Samariaís Strategic Value (FrontPageMagazine.com) by Jamie Glazov / Frontpage Interviewís guest today is Michael Gottlieb 01/03/11)
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Frontpage Interviewís guest today is Michael Gottlieb, an oleh
(immigrant) from the US who is a man on a mission. After moving from
New Yorkís suburbia to Israelís bucolic Samarian (Shomron) heartland
region, he has joined the battle to save the Land of Israel in
general and the Shomron in particular. His weapon of choice: his
Shomron Central blog .
FP: Michael Gottlieb, welcome back to Frontpage Interview. It was a
pleasure to speak with you in our previous two interviews. (Part I,
click here , Part II, click here )
Gottlieb: Thanks, Jamie.
FP: Your blogís lead-off page explores the immense strategic value of
the Samarian mountain range to Israel and her citizens. Share with us
its main points and arguments.
Gottlieb: Its main points are the advantages to Israel of Samariaís
strategic heights, territorial depth and airspace, without which her
borders would be indefensible.
Samaria straddles Israelís Central Mountain ridge, running north-
south for 70 kilometers right down the middle of the country. This
ridge runs parallel to that part of the coastal plain which is the
most heavily populated, including the Tel Aviv Metropolitan Area. It
is staggering to think that the western side of this ridge dominates
a section of the coastal plain that is home to 70% of Israelís
population and 80% of its industry and infrastructure, not to mention
numerous military installations, most major traffic arteries and its
sole international airport. Were an enemy to control the Samarian
heights, Israel could be shut down overnight. Moreover, the eastern
side of the ridge overlooks and controls the strategic Jordan Valley,
widely considered essential to Israelís security.
People donít realize that pre-1967 Israel, without Samaria, is just
15 km wide at its narrowest point. An enemy tank can traverse that in
under 18 minutes. Thatís not a defensible border. Once that weak link
is broken, Israel is cut in half. Samaria serves as a buffer to the
countryís nerve centers along the coast to the west and provides
territorial contiguity with the Jordan Valley to the east. Its depth
provides Israel with the crucial reaction time needed to mobilize
forces and repel a ground invasion. It also allows her to deploy her
air defense systems from forward positions along the Samarian
hilltops and not from the crowded coastal plain. Short-range radar
and early-warning systems positioned on the plain would have their
line-of-sight blocked by the mountain ridge.
The airspace overhead is no less crucial to Israelís security. It
takes just three and a half minutes for an enemy fighter bomber to
cross over the Jordan River and reach the Mediterranean. Under two
minutes to reach Jerusalem. Without Samaria, Israel would lack the
minimum reaction time needed to intercept enemy aircraft or deploy
anti-aircraft missiles. Without this airspace, she would be
FP: Would trading the strategic high ground of Judea and Samaria for
some kind of ďpeace dealĒ in the future ever be worth Israelís risk?
Gottlieb: That all depends on what kind of peace deal you mean. While
it is theoretically possible for Israel to get the kind of deal it
needs to safely and permanently decouple from Judea and Samaria, I
doubt that will happen in our lifetimes, if ever. There isnít a shred
of evidence to suggest that such a deal is likely to materialize. The
Arabs wonít compromise; their intransigence is legendary. And the gap
between what could be an acceptable deal and whatís possible today is
vast and growing. The Palestiniansí best offer is so far from one
that Israel can afford to accept, that the odds of a mutually
acceptable, successful and lasting peace deal is virtually nil. The
Two State Solution has hit a dead-end.
In light of this, Israel must get off the fence and make some tough
decisions now. She could capitulate and withdraw to the Green Line,
but then the resultant Palestinian state would be final and
irreversible. An ensuing state of war would be inevitable. Or Israel
can assert full control over Judea and Samaria, undo past mistakes
and keep open all her options. The latter is a lot less risky.
In any case, one thing is for sure: peace deals and regimes are
transient. They can be abrogated and toppled. The strategic high
ground, however, is forever and unchanging; it will always protect
FP: You refer to the ďMountain Ridge ShieldĒ. What is that?
Gottlieb: The Samarian mountain ridge dominates Israelís western and
eastern flank. Israeli control over the western slope provides a
protective shield for the countryís major transportation arteries in
the exposed coastal strip to the west. This is crucial during a
wartime mobilization. Three-quarters of the Israel Defense Forces are
reservists who need quick, unfettered access to the roadways during a
call-up. Materiel must also be moved quickly from various points
throughout the country to the fronts. An enemy presence on these
heights will disrupt and delay a mobilization. But that wonít happen
if Israel controls the Samarian heights.
The mountain ridge is also the worldís most effective natural tank
barrier. Its steep, 1200 meter high eastern slope overlooks the
Jordan Valley depression and is virtually impenetrable. There are
only five east-west crossings over the length of the entire ridge.
Strategically positioned at these crossings, Israel can block a large
easterly invasion with a relatively small force, buying herself
valuable time to mobilize.
Thereís a lot of misinformation going around regarding this issue.
Two-state solution advocates claim that Israel can afford to
relinquish control of their Judean and Samarian land assets. Their
rationalization is that the high ground is less relevant in todayís
age of ballistic missiles and sophisticated weaponry. I disagree. In
fact, just the opposite is true. The more advanced and destructive
the Arabsí weapons become, the quicker Israel needs to mobilize. That
canít happen if the enemy is disrupting Israelís transportation
network from the Samarian heights. Also, while missiles do destroy,
itís the tanks and troops that conquer and occupy. To defeat an
enemy, there is still no substitute for a ground invasion, as was
borne out by the 2002 Afghanistan and 2003 Iraq campaigns. Israelís
control of Samaria will deter such an invasion.
