Since the Camp David meetings of August 2000, which included the broadest and most detailed discussion between Israeli, Palestinian, and American officials of Israel’s security requirements in a final status agreement, many myths have emerged about Israel’s security demands. On the Palestinian side, some described Israel’s negotiating position on its security requirements as draconian, an attempt to continue the occupation through other means. Others charged that the demands were obsessive and unnecessary in the new atmosphere of coexistence and cooperation at that time. On the Israeli side, critics argued that Israel’s security demands were not stringent enough, and if implemented would undermine the security of the state. Some of these arguments were simply due to political machinations, but some emerged from a fundamental misunderstanding of basic security-related concepts and security arrangements, and from insufficient or biased information about Israel’s security concept.
Critics level a common argument against security concepts: that their proponents exaggerate, prey on people’s fears, or block progress with their demands. Yet that is not the intent. Rather, the goal of security concepts developed by military professionals is to guard against possible threats and risks by preparing for the unexpected. Like risk managers in business, security professionals seek to assess not just the probability of an event, but its probability multiplied by the severity of its consequences. Thus, however unlikely some events may be, their potential impact may be so great that they cannot be ignored. Beyond that, the ultimate test of any security concept is whether it can provide answers to a changing reality and respond to events that were not foreseen at the outset; for by definition, there is no way to know exactly what the future holds. In a region like the Israeli-Palestinian arena, which has been characterized by instability and upheaval, risks will remain prevalent, and any security concepts and arrangements should take into account the possibility of unexpected changes.
Another common misconception is that peace can serve as a substitute for security arrangements. The reality, however, is that peace depends on such arrangements. Only strong and stable security arrangements can fortify and nurture reconciliation and prevent potential friction. While a state of peace positively contributes to overall security, it must be emphasized that peace can never be a substitute for security. That is because “peace” is a desirable future state of mind, while “security” seeks to deal with concrete problems and fears founded in collective experience—such as the bloody Israeli-Palestinian conflict of the past four years.