(July 5, 2018 / JNS) A caucus of 26 Knesset members, spanning from left to right on the Israeli political spectrum, is promoting the idea that the only way to reach peace with the Palestinians is for both Israelis and Palestinians to recognize that Israel has clearly emerged victorious in the decades-old conflict between the two populations.
The Israel Victory Project—a project initiated by the Middle East Forum that has sister caucuses in Israel’s parliament and the U.S. Congress—met this week in the Knesset to present new data demonstrating that a majority of Israelis view the Oslo Accords, which called for direct negotiations of a two-state solution, as a failure.
Knesset member Oded Forer of the Yisrael Beiteynu Party, co-chairman of the Knesset caucus, said that a key to understanding why Israel and Palestinians are no closer to a peace agreement today than when the Oslo Accords were initially signed in 1993 “starts with recognizing the fact that Palestinians don’t recognize the right of the Jewish people to have a state of their own.”
This lack of realization, Ethiopian-born Knesset member Avraham Neguise of the Likud Party explains, demonstrates that Israelis and Palestinians are not engaged in a conflict over land or borders.
“Some people say it is a land issue, the so-called occupation,” he says. “Some say it is the settlement situation. These are all lies because this is an ideological conflict, not a land conflict. Recognition must come first; otherwise, we will have no peace.”
‘Negotiations have gone on for decades’
President of the Middle East Forum Daniel Pipes, who has been fundamental in establishing the caucuses in both the Knesset and the Congress, explained the need for declaring Israel’s victory to the conflict.
“The concept of victory has largely disappeared, but it is a large part of conflict and war,” he states. “Conflicts can only end when one party gives up.”
Pipes explains that “Palestinian rejectionism” of a Jewish state has not only harmed Israel but also Palestinian interests, noting that the prolonged conflict has prevented the quality of life and economic opportunities that would await Palestinians if they normalized relations with Israel.
“If [they] can be liberated from their obsession with the destruction of the Jewish state, they can go on with their lives,” he says.
Members of the forum contend that importing exiled terrorist and former PLO leader Yasser Arafat from Tunisia to head a newly formed Palestinian Authority, and to give the authority the same status in negotiations as the sovereign State of Israel has only encouraged Palestinians to seek land concessions from Israel without giving anything in return.
“These negotiations have gone on for decades, and they have led nowhere,” Pipes notes, expressing his hope that leaders within the international community will finally recognize that the Oslo Accords have failed to produce the intended results and will begin searching for alternative solutions.
‘What has the Palestinian Authority given to our lives?’
Ashraf Jabari, head of a local Arab clan in the large Palestinian-controlled West Bank city of Hebron, places the failure to normalize relations with Israel and improve the lives of the Palestinians squarely with the P.A.
“For 25 years, under the Palestinian Authority, I want to ask, what have we succeeded in? What has the P.A. given to our lives?” he asks. “Things are moving backwards; they are not moving forward.”
Jabari says “there is no solution unless everyone is under Jewish authority. Let’s give up all of this conflict, all of these problems. We are in a difficult situation. The only people that are against [Israeli sovereignty] are those that profit from the conflict.
“I am certain the Palestinians want real peace. It will be better for our children and our grandchildren,” he continues. “It is time to say enough. We are not afraid of any backlash. The most important thing is for us to stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.”
Jabari notes that he recently spoke to U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who informed him that since the signing of the Oslo Accords, the P.A. had received more than $7 billion in U.S. foreign aid.
“Where did it go?” questions Jabari. “I ask [the P.A.] leaders: What have you done for the Palestinian people?”
Forer notes that Jabari’s words “give [the entire caucus] a lot of hope,” while adding that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas “operates in his own interests, not what is in the interests of the Palestinian people.”
Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum, echoes sentiments by Jabari. “For $7 billion spent towards peace, what is the result of that? Today in Gaza, we have a Hamas-led government committed to killing Jews.”
‘The two-state solution was only theoretical’
At a follow-up Israel Victory Project event held at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center, current and former Knesset members analyzed the roots of the conflict and the seeming inability to end it.
Gideon Saar, a popular Likud Party politician considered a possible successor to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said “the two-state solution was nothing more than a two-state slogan, and it was only theoretical.”
“At the crucial moments, both before the founding of the State of Israel and even after the signing of the Oslo Accords, the Palestinians rejected every offer. They always said no, regardless of the exact lines that were drawn, or how the land was to be divided.
“The Palestinian side never wanted to end the conflict,” says Saar. “Their goal was to upgrade their position in the conflict. Their goal remains the end of Israel’s existence.”
Saar calls for strengthening the Jewish majority in Jerusalem with projected housing projects in Jewish neighborhoods and throughout the country with a new national push for Jewish immigration from Diaspora Jewish communities. He also suggests that Palestinians living in the West Bank could once again receive national citizenship in Jordan, which he notes was removed illegally from Palestinians in 1988.
Saar suggests that Israel “move to a binary approach; to the concept of a zero-sum game. The victory paradigm assumes that an agreement can be reached only when an Israeli victory has been fully established. This requires the abandonment of the Oslo concept.”
Neguise, former Knesset member Einat Wilf and former director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs Brig.-Gen. (res.) Yossi Kuperwasser addressed the circumstances and wishful thinking that led Israel into the fateful Oslo Accords.
Kuperwasser notes that in trying and failing to make peace with the Palestinians, “there is a learning curve, in which we are learning from our mistakes.”
“Not even when Oslo was signed was there a Zionist majority for this plan,” he says. “But we can see today that Zionists are clearly against this paradigm.”
Pipes thinks the Israel Victory idea can be attractive to all members of the Knesset, regardless of their political leanings. He notes that the paradigm he is promoting “is solution agnostic.”
As he explains, “we are very careful not to prejudge any solution. If you want a complete withdrawal to the 1967 lines, Israel victory works. If you want to see complete Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, it works. And anything in between. We only deal with the first step of accepting the Jewish right to live in the State of Israel.”
“How do we find ways to break Palestinian resistance, without using guns?” Pipes’s colleague Roman poses, noting that the Israel Victory Project has spent more than NIS 6 million ($1.65 million) promoting these concepts in Israel, in order to gain support across the political spectrum.
“No matter where you stand on the political spectrum,” he says, “if you are a Zionist, you are for victory.”