OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

It’s time to end the small Palestinian victories

Israel needs to assert control, then provide deterrence and finally propel forward against those who would seek harm to its citizens and act in favor of security.

Residents of eastern Jerusalem gather on the Temple Mount, some holding Hamas flags, May 7, 2021. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Residents of eastern Jerusalem gather on the Temple Mount, some holding Hamas flags, May 7, 2021. Photo by Jamal Awad/Flash90.
Gregg Roman (Credit: Middle East Forum)
Gregg Roman
Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum. He previously served as an official in the Israeli Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense.

“Victory belongs to the most persevering,” said Napoleon Bonaparte.

Bonaparte, who knew something of victory, is saying that victory is rarely overnight or quick, but takes time and patience.

Unfortunately for the State of Israel, its opponents are demonstrating that they believe they are on the road to ultimate victory through a series of smaller victories that demoralize its enemy.

According to Palestinian affairs expert Khaled Abu Toameh, the Palestinian rioters who are turning a property dispute issue in the Sheikh Jarrah-Shimon HaTzaddik neighborhood into an international incident and ensured the removal of crowd-control barricades outside Damascus Gate are seen as a “big victory.”

The raining of rockets on Jerusalem during the celebrations on Jerusalem Day, and the hundreds still landing across the country causing loss of life, is a shameful message of impunity.

These victories are certainly emboldening for the Palestinians.

For many years, Middle East Forum president Daniel Pipes has been calling for an Israel victory over violent rejectionist Palestinians. As a historian, Pipes knows that in war and conflict, one side wins and one side loses. The losing side is the one who gives up its war aims and accepts defeat.

If one traces the conflict to its origins, he sees that it is not about land, settlements or occupation, but began as violent rejectionism against the aim of the Jewish people to reestablish sovereignty in their indigenous and ancestral homeland. That is why there were deadly riots and pogroms against Jews decades before the State of Israel came into being.

The Israel-Palestinian conflict is thus based on a war of narratives, but with deadly consequences. For it to end, either Israel or the Palestinians must give up.

We know what would happen if Israel gave up, so the Jewish state must do everything possible to ensure that the Palestinian leaders give up, by finally “crossing the Rubicon” and finally accepting the legitimacy of Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people.

This acceptance ends the conflict and is the reason that no Palestinian leader has accepted any of the generous proposals, from 1937 to 2008, of an independent Palestinian state. Israel should be working hard towards this end.

In the past, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu correctly preconditioned returning to negotiations on Palestinian acceptance of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state. For many in the West, this is pure evasion and irrelevant semantics.

Nonetheless, the Palestinians do not see it this way and resist this formulation strongly.

In 2014, Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said, “They are pressing and saying, ‘no peace without the Jewish state.’ There is no way. We will not accept.”

In other words, even if there is no peace, Israel’s status as the national homeland of the Jewish people will never be recognized. For people like Abbas, the conflict can persist, and people will continue dying because his refusal is the crux of the conflict.

Abbas’s position, like that of Hamas and other rejectionist groups, continues to be vindicated by recent events. Israel’s recent show of weakness on multiple fronts is celebrated on the Palestinian street.

On Friday, Arab residents of eastern Jerusalem chanted on the Temple Mount: “We are all Hamas, waiting for your orders, commander Mohammed Deif. Hamas, shoot a rocket at Tel Aviv tonight.”

Palestinians think that Israel does not have the perseverance to be victorious. Possibly, there are even Israelis who are beginning to think this way. This is dangerous because it emboldens the violent rejectionists.

Victory is obviously not won overnight but by a series of smaller victories that wear out one’s opponents. With each small victory, many rejectionist Palestinians see the greater victory at hand.

If Israel can walk away from security and legal issues, it can eventually walk away. This is the perception, however wild it might seem, which is being perpetuated. Nonetheless, it can be turned back if Israel decides that it will no longer act as if it is in retreat.

Israel needs to start winning some small victories of its own. It needs to push back against the rejectionist Palestinians. It needs to first assert control, then provide deterrence and finally propel forward against those who would seek harm to its citizens and act in favor of security.

In the latest conflict with Hamas in Gaza, “Operation Guarding of the Walls,” Israel should be massively bombarding Gaza and even enter and occupy until the rocket infrastructure has been completely destroyed. While doing this, it should hermetically seal Gaza, cutting off the supply chain to Hamas and other terrorist organizations. It must do what all nations have and are doing to achieve victory, by beating its enemy into submission.

This would be a significant victory and would change perception and switch the momentum against violent Palestinian rejectionism. It would convince the average Palestinian that Israel is here to stay and should be accepted in full. This would have the important goal of bringing peace closer because the more Palestinians accept the legitimacy and permanency of the State of Israel, the more pressure would be put on their leaders to give up on their goals of ending the Jewish state.

This is a victory towards which Israel should be persevering.

Gregg Roman is director of the Middle East Forum.

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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