Israel Report

April 2002         

There is No Substitute for Victory

by Daniel Pipes - April 2, 2002
At this time of war between Israel and the Palestinians, half-baked suggestions for a speedy resolution are whizzing by almost as fast as bullets.

Let's review some of the more prominent schemes.

* A new Palestinian leadership: Israel's Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer believes that pushing Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat out of power will bring a more pragmatic and flexible leadership to office.

* Unilateral Israeli withdrawal: Peace Now, a powerful Israeli organization, promotes the slogan, "Leave the Settlements, Return to Ourselves" - meaning a complete withdrawal to the 1967 border lines. (This is somewhat along the lines of the plan promoted by Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and just passed by the Arab League.)

* A territorial swap: Israel's Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh suggests trading some Arab-majority areas within Israel to the Palestinian Authority in return for the latter giving up its claims to some Jewish-majority areas on the West Bank.

* A wall: "A Protective Fence, the Only Way" is a newly popular bumper sticker on Israeli cars calling for an electric fence to go up along the 310 kilometer border between Israel and the West Bank.

* Buffer zones: Prime Minister Ariel Sharon favors a beefed-up version of the fence option with trenches and mine fields, saying that this "will lead to security separation and contribute to the security of all Israeli citizens."

* US soldiers: Thomas Friedman of The New York Times envisions that "Israel gradually withdraw from the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to be replaced by a joint American-Palestinian security force." He then wants Washington "to station American troops on the ground, indefinitely, around Israel."

These ideas all share the profoundly faulty presumption that a century of Palestinian aggression against Israelis can be stopped either by Israeli concessions or by some clever initiative. Not one of these suggestions addresses the real problem: the Palestinians' conviction that, by continuing to hammer away at Israel, they can defeat and destroy it.

Although Arafat adheres to this ugly ambition, he is not its source and his removal will not eliminate it. Far from helping, an Israeli pull-back from the West Bank will signal weakness and thus further inflame Palestinian demands. Fences and no-man's-lands are nearly useless. (Just a few days ago, four terrorists from Jordan breached a border fence by digging under it.) Placing foreign soldiers in a hot zone is a non-starter - Americans and Europeans will not accept fatalities in someone else's war.

These faulty notions derive in good part from the Israeli government having made a subtle but large mistake in approaching the Palestinians. This was, as Efraim Karsh of the University of London recently notes, to narrowly define its enemy as the Palestinian Authority, not the Palestinian body politic as a whole. In this, it emulated the US approach to Iraq in 1991 and to Afghanistan in 2001.

One can argue that the Iraqi and Afghan populations are not parties to the aggression of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, and so are not America's enemies, but that's plainly wrong when it comes to the Palestinians versus Israel. Every piece of evidence suggests and every opinion poll confirms that the Palestinian assault on Israel is a wildly popular undertaking. Indeed, there is reason to believe that the "street" is more anti-Zionist than the leadership.

This battle, in other words, is a conventional clash between peoples. In such cases, Karsh explains, the outcome is "decisively dependent on the vicissitudes of national morale with victory or defeat often determined less by battlefield strength than by national cohesion and resilience."

The implication is clear: if Israel is to protect itself, it must achieve a comprehensive military victory over the Palestinians, so that the latter give up their goal of obliterating it. Ending the Palestinian assault will be achieved not through some negotiated breakthrough but by Palestinians (and Arabic-speakers more generally) concluding that their effort to destroy the Jewish state will fail, and so give up this ambition.

There is a war underway but nearly all observers prefer to ignore this unpleasant reality, preferring instead to suggest meaningless quick fixes. The time has come for them to face facts, which means finding ways to put a stop to Palestinian aggression.

For the US government, this means halting counterproductive efforts at brokering a cease-fire and focusing on getting Israel's neighbors finally to accept its existence.

(The writer is director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum
Message from Daniel Pipes;

Dear Reader:

Several readers have asked me to explain why things have reached a crisis state in the Arab-Israeli theater, so in addition to today's New York Post column, I am sending below a copy of "Winds of War," an article of mine dating from Dec. 20, 2000 that is my (reasonably prescient) attempt to explain how we got here. Since this article was written, the major change is that Israelis have indeed come to realize that they are in a battle for their existence, as made explicit by Prime Minister Sharon in his brief address on Sunday.

The operational paragraph is: "If such a descent into war is not to take place, Israel must carefully calibrate its actions to achieve two nearly contradictory goals: deter potential enemies (be willing to use force and lose lives); and not agitate the Arab street (deploy violence in an intelligent and controlled way)."
The Winds of War Blow over Israel

©2002 - Jerusalem Post, New York Post

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