The Win-Lose Solution
By Gregg Roman
September 9, 2016
At his first security briefing,
Avigdor Liberman, Israel’s Defense Minister, declared that Israel no longer
has “the luxury of conducting drawn-out wars of attrition.” 100 days into
his term, with no sign of the decades-long conflict slowing, it is clear that
the time has come to apply that principle to the Israeli-Palestinian peace
process. In order for there to be peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors,
Israel must win and the Palestinians must lose.
For most of human history,
military victory ended wars. The Pax Romana, a period of 200 years of relative
peace within the Roman Empire, began only when Augustus defeated Marc Antony in
the Battle of Actium. When the North ravaged the South in the American Civil
War, it caused the seemingly intractable conflict that claimed three quarters of
a million lives over four years to fade away. The South, knowing it was
defeated, never made trouble again. German and Japanese ill-will toward Western
democracies in World War II rapidly dissipated, thanks to the bitter pill of
defeat; friendship soon followed.
Today’s conventional wisdom
holds that conflicts are best resolved through negotiation and compromise. But
let’s look at the facts. After 40 years of negotiations to reunite Cyprus, the
island remains divided, and 60 years of standoff over the Korean peninsula have
achieved little. In Syria, the killing continues unabated despite five years of
talks to reconcile Sunnis and Alawites. And at the same time, years of
diplomatic efforts to roll back Iran’s nuclear program ended with the West’s
capitulation to Tehran’s demands.
The negotiations fallacy is
especially evident in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The crux of the conflict is
simple: Israel wants to survive; the Palestinian leadership wants to destroy it.
Some Palestinian leaders make no secret of this. Hamas leaders’ open
incitement to violence spawned the so-called “stabbing
intifada,” and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas praises the
Palestinian “martyrs” and names streets after them. Others talk peace but
demand a Palestinian “right of return” to Israel, a requirement that would
effectively eviscerate the Jewish state by allowing millions of Arabs of
Palestinian descent to resettle permanently within Israel’s borders. But no
matter their angle, all Palestinian leaders preach hatred towards Israel.
American policy has long been to
prevent Israel from achieving a decisive military victory over its adversaries.
In 1956, President Eisenhower forced Israel to abandon its territorial gains
from the Suez Crisis. Similarly, following the 1967 Six Day War, the U.S. helped
engineer a U.N. resolution calling on Israel to return unspecified
“territories occupied” in the war. The Reagan administration stopped Israel
from obliterating Yasser Arafat’s PLO forces in Lebanon in 1982, and, most
recently, the Obama administration pressured Israel to limit its objectives in
its 2014 war with Hamas. These concessions, which are often unilateral and
irreversible, include settlement freezes, prisoner releases and forfeiture of
Such policies deliver pernicious
results; American “restraint” of Israel encourages its enemies to take
risks. Much like government bailouts encourage banks to make high-risk,
high-payoff investments by removing the consequences of failure, Israel’s
adversaries need not fret over irrevocable loss because they know the
international community will admonish Israel for any gains it achieves.
Moreover, restraining Israel
legitimizes and nourishes Palestinian rejectionism, defined as the refusal to
acknowledge Israeli sovereignty and right of Jews to live in their ancestral
homeland. Because it knows there will be no consequences for its sophisticated
propaganda war, the Palestinian Authority can continue to demonize Israel. “To
become a normal people, one whose parents do not encourage their children to
become suicide terrorists, Palestinian Arabs need to undergo the crucible of
Middle East Forum President Daniel Pipes.
When Israel has licensure, without
American opprobrium, to unleash its military might after a Palestinian rocket or
terror attack, as when Liberman ordered
over 50 airstrikes on Hamas military infrastructure in Gaza in response to one
rocket, the Palestinians retreat. The fear of crushing defeat is a potent weapon
in neutralizing Palestinian resistance.
America’s handling of the
Arab-Israeli conflict is preventing the kind of metamorphosis in Palestinian
thinking about Israel that peace requires. It’s time for Washington to allow
Israel to demolish the Palestinian dream of a one-state solution, free of Jews.
As Ronald Reagan said regarding the US fight against communism, the only way to
is if they lose.”
This doesn’t mean the U.S.
should support a winner-take-all settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But we must dispense with the fallacy that Israel is only a concession or two
away from an American-brokered diplomatic breakthrough. As Gen. Douglas
MacArthur said famously, “there is no substitute for victory.”