. In his opening remarks to the conference, the Speaker of the Knesset, MK Reuven Rivlin, stressed how all of Israel's recent leaders, from Menahem Begin to Yitzhak Rabin, drew a distinction between territories like Sinai or the Gaza Strip, where they had proposed certain territorial concessions, respectively, and the area of the West Bank which was seen as critical for the defense of Israel.
It should be stressed that this study is strictly confined to the question of Israel's defense. It does not focus on other national concerns of the State of Israel in the West Bank, such as settlements or demography, that are the primary point of departure of many other studies that have been published. There is a reason for concentrating on security above all other considerations, for of all of Israel's national concerns in the West Bank, security must be its first priority in deciding how this disputed territory is to be divided. Israel must answer how any new borders will affect its ability to defend itself, so that it can assure its long-term survival. As will be demonstrated, this paramount Israeli interest cannot be addressed by the West Bank security barrier or fence alone, which, in its currently planned route, only counters a small component of the spectrum of military threats which Israel faces.
Additionally, the State of Israel maintains longstanding historical, religious, and cultural bonds with the West Bank, known as Judea and Samaria to those steeped in a background of ancient and modern history. These ties lie at the core of the modern-day return of the Jews to the land of their fathers. For example, many Jews feel a deep connection to such sacred sites as the Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron. These links are not expressed in this study.
The question of Israel's need for defensible borders will become particularly relevant when permanent status arrangements are discussed between Israel and the Palestinians. In mid-2005, the beginning of such negotiations does not appear to be on the immediate horizon. Yet it is not premature to have this discussion at this point. It is essential to create reasonable expectations ahead of time about what permanent status arrangements in the West Bank are likely to look like in the future, especially since an enduring peace must take into account Israel's vital defense interests and not just the political agenda of the Palestinians alone.
– Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror