THE ISRAEL REPORTJanuary/February 2000
TEL AVIV (January 5) - Revealing possible flexibility in the defense establishment's position in peace negotiations with Syria, Deputy Defense Minister Ephraim Sneh has said Israel's topographical red lines could be offset by demilitarization.
"Our red line needs to be a defensible border - a border where the chief of General Staff can come to the government or the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and say: 'From this line I can defend the State of Israel with minimum losses,' " Sneh was quoted as saying in the Defense Ministry's monthly Bitachon.
Sneh said this red line is not fixed, as "the deeper the demilitarization and the better the early warning, the more we will allow ourselves to be flexible topographically."
"We will have to compensate ourselves in other ways over the loss of this topographical asset in the Golan," he added. But, Sneh said, Israel cannot compromise on water sources.
Sneh maintained normalization between the nation's should be warm.
"When an Israeli thinks of normalization he wants to get up in the morning and take his wife and kids on a shopping trip to Damascus and come home," Sneh said. "The Syrians see normalization as an exchange of ambassadors and flight links - maximum. We need to demand that it be a peace warmer than with Egypt, closer to the type of peace we have with Jordan."
Though Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said last month that peace with Syria would lead to cuts in mandatory IDF service time, Sneh said this is not a certainty.
"The army is becoming more technological and sophisticated. The time it takes to train is not necessarily getting shorter. So I am not sure that it is such a simple formula. Whoever thinks that in the foreseeable future we will be able to allow ourselves to cut in defense doesn't understand anything," he was quoted as saying.
Sneh said the only cuts he sees are to reserve soldiers , who will be increasingly replaced by yeshiva students drafted into the IDF in combat roles.
"We are at the beginning of this, and this month the second drafting of haredi soldiers will take place. In the end we will create a situation where within this framework we will be able to release a large number of reserve battalions from routine security tasks," Sneh said.
© Jerusalem Post