There is No Substitute for Victory
By Daniel Pipes
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 believes that
pushing Yasir 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 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 192-mile 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."
- "U.S. 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 some one 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, narrowly to define its enemy as the Palestinian Authority, not the Palestinian body
politic as a whole. In this, it emulated the U.S. approach to Iraq in 1991 and to Afghanistan in
One can argue that the Iraqi populations are not parties to the aggression of Saddam
Hussein and Afghan populations are not parties to the aggression of 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 U.S. government, this means halting counterproductive efforts at brokering a ceasefire and
focusing on getting Israel's neighbors finally to accept its existence.
Daniel Pipes (www.DanielPipes.org) is director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum.
from the April 2002 Edition of the Jewish Magazine