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Can Israel ‘Win by Winning’?

A review of Daniel Pipes' "Israel Victory: How Zionists Win Acceptance and Palestinians Get Liberated.”

Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Israeli forces operating in the Gaza Strip on March 30, 2024. Credit: IDF.
Daniel Greenfield
Daniel Greenfield is an Israeli-born journalist who writes for conservative publications.

A week before the Oct. 7 Hamas assault on Israel, veteran foreign policy expert Daniel Pipes, a former board member of the United States Institute of Peace and the president of the Middle East Forum, turned in the manuscript for his new book“Israel Victory: How Zionists Win Acceptance and Palestinians Get Liberated.”

 The foundational thesis of Pipes’ work, that Israel had spent far too much time conciliating the Islamic terrorist groups that dominate Gaza and the West Bank, offering them the promise of peace and prosperity, emerged from the rubble more relevant than ever.

“Israeli leaders seek to improve Palestinian economic welfare: I call this the policy of enrichment,” Pipes writes in “Israel Victory,” criticizing Israel for not adopting “the universal tactic of depriving an economy of resources, but…the opposite one of helping Palestinians to develop economically.”

The quintessential liberal fallacy also at the root of America’s failures in the War on Terror holds that wars are fought against regimes, not people. Even when Israel achieved its victories on the battlefield, it still believed that peace would come through mutual prosperity and befriending foes. This vision is alien to the region and rather than bringing peace has only perpetuated generations of war.

In the months before Oct. 7, Arab Muslim workers from Gaza were allowed in increasing numbers to work in Israel. And in the months since Oct. 7, Israel, under political pressure, has flooded Gaza with aid. The pre-10/7 appeasement failed to prevent the massacres, rapes and kidnappings and the post-10/7 benevolence only convinced Muslims in Gaza they would win.

“Israel Victory” contends that Israel can’t win through conciliation, it can only win by winning, and that furthermore, victory is ultimately the best possible outcome for both sides. Israel’s reticence to achieve a conclusive and decisive victory infused generations of Arab Muslims living in the West Bank and Gaza with the conviction that they can destroy Israel if they transform their societies into killing machines and turn over political power to terrorists.

It is as if instead of defeating Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, the Allies had left a core regime and population intact and free to plot war for another 50 years. That’s what happened in Israel.

The dynamic in which we try to win over the Muslim world, only to have it reject us, to which we respond with even more concerted efforts to win it over, has become all too familiar to most of us. And it’s the dynamic that “Israel Victory” places at the heart of the conflict. The combination of relentless international pressure and the conviction that peace can only be achieved by winning hearts and minds, rather than wars, has created a doom spiral of “rejectionism” and “conciliation.”

“Rejectionism, however, will not collapse on its own. It must be broken. Only one party, Israel, can achieve this. Doing so will require major changes, indeed, a paradigm shift,” Pipes writes. “That means abandoning conciliation and returning to the eternal verities of war. I call this Israel Victory. More negatively but more accurately, it consists of Palestinian defeat.”

Essentially, for Israel to win, it has to defeat the enemy side not just enough to achieve a battlefield victory, but to finally convince it that any further fighting can only be futile.

In an era where everyone from Obama and Biden to some of their opponents on the right complain about “endless wars”, the idea of ending wars by winning them seems radical.

But endless wars persist, the way that many other problems do, because we have abandoned the common sense solutions that everyone used to understand in favor of new models that don’t work. In “Israel Victory” Pipes briefly and ably traces the history of the collision between Israeli optimism and Muslim hatred. He shows that, contrary to leftist myth, Israeli governments and leading figures like Moshe Dayan bent over backward to accommodate and appease the Arab Muslim population.

In one revealing passage, the book relates an incident that took place after the victory of the Six-Day War.

The Israelis dispatched combines to help Arab Muslims occupying parts of the West Bank bring in the harvest.

“I was among those who conquered the place,” one of the drivers recalled. “We are incapable of being conquerors. A month before I was risking my life, and now here I was helping them harvest their grain.”

The sentiment is a Rorschach test. It appears noble to many westerners, yet in societies where an individual’s place is determined by hierarchies built on force, it conveys a destabilizing weakness. Westerners think that they are liberating societies when they are actually taking away their verities and replacing them with ambiguities. And these societies, whether in Gaza or Iraq and Afghanistan, rapidly embrace those more traditional elements that offer cultural stability and the ultimate promise that what was once true can be made so again.

In the Middle East, modern societies have won military victories, but not cultural ones. If we want to stop constantly fighting military campaigns, we will have to win the cultural wars as well.

And this may require Israel, America, the United Kingdom and other modern societies to do things that they are uncomfortable with, that appear to violate their values and disturb their sense of moral order.

Many dysfunctional children grow up in homes where the parents try to be their “friends” because they are uncomfortable acting as authority figures.

To end the cycle of appeasement and violence, the Israelis and all of us may have to learn to stop trying to be “friends” with our enemies and get comfortable with being conquerors.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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