"The prominent Dutch magazine Elsevier has
published a conversation with Dutch-Israeli military historian Martin van
Creveld. The following has been translated from the Dutch [and then from
"We Are Destroying
"In Israel a
scenario of doom is taking shape."
Interview with the much
reviled Dutch-Israeli Military Historian Martin van Creveld
Professor Martin van Creveld,
an internationally known and controversial professor of military history
at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, foresees only extreme developments
for the appreciable future. The methods by which Israel is currently
combating the Intifada are doomed to failure. The chances for peace and
the founding of a Palestinian state are visibly diminishing. A
conversation with a pessimist, who, as he himself says, is reviled in his
Your specialty is war. Is what's going on here war at all?
Certainly, although the Palestinians have no government, no army, and no
[nationality]. Everything is in chaos. That's why we won't win the war,
either. If we could identify and eliminate every terrorist, we'd win this
struggle within forty-eight hours. The Palestinian administration has the
same difficulties. Even in Arafat decided to comply with our conditions
and surrender tomorrow, it's virtually certain that the Intifada would
Are there any similarities on the Israeli side?
If the dispute lasts much longer, the Israeli government will lose control
of its people. For people will say: "If government can't protect us,
what on earth can they do for us? If the government can't guarantee that
we'll be alive tomorrow, what good are they? We'll defend ourselves."
So Israel is beaten in advance?
On that I'll quote Henry Kissinger: "In campaigns like this the
antiterror forces lose, because they don't win, and the rebels win by not
losing." That certainly applies here. I regard a total Israeli defeat
as unavoidable. That will mean the collapse of the Israeli state and
society. We'll destroy ourselves.
Is there any point to the recent Israeli military offensive?
This offensive is totally useless; it's only further enraging the
Palestinians. Perhaps there will be a short-lived calm, but in the end
there will even more suicide attackers.
Is there any hope?
If I were Arafat, I wouldn't stop either. I'd only cease in exchange for a
very far-reaching political accord. And it seems as if we have a
government [under Sharon-tr.] that won't make Arafat such an offer. If
elections were held today, the Left would be thoroughly beaten.
Some maintain that it is Israel's foreign enemies that keep the country
That's right. I only wish that there were foreign enemies, but that isn't
the case. We've fought our external enemies for so many years. Each time
there was a war, we took a mighty hammer to our foes, and after being
defeated a few times, they left us alone. The problem with the Palestinian
revolt is that it doesn't come from without, but rather from within.
Therefore we can't avail ourselves of the hammer.
Is the solution, then, to keep the Palestinians outside the borders?
Exactly, and right now there's nearly unanimous agreement on that. We
ought to build a wall "so high, that not even a bird can fly over
it." The only problem is: where to put the border? Since we can't
decide whether the territories conquered in 1967 should be included, for
the time being we improvise a little. We're building a series of little
walls, which are much more difficult to defend. From a military standpoint
this is very stupid. Every supermarket has gradually acquired its own
living wall of security guards. Half the Israeli population is guarding
the other half-unbelievable. Aside from the fantastic waste, it's almost
Does that mean that the Palestinians stay within the borders?
No, it means that they all get deported. The people who strive for this
are waiting only for the right man and the right time. Two years ago only
7 or 8 percent of Israelis were of the opinion that this would be the best
solution, two months ago it was 33 percent and now, according to a Gallup
poll, the figure is 44 percent.
Will that ever be possible?
Sure, since desperate times give rise to desperate measures. Today there's
a fifty-fifty split on where the border should run. Two years ago 90
percent wanted the wall built along the old border. That has completely
changed now, and if things continue, if the terror doesn't stop, in
another two years perhaps 90 percent will want to build the wall along the
Jordan. The Palestinians talk of "summutt," meaning hang tough,
cling to the ground and the soil. I have enormous respect for the
Palestinians. They fight heroically. But if we in fact want to strike
across the Jordan, we would need only a few brigades. If the Syrians or
the Egyptians were to try to stop us, we'd wipe them out. Ariel Sharon is
leader. He never improvises: he always has a plan.
A plan to deport the Palestinians?
I think it's quite possible that he wants to do that. He wants to escalate
the conflict. He knows that nothing else we do will succeed.
Do you think that the world will allow that kind of ethnic cleansing?
That depends on who does it and how quickly it happens. We possess several
hundred atomic warheads and rockets and can launch them at targets in all
directions, perhaps even at Rome. Most European capitals are targets for
our air force.
Wouldn't Israel then become a rogue state?
Let me quote General Moshe Dayan: "Israel must be like a mad dog, too
dangerous to bother." I consider it all hopeless at this point. We
shall have to try to prevent things from coming to that, if at all
possible. Our armed forces, however, are not the thirtieth strongest in
the world, but rather the second or third. We have the capability to take
the world down with us. And I can assure you that that will happen, before
Israel goes under.
This isn't your own position, is it?
Of course not. You asked me what might happen and I've laid it out. The
only question is whether it is already too late for the other solution,
which I support, and whether Israeli public opinion can still be
convinced. I think it's too late. With each passing day the expulsion of
the Palestinians grows more probable. The alternative would be the total
annihilation and disintegration of Israel. What do you expect from us?
This interview was conducted
by Ferry Biedermann in Jerusalem.
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