Working Towards an Israeli Victory
What do Israelis think of the idea of Israel winning and the Palestinians losing?
It’s a radical idea, very different from the 50-year-and-counting win-win assumption of “land for peace” that has transfixed governments and monopolized attention. That old idea holds that putting Palestinians and Israelis in a room together will prompt them to settle their differences. On the cusp of the Oslo Accords’ 25th anniversary, we know precisely how well that worked out: Israelis gave real land and Palestinians rewarded them with false promises of peace.
Indeed, according to a poll commissioned by the Middle East Forum and carried out by Rafi Smith of Smith Consulting, only 33% of Jewish Israelis (and about half that number among those who voted for the current government) still believe in land-for-peace, and about the same small number still believe in Oslo. So the old ways not only failed but are deeply unpopular. What takes their place?
One alternative is the Middle East Forum’s Israel Victory initiative, and according to the Middle East Forum’s poll, it is popular. When asked, “Do you agree or disagree with the proposition that ‘it will only be possible to reach a peace agreement with the Palestinians when they recognize they have lost their war against Israel?'” 58% agreed.
Drilling deeper, an identical 58% agreed that “despite Israel’s many victories over the Palestinians, most Palestinians continue to think they can eliminate the Jewish State of Israel.” Fully 65% agreed that “None of the military conflicts to date with the Palestinians have produced an Israeli victory or a decisive result, and therefore the Israeli-Palestinian conflict perseveres.” An even larger number of 70% held that “is it necessary for the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as the Jewish state before Israel agrees to continue negotiations with it.”
And according to our poll, 77% are ready, the next time that Hamas attacks from Gaza or Hezbollah from Lebanon, to “Let the IDF win,” meaning they want Israeli military operations to continue until the other side recognizes it has lost. (That is very much not the current IDF policy, which is to halt military operations as soon as the other side agrees to a ceasefire.)
After a quarter-century of lopsided negotiations in which the Israelis gave up tangible benefits (“land”) in return for false promises (“peace”), these poll numbers confirm a hunger in Israel for truth and courage.
But Israeli leaders are shy to assert this proposition, because every American president — from Carter to Obama — has discouraged them from taking bold steps, insisting on the discredited but pleasantly neutral-sounding land-for-peace formulation. Enter Donald Trump. The Middle East Forum poll asked about him and 59% of Smith’s Jewish-Israeli sample calls him “certainly the most pro-Israel US president to date.”
As readers may be aware, I have my doubts about this judgment, seeing Trump as driven by an anti-Tehran project of which Israel is but a small part. But Israeli victory offers the president an unequaled opportunity to prove his Zionist credibility. If he lets Israel achieve the victory that both it and the Palestinians need to move forward, leaving a tedious and harmful conflict behind, he will have made a huge and constructive change for which all sides eventually will profusely thank him.
Daniel Pipes (DanielPipes.org, @DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. A version of this article was originally published by Israel Hayom.