Israel Shuns Victory
By Daniel Pipes
FrontPageMagazine.com | March 28, 2006
As Israelis go to the polls, not one of the leading parties offers the
option of winning the war against the Palestinians. It’s a striking and
First, some background. Wars are won, the historical record shows, when one
side feels compelled to give up on its goals. This is only logical, for so
long as both sides hope to achieve their war ambitions, fighting either
continues or potentially can resume. For example, although defeated in World
War I, Germans did not give up their goal of dominating Europe and soon
again turned to Hitler to try again. The Korean War ended over a half
century ago but neither north or south having given up its aspirations means
fighting could flare up at any time. Similarly, through the many rounds of
the Arab-Israeli conflict – wars in 1948-49, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1982 –
both sides retained their goals.
Those goals are simple, static, and binary. The Arabs fight to eliminate
Israel, Israel fights to win the acceptance of its neighbors. The first is
offensive in intent, the second is defensive. The former is barbaric, and
the latter civilized. For nearly sixty years, Arab rejectionists have sought
to eliminate Israel via a range of strategies: undermining its legitimacy
through propaganda, harming its economy through a trade boycott,
demoralizing it through terrorism, and threatening its population via WMD.
While the Arab effort has been patient, intense, and purposeful, it has also
failed. Israelis have built a modern, affluent, and strong country, but one
still largely rejected by Arabs. This mixed record has spawned two political
developments: a sense of confidence among politically moderate Israelis; and
a sense of guilt and self-criticism among its leftists. Very few Israelis
still worry about the unfinished business of getting the Arabs to accept the
permanence of the Jewish state. Call it Israel’s invisible war goal.
Rather than seek victory, Israelis have developed a lengthy menu of
approaches to manage the conflict. These include:
· Unilateralism (building a wall, partial withdrawals): The current policy,
as espoused by Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and the Kadima Party.
· Lease for 99 years the land under Israeli towns on the West Bank: The
Labor Party of Amir Peretz.
· Palestinian economic development: Shimon Peres.
· Territorial compromise: The premise of Oslo diplomacy, as initiated by
· Outside funding for the Palestinians (on the Marshall Plan model): U.S.
Representative Henry Hyde.
· Retreat to the 1967 borders: Israel’s far left.
· Push the Palestinians to develop good government: Natan Sharansky (and
President George W. Bush).
· Insist that Jordan is Palestine: Israel’s right.
· Transfer the Palestinians out of the West Bank: Israel’s far right.
These many approaches are very different in spirit and mutually exclusive.
But they have a key element in common. All manage the conflict without
resolving it. All ignore the need to defeat Palestinian rejectionism. All
seek to finesse war rather than win it.
For an outside observer who hopes for Arab acceptance of Israel sooner
rather than later, this avoidance of the one winning strategy prompts a
certain frustration, one that’s the more profound on recalling how
brilliantly the Israelis early on understood their war goals.
Fortunately, at least one prominent Israeli politician advocates Israeli
victory over the Palestinians. Uzi Landau notes simply that “when you’re in
a war you want to win the war.” He had hoped to lead the Likud in the
current election but failed to win anything approaching a majority in his
party and is ranked fourteenth on the election list this week, not even high
enough to guarantee him a parliamentary seat. With Likud itself expected to
get under 15 percent of the popular vote, it is clear how deeply unpopular
Israelis presently find the idea of winning their war.
And so, they experiment with compromise, unilateralism, enriching their
enemies, and other schemes. But as Douglas MacArthur observed, “In war,
there is no substitute for victory.” The Oslo diplomacy ended in dismal
failure and so will all the other schemes that avoid the hard work of
winning. Israelis eventually must gird themselves to resuming the difficult,
bitter, long, and expensive effort needed to convince the Palestinians and
others that their dream of eliminating Israel is defunct.
Should Israelis fail to achieve this, then Israel itself will be defunct.
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Mr. Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Middle East Forum and
author of Miniatures (Transaction Publishers).
JUDEA & SAMARIA are clearly and unquestionably JEWISH!