(November 28, 2018 / JNS) “What is euphemistically called ‘the peace process’ should more accurately be called the war process,” Israeli-Palestinian diplomacy was better 25 years ago than in 2018. This according to Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum and publisher of Middle East Quarterly, in reference to the current bleak state of affairs between Israelis and the Palestinians when it comes to forging a peaceful future.
Pipes made these remarks during a public lecture to about 60 people this week at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, titled “Why Israel Needs to Win and the Palestinians to Lose.”
In 2016, the Middle East Forum established an initiative called “The Israel Victory Project,” whose modus operandi towards true peace in Israel is threefold: to convince Israelis that the only way to win a war is through victory; to convince the American government to endorse an Israeli victory; and finally, to convince the Palestinians that the war against Israel is over, and that it’s time to move on.
Pipes used the podium to explain his definition of an Israeli “victory,” and how such a victory would benefit Israelis on all sides of the political spectrum while at the same time enhancing the lives of the Palestinians.
Giving some background on his concept, Pipes said that “as a historian, I’ve noticed that wars end when one side gives up. It’s actually quite intuitive. So long as you and I are each ready to fight the other, the fight goes on. When I give up, you win fight, and the fight is over.”
He added that “the Germans lost in World War I, but their cities were standing, their armies were still effective; they didn’t believe they really lost, so they tried again. The second time they tried [World War II], the allies had to convince them that they lost, and it worked. Germany, Japan and Italy [did not say], ‘Let’s try this a third time.’ ”
‘Recognize the state for progress to take place’
When it comes to Israel and the Palestinians, however, he explains that “the conventional way of seeing this conflict, which has been in place since the Oslo accords—and presumably will still be in place when the Trump plan is revealed—is essentially appeasement to the Palestinians, saying, ‘Here, take this and leave Israel alone.’ It hasn’t worked clearly, and more efforts to make it happen will not work just as [former U.S. Secretary of State John] Kerry’s effort didn’t work a few years ago, the next effort will not work, and that’s because of something deep which I call ‘Palestinian rejectionism.’ ”
Pipes defines that concept as an unwillingness to accept Zionism, or even the idea of a Jewish state, originating from the times of Mohammed Amin al-Husseini, the Muslim leader of the area during the British Palestine in the 1920s and an ally of Adolf Hitler.
Today, Pipes says that roughly only 20 percent of Palestinians accept Israel, and since the large majority doesn’t, he believes that no new peace initiatives will be effective.
His plan is for Israel to declare victory by convincing the Palestinians that “they have lost; there is no hope. They are a miniature version of Germany, Japan, Italy and other defeated states in 1945, and they must recognize the Jewish state in order for progress to take place.”
Pipes says he views the Palestinians like Hiroo Onoda, the Japanese officer who refused to surrender at the end of World War II, and spent 29 years holding out on an island in the Philippines carrying out guerilla attacks until his former commander arrived from Japan in 1974 to relieve him of his duties.
He admits that it will be no easy task to get the Palestinians to recognize their defeat and accept the reality, which is the Jewish State of Israel, for three reasons:
- The Islamic doctrine, which includes the notion that any territory once held by Muslims must always return to Muslim rule;
- The fact that the Palestinians have unique worldwide support, including in international areas such as the U.N. General Assembly, institutions of higher learning and on the streets of major cities;
- Timid, soft and cautious Israeli policies over the past decades, especially originating from the security establishment that has led the Palestinians to feel they are “winning.”
Pipes was extremely critical of Israel’s security establishment (senior IDF officials, Mossad, Shin Bet, etc.) noting that the “timidness on the part of Israeli security has meant time and again that the Israeli response to the Palestinians has been weak.”
“We saw this just two weeks ago,” he said, after Hamas in Gaza fired more than 450 rockets into southern Israel, and then came a ceasefire, costing Hamas nothing. “The same thing with the [incendiary] kites and balloons earlier this year—again and again, while the public and the politicians want to do something, in general the security service says, ‘No, don’t do this.’ ”
“I would say that the No. 1 obstacle to an Israeli victory is the security services, to my surprise. When I started looking at this topic, I thought it would be Meretz [left-wing Israeli political party] and the left. But it’s the security services who are so important and so reluctant to take any step that will signal to the Palestinians that there is a price to pay.”
He added that the “Palestinians have this optimism, and the Israeli security establishment pessimism, while the outside world believes more talks will solve the problem.”
‘Something attractive to both left and right’
The bottom line, says Pipes, is that “what I’m promoting is a shift where Israelis seek victory. And then it moves to the U.S., where the American president says, ‘Yes, that’s what we do, we win our wars through victory, and you [Israel] do the same.’ And finally, it goes to Palestinians, who are forced to understand that the war is over, and they lost.”
Specifically, to JNS, Pipes acknowledged that while he can’t reveal their identities for security reasons, “we have a trio of Palestinians who want to see change,” who are on board with the concept of “Israel victory.” He says real progress will be felt once statistics show that instead of only 20 percent of Palestinians recognizing Israel, more like 40 percent to 60 percent do.
Pipes says his organization is “solution agnostic,” and as such does not favor any political proposals Israel has introduced on the right or the left, such as a one-state solution, two-state, annexation or ‘Jordan in Palestine.’ He says, “We’re saying whatever your plan is, it’s a good idea to have the Palestinians accept Israel. That would be helpful, no matter what.”
He adds, “And by the way, it’s helpful for the left as well. It means in leftist terms “ending the occupation,” it means not having to have guards and walls and borders—all of which they are so upset about. It should be something that is attractive to both left and right.”
Why then would the Palestinians be willing to declare defeat?
Pipes says that currently, the “Palestinians do not benefit from all of those attractive qualities that Israel has,” including a sense of happiness, culture, rule of law, etc. “Only by giving up their historic irredentist claim to this entire territory and only when they recognize the Jewish state of Israel can they begin to develop their own polity, economy, society and culture. The only way is to recognize the permanence of the State of Israel.”
Daniel Seaman, the Middle East Forum’s Israel director, tells JNS that the organization is opening an official office in Israel this week since “first we have to convince Israelis of their own victory.” In fact, 26 members of Knesset currently serve on the board of the Knesset’s “Israel Victory” caucus (as do 32 members of the U.S. Congress).
Subscribing to Pipes’s comments that what we have now is a “war process” and not a peace process, Seaman notes how “life for Palestinians was improving and growing under Israeli control until 1993, but Oslo brought them misery and war without end.”
He feels that by Israel declaring “victory,” the tide will eventually turn.