Victory Requires Patience

By Efraim Inbar

Israel Hayom

July 19, 2017

Edwin Marcus, 1944.

The Knesset has launched an Israel Victory Caucus, co-chaired by Yisrael Beytenu MK Oded Forer and Yesh Atid MK Yaakov Peri, following the establishment of a similar caucus in the U.S. Congress.

The caucus hopes to sensitize the Israeli public, as well as politicians in Israel and abroad, to the need to attain a decisive victory over the Palestinians. Professor Daniel Pipes, the scholar behind this project, argues convincingly that a peace settlement will only be possible after the Palestinians realize that the 100 years of struggle against Zionism has failed.

To date, the Palestinians (not only Hamas) still entertain hopes that the Zionist enterprise can be dismantled. Israel's victories on the battlefield against Arab armies, its success in containing terrorism and the prosperity of the Jewish state have not yet cemented a sense of defeat among the Palestinians. Therefore, the Palestinian Authority continues the campaign to delegitimize Israel. Elements in Palestinian society even believe that Jewish society will inevitably crumble under the pressure of terrorist attacks and internal tensions.

Many Palestinians still entertain hopes that Israel will crumble under pressure and disappear.

The view that Israel will eventually disappear, just like the Crusaders in the 12th century, is widespread. The Palestinians are encouraged by the indiscriminate financial and diplomatic support they get from abroad and are pleased with the enhanced regional influence of Iran, which pledges the destruction of Israel. The assumption that their desire for a state leads to concessions needed for a peace settlement with Israel remains to be proven.

Taking into consideration the nature of the "peace partner," the protracted struggle is likely to continue unless a new pragmatic leadership emerges. Alas, such a leadership is not in the offing, leaving Israel no choice but to wage a limited war on the PA in the West Bank and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian rejectionism is encouraged by financial and diplomatic support from abroad.

Indeed, Israel is in a state of war, not in a peace process. This truth is not palatable to the international community that emphasizes diplomacy and wants to believe that the Palestinians are interested in peace. This predicament constrains Israel's military freedom of action in the pursuit of victory. Its ability to inflict pain on the Palestinians -- which is what war is about -- is limited. It is often accused of exercising excessive force by a liberal press that is inherently averse to any use of force.

Moreover, Israel is torn by a permanent dilemma. On the one hand, it tries to buy calm, and time, by providing economic means to sustain the weak Palestinian economy. Jerusalem understands that hungry neighbors attract international criticism of Israel and could turn into a security problem. On the other hand, it needs to punish the violent Palestinians to create deterrence, and to affect their behavior and aspirations. It is not easy to balance the first effort, basically a short-term consideration, with the attempt to deliver a costly defeat to the Palestinians that might bring an end to the conflict faster.

The Palestinian reluctance to adopt realistic foreign policy goals and Israel's hesitation to use its military superiority to exact a much higher cost from the Palestinians are the defining features of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The "Israel Victory" project seems to focus on the second feature. It seeks to change the thinking about the conflict after decades of "peace process'" that offered the Palestinians plenty of carrots (economic aid, international recognition and Israeli territorial concessions) to no avail. The lobbies established in Jerusalem and Washington are supposed to free Israel from some of the constraints affecting its use of force. Israel has imposed upon its military many restrictions to ensure the highest moral standard for its troops, more than any other army in the world.

Israel's short-term pursuit of 'economic peace' is prolonging the conflict.

But even within the self-imposed constraints and the international legal framework of armed conflict, Israel can exact a higher price from misbehaving Palestinians. Moreover, the Israeli government must realize that its short-term policy of "economic peace" is prolonging the conflict, which carries future costs for Israeli society.

It is not easy to find the golden path between inflicting pain and refraining from pushing the Palestinians into a desperate position where they have nothing to lose. Only good strategists can devise such a calibrated use of force. The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin advocated using measured force, an art that is the prerequisite for diplomatic action in our neighborhood. Under the current circumstances, Israel must adopt a patient strategy of attrition in which measured use of force will over time bring a change in Palestinian attitudes. At this stage, additional Israeli concessions to demonstrate good will only signal Israeli weakness and whet Palestinian appetites.

Responsible states must tell the Palestinians to stop dreaming about the 'right of return.'

Still, we must recognize that use of force against the Palestinians, while extremely important, is not enough to turn them into neighbors ready for peaceful coexistence. Diplomatic pressure is also needed. Responsible states, primarily in the West, must tell the Palestinians in an unequivocal manner to stop dreaming about the "right of return" -- an act of faith for most Palestinians. Israel must also convince its friends in the West to demand from the Palestinians a clear recognition of the right of the Jews to self-determination. And such statements must be issued also in Arabic.

Use of force and diplomatic pressure can induce attitudinal change in societies. Yet it is a slow process. Attaining victory in the protracted Israeli-Palestinian conflict requires patience.