for an Israeli Victory is the Only Way to End the Conflict with the Palestinians
By Daniel Pipes
December 2, 2018
From a practical political point of view, Avigdor
Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, and their idea to take a tougher stand toward Hamas
just went down to defeat, if not humiliation. That's because Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu once again showed his political skills; the first is now
ex-defense minister, the second failed to become defense minister.
From a longer-term point of view, however, the duo raised
an issue that for decades had not been part of the Israeli political discourse
but, due to their efforts, promises to be an important factor in the future:
that would be the concept of victory, of an Israeli victory over Hamas and, by
extension, over the Palestinian Authority and Palestinians in general.
Victory – defined as imposing one's will on the enemy so
he gives up his war goals – has been the objective of philosophers,
strategists, and generals through human history. Aristotle
wrote that "Victory is the end of generalship." Carl
von Clausewitz, the Prussian theorist, concurred: "The aim of war
should be the defeat of the enemy." Gen. James
Mattis, the U.S. secretary of defense, finds that "No war is over until
the enemy says it's over."
Palestinians routinely speak of achieving victory over
Israel, even when this is fantastical: to cite one example, PA leader Mahmoud
Abbas called his Hamas counterpart, Ismail Haniyeh, after eight days of
violence with Israel that left Gaza badly battered in November 2012 to
"congratulate him on the victory and extend condolences to the families of
Contrarily, in Israel, the notion of victory has been
sidelined since at least the Oslo Accords of 1993, after which its leaders
instead focused on such concepts as compromise, conciliation,
confidence-building, flexibility, goodwill, mediation, and restraint. Prime
Olmert immemorially articulated this attitude in 2007 when he stated that
"Peace is achieved through concessions."
This perverse understanding of how wars end led Israel to
make extraordinary blunders in the fifteen years after Oslo, for which it was
punished by unremitting campaigns of delegitimization and violence, symbolized,
respectively, by the Durban
conference of 2001 and the Passover
Massacre of 2002.
Such nonsense ended during Netanyahu's near-decade-long
term as prime minister, but it has not yet been replaced by a sturdy vision of
victory. Rather, Netanyahu has put out brush fires as they arose in Sinai, Gaza,
the West Bank, the Golan Heights, Syria, and Lebanon. While agreeing with the
concept of an Israeli victory when personally briefed, he has not spoken
publicly about it.
Meanwhile, other leading figures in Israel have adopted
this outlook. Former deputy chief of staff Uzi Dayan called on the army "to
return to the path of victory." Former education and interior minister Gideon
Sa'ar has stated that "The 'victory paradigm,' like Jabotinsky's 'Iron
Wall' concept, assumes that an agreement may be possible in the future, but only
after a clear and decisive Israeli victory ... The transition to the 'victory
paradigm' is contingent upon abandoning the Oslo concept."
In this context, the statements by Lieberman and Bennett
point to a change in thinking. Lieberman
quit his position as defense minister out of frustration that a barrage by Hamas
of 460 rockets and missiles against Israel was met with a ceasefire; he called
instead for "a state of despair" to be imposed on the enemies of
Israel. Complaining that "Israel stopped winning," Bennett
demanded that the IDF "start winning again," and added that "When
Israel wants to win, we can win." On rescinding his demand for the defense
portfolio, Bennett emphasized that he stands by Netanyahu "in the
monumental task of ensuring that Israel is victorious again."
Opponents of this paradigm then amusingly testified to the
power of this idea of victory. Ma'ariv columnist Revital
Amiran wrote that the victory the Israeli public most wants lies in such
arenas as larger allocations for the elderly and unbearable traffic jams. Meretz
Zandberg, replied to Bennett that for her, a victorious Israel means winning
Emmy and Oscar nominations, guaranteeing equal health services, and spending
more on education.
That victory and defeat have newly become a topic for
debate in Israel constitutes a major step forward. As media figure Ayalet Mitsch
correctly notes, "even left-leaning Israelis think it's time to win
again." Thus does the push for an Israeli victory move forward.