Ephraim Sneh, a retired general in the IDF, served as a deputy minister of defense. A physician, Sneh, 67, was also elected to the Knesset in 1992 as a member of the Labor Party and later served both as minister of health and transportation. He is currently chairman of the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Strategic Dialogue at the Netanya Abraham College and is a consultant with the Israel Policy Forum. The Jewish Week spoke with him recently about the peace process and issues surrounding it.
Q: You recently wrote in Foreign Policy magazine that the new reality in the greater Middle East is bad for the United States and its allies, including Israel. Why?
A: The radical sources are gaining momentum and taking over several countries. In Egypt the fight was won by the Islamists, in the same way they won in Tunisia and Morocco.
You say that America’s traditional allies now doubt America’s loyalty and wonder if the U.S. can be counted upon to support them as they confront the anti-Western Islamist movements. What are they doing to protect themselves?
Some of these countries are considering being mellower towards Iran to give themselves an insurance policy. I’m not saying they are doing it — but they are considering it. They are scared to death of Iran and not 100 percent sure of the support of the United States.
Radical Islam opposes Western civilization and considers American civilization the most decadent and hated. And it has another reason for its special hatred of Israel – it is a Jewish state inside the Middle East and it is an ally of the United States.
You call for the creation of a new alliance with the U.S. and the few friends it has left in the Middle East to confront Iran. Who would be in it and why is such an alliance needed?
This alliance of Jordan-Israel-Palestine, the Gulf Cooperation Council states [Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates] would form a new axis in the region from the Mediterranean to the Gulf. They share a concern of Iran and radical Islam, and they have a commitment to the Middle East based on peace, economic development and their friendship with Western democracies.
How important is a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
It is the linchpin because no Arab state will join such an alliance if the conflict is not resolved and the occupation continues. People have neglected and abandoned this problem for many reasons but resolving the conflict now is necessary – it is a ticking bomb. The risk is it can explode and if it doesn’t, it would lead to a binational state that I consider a disaster as a Jew and Zionist.
You say to help resolve the stalemate, the G-8 states should raise $5 billion over five years to relocate 120,000 Israeli settlers from the West Bank. And you say wealthy Arab states should allocate $5 billion to benefit Jordan, the Palestinians and possibly Lebanon.
I give the number of 120,000 — those who reside in the settlements and are now where the Palestinian state should be. The guidelines [former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert talked about in the summer of ‘08 were close to the golden number – the percentage of how much of the West Bank should be annexed to Israel to minimize the number of settlers who are to be evacuated.
Between the Jordan and the Mediterranean — if you go along the ‘67 line — it means that 78 percent of the territory remains in Israel. In the ‘47 armistice lines we were given 56 percent and the Palestinians 44 percent. Now we are asked by them to agree to 78 percent to their 22 percent. I say if after 63 years of war and conflict we can have a Jewish state on 78 percent of the territory through agreement with the Palestinians, this is the historic victory of Zionism.
What do you see as the role of the U.S. and the other members of the G-8?
Don’t twist arms because it won’t work, but put in irresistible incentives like $5 billion in five years – and yes, it would be matched by the Arab states.
By doing that, you would remove the two major obstacles: the dismantling of settlements and the future of the refugees. They should be resettled not inside Israel; countries like Jordan should absorb them.