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. 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
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
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 United States,
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.