Remember, the next Mideast war will likely be multi-frontal.
Israelís control of the high ground will greatly improve her odds of
repelling an invasion and that will free up the army to deal with the
other fronts. Without the Mountain Ridge Shield, Israelís would be
FP: Territorial depth and air space are some of the strategic
advantages of Samaria. What is the scope of protection offered by
Gottlieb: For Israel to defend her home front, she needs the ability
to detect and intercept enemy aircraft and incoming missiles from a
sufficient enough distance. At least 70% of Israelís territorial
depth, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean coast, comes from
Samaria. That provides Israel with the airspace cushion she needs to
protect her citizens.
Also, the Shomron offers commanding views of much of the country. On
a clear day, from the ďThree SeasĒ lookout in the Samarian settlement
of Itamar, the naked eye can see the Mediterranean Sea, the Dead Sea
and the Sea of Galilee, as well as the Jordan Valley. Thatís more
than a third of the entire country visible from just one spot.
Imagine what would be if Israelís enemies were to control that and
other such lookouts.
FP: If Israel were to give up Samaria to the Palestinians, can modern
weapon systems and international guarantees somehow compensate her
for the strategic loss?
Gottlieb: Any modern weapon system, even if based on cutting edge
technology, has a limited shelf life; itís just a matter of time
before it becomes outdated. Any system requires regular updating,
upgrading and eventually replacement. System can be jammed and
failures can happen unpredictably. Without any territorial height or
depth to fall back on and living in a very dangerous neighborhood, a
slimmed-down post-withdrawal Israel cannot afford even one mistake.
While weapon systems do play an important role in a countryís
defense, they are no substitute for its natural topography and
territorial depth. Israel cannot allow herself to gamble with her
survival in such a way.
International guarantees sound nice in theory, but are in no way a
sure bet. They cannot be enforced and are subject to change. Just
look at UNSC Resolution 1701, adopted after the Second Lebanon War.
It promised that UNIFIL soldiers will disarm Hizballah, restore full
control to the Government of Lebanon and bring home the Israeli POWs.
Instead, Hizballah is now armed to the teeth, our POWs still missing
and Lebanon has become a virtual puppet of Iran. Israelís northern
border is again primed for hostilities. I donít put much faith in
There is no justification for trading Israelís strategic land assets
for weapon systems and international promises. The only guarantor of
Israelís security is Israel herself.
FP: How well is the Shomronís strategic advantage understood by the
Gottlieb: Unfortunately, not well enough. The Israeli media and
intelligentsia, enablers of the Leftís agenda, have cornered the
marketplace of ideas. They suppress an open and free exchange of
opinions if it runs counter to their worldview, which is very
undemocratic. Thus, most Israelis are unaware, uninformed and
conditioned to dismiss anything or anyone over the Green Line. The
image of the settlers and the Greater Israel movement suffer from
this. The Right has trouble getting its message out to the
mainstream. Itís hard to convince an Israeli of the strategic
importance of Samaria when he believes our hold on Samaria was born
Yet, people are finally starting to wake up. Activists and private
initiatives are bringing people out to the Shomron to show them
firsthand its beautiful countryside, patriotic residents and
strategic importance. Iím optimistic for the future.
FP: Certainly Israelís military leaders and strategists know a thing
or two about security and defense. What is their position on giving
up the Shomron?
Gottlieb: The commanders of the Israel Defense Forces know very well
that Samaria is a strategic asset of the highest order. The regionís
empty, wide open spaces provide ample room for air force maneuver
exercises. Its hilly terrain is ideally suited for the armyís radar
stations, communications towers, observation and listening posts. Far
from encouraging conflict, the IDF presence on the Shomron actually
discourages hostilities and stabilizes the area. I believe that
Israelís not-so-friendly Arab neighbors also appreciate Samariaís
strategic value and that helps to keep them at bay. Nothing would
tempt them more than a defenseless, Samaria-free Israel. If Israel
doesnít use the Shomron for her own benefit, others will use it to
The problem arises when some of these otherwise astute military men
become our politicians, which is typical here. They seem to suddenly
forget the strategic and deterrent value of the land and behave very
FP: You equate the strategic importance of Samaria with the Golan
Heights. What would you say to those who would charge this to be an
Gottlieb: Come and see for yourself. Go to any lookout point on the
western slopes of the Samarian mountain range and look out towards
the sea. The entire coastal plain is laid out before your feet.
Witness the sweeping panoramic views of 130 kilometers of coastline,
from Ashkelon to up the Carmel Mountains. Gaze upon three-quarters of
Israelís population, industry, infrastructure and roadways. Watch
from above as planes take off from Ben Gurion International Airport.
You are at the doorstep of Israelís soft underbelly. Now jump in your
car and drive uphill a few minutes until you reach the ridgeís
summit. From here face east and peer down into the Jordan Valley
abyss below. You will immediately understand why no enemy tank could
cross into Israel from Jordan.
Actually, my blog doesnít equate the strategic importance of Samaria
with that of the Golan. Of the two, Samaria is more significant. The
Golan Heights is indeed very strategic but itís far from the crowded
center; Samaria sits right on top of it.
I invite your readers to log on to my Shomron Central blog here 
to learn more about Samaria.
FP: Michael Gottlieb, as always, a pleasure. (Copyright©2011
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