Two years ago, less than 8 percent of those who took part in a Gallup poll among Jewish Israelis said they were in favor of what is politely called "transfer" - that is, the expulsion of perhaps two million Palestinians across the River Jordan. This month, that figure reached 44 percent.
Professor Martin van Creveld is Israel's best-known military historian. On April 28, Britain's conservative newspaper The Telegraph, published an article outlining what Van Creveld believes Sharon's near-term goal: "transfer," otherwise known as expulsion of the Palestinians.
According to Van Creveld, Sharon's plan is to drive two million Palestinians across the Jordan using the pretext of a U.S. attack on Iraq or a terrorist strike in Israel. This could trigger a vast mobilization to clear the occupied territories of their two million Arabs. Van Creveld notes that In September 1970, Van Creveld recalls, King Hussein of Jordan attacked the Palestinians in his kingdom, killing perhaps 5,000 to 10,000. Sharon, serving as Commanding Officer, Southern Front, argued that Israel's assistance to the king was a mistake; instead it should have tried to topple the Hashemite regime. Sharon has often said since that Jordan, which, according to him, has a Palestinian majority even now, is the Palestinian state, and thus a suitable destination for Palestinians to be kicked out of his Greater Israel.
Van Creveld writes that Sharon has always nourished the idea of driving all Palestinians out. A U.S. attack on Iraq sometime this summer would over-appropriate cover. Sharon himself told Secretary of State Colin Powell that nothing happening in Israel should delay a U.S. attack on Iraq. Other pretexts could include an uprising in Jordan, followed by the collapse of King Abdullah's regime or a major terrorist outrage inside Israel.
Should such circumstances arise, according to Van Creveld, then Israel would mobilize within hours. "First, the country's three ultra-modern submarines would take up firing positions out at sea. Borders would be closed, a news blackout imposed, and all foreign journalists rounded up and confined to a hotel as guests of the Government. A force of 12 divisions, 11 of them armored, plus various territorial units suitable for occupation duties, would be deployed: five against Egypt, three against Syria, and one opposite Lebanon. This would leave three to face east, as well as enough forces to put a tank inside every Arab-Israeli village just in case their populations get any funny ideas."
In Van Creveld's view (he does say flatly that he is utterly opposed to any form of "transfer"), "The expulsion of the Palestinians would require only a few brigades. They would not drag people out of their houses but use heavy artillery to drive them out; the damage caused to Jenin would look like a pinprick in comparison. He discounts any effective response from Egypt, Syria, Lebanon or Iraq. "Saddam Hussein may launch some of the 30 to 40 missiles he probably has. The damage they can do, however, is limited. Should Saddam be mad enough to resort to weapons of mass destruction, then Israel's response would be so 'awesome and terrible' (as Yitzhak Shamir, the former prime minister, once said) as to defy the imagination."
But what about international reaction? Van Creveld thinks it would not be an effective deterrent. "If Mr Sharon decides to go ahead, the only country that can stop him is the United States. The U.S., however, regards itself as being at war with parts of the Muslim world that have supported Osama bin Laden. America will not necessarily object to that world being taught a lesson -- particularly if it could be as swift and brutal as the 1967 campaign; and also particularly if it does not disrupt the flow of oil for too long."
Israeli military experts estimate that such a war could be over in just eight days," Van Creveld writes. "If the Arab states do not intervene, it will end with the Palestinians expelled and Jordan in ruins. If they do intervene, the result will be the same, with the main Arab armies destroyed. Israel would, of course, take some casualties, especially in the north, where its population would come under fire from Hizbollah. However, their number would be limited, and Israel would stand triumphant, as it did in 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973."
We've been warned.
Alexander Cockburn is coeditor with Jeffrey St Clair of the muckraking newsletter CounterPunch. To find out more about Alexander Cockburn and read features by other columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com . Copyright © CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC 2002. Reprinted for fair use only
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