DANIEL PIPES: A Reply to My Critics

by Daniel Pipes JNS May 10, 2020

I hardly expected my article to arouse high emotions. It deals with a tactical issue distant from philosophical foundations, principles or ideology.

As Aristotle long ago recognized, virtue is the midpoint between extremes. And I found myself smack at that midpoint in recent days.

I published a modest article suggesting six reasons why the Jewish state should not extend its sovereignty to a Palestinian-majority territory. (Confusingly, the New York Times titled the May 7 online version “Annexing the West Bank Would Hurt Israel” and the slightly different May 8 print version as “Annexation Would Hurt Israel.”)

I hardly expected the article to arouse high emotions. It deals with a tactical issue distant from philosophical foundations, principles, or ideology. I did not condemn annexation in principle but only argued that now, given today’s circumstances, the tradeoff looks unfavorable compared to the status quo. I evaluated the topic from a mainstream friend-of-Israel vantage point. I did not instruct Israelis what to do but addressed fellow Americans.

Maybe I am right, maybe I am wrong, but let’s stay calm. Show me how annexation now is in fact a good idea, and then we can get a beer together, friendship intact. Indeed, several colleagues at the Middle East Forum (Efraim InbarGregg RomanMatt Mainen, Nave Dromi) argue for annexation, which is fine with me. Some responses, such as those by Jonathan Tobin, and Yishai Fleisher respectfully disagree; I am grateful for their constructive sobriety.

But mostly, my analysis prompted wild attacks, starting with a deranged Twitter mob of Leftists (like Bernie Sanders‘ foreign policy advisor), Islamists (CAIR), and Israel haters (Jewish Voice for PeaceIfNotNow). Extremists slithered from their holes to bay at the moon with long, boring, incoherent refutations. From one side, the anti-Israel Electronic Intifada decried my “anti-Palestinian racism”; from the other, the pro-Israel Zionist Organization of America denounced my “absurd falsehoods.”And I happily perch at Aristotle’s midpoint, ignoring their howls.

Some critics note that dire predictions about moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem (a step I heartily supported) proved wrong, therefore my predictions about annexation must also be wrong. To which, I reply: 1. That was an American action. 2. It had wide Israeli support, contrary to annexation. 3. It created no potential Israeli citizens. In short, there’s no comparison.

As founder of the Israel Victory Project, I defer to no one in seeking to compel the Palestinians truly and permanently to accept Israel as the Jewish state. The NYT article makes that point repeatedly – and to a newspaper audience that almost never hears such arguments:

I am not someone who frets over the Israeli “occupation” of the West Bank: in my view, the Palestinians long ago would have enjoyed self-rule had they stopped murdering Israelis. Contrarily, I do encourage Israeli steps that signal the Palestinians that the conflict is over, and they lost. …

Annexation would likely make more Palestinians eligible to become citizens of Israel. That would be a profound mistake, since its Arab citizens constitute what I believe is the ultimate enemy of Israel’s status as a Jewish state. …

Israel must assert itself against the Palestinians; but any moves must align with the larger campaign to compel Palestinians to give up their goal of eliminating the Jewish state. Annexing the West Bank is a self-indulgence that has the opposite result. It buoys the anti-Zionist cause and hinders a resolution of the conflict.


I believe in a smart Israel Victory that goes for the jugular and see annexation of the West Bank at this time as dumb, as going for the extremities. As I wrote in the article, it “would probably damage Israel’s relations with the Trump administration, the Democrats, Europeans and Arab leaders, as well as destabilize the region, radicalize the Israeli Left, and harm the Zionist goal of a Jewish state.”

I appeal for cool tempers, clear goals, and smart tactics.

In this case, that means carefully considering what steps will most advance the goal of breaking the Palestinian will to eliminate Israel while simultaneously doing the least damage to Israel’s internal harmony and external standing. One possibility would be, as I have argued before, “When official [Palestinian Authority] guns are turned against Israelis, seize these and prohibit new ones, and if this happens repeatedly, dismantle the PA’s security infrastructure. Should violence continue, reduce and then shut off the water and electricity that Israel supplies.”

Again, let’s debate calmly and stay focused. Only that way, and not via legalistic distractions or tactical enthusiasms, can Israel Victory be achieved.

Mr. Pipes (DanielPipes.org@DanielPipes) is president of the Middle East Forum. © 2020 by Daniel Pipes. All rights reserved.

May 11, 2020 | 10 Comments » | 575 views

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10 Comments / 10 Comments

  1. I don’t know what’s with Daniel Pipes. He has over the years been pro-Israel. But he has all sorts of queer (in the original sense of this word) notions. His idea that Israel can win the war with the Palestinians by just declaring victory is absurd.

  2. Howard Rotberg,writes;

    Thank you Daniel for sending me a copy of your reply to critics (of your opposition to the annexation as contemplated by the Trump plan.)

    Unfortunately, I stiil think you have misconstrued what Israel will do and what would be the effect with Americans and others.

    I note that you start off with the quote that virtue is the mid-point between extremes. That quote does not apply to the people who call themselves “Palestinians”.

    The midpoint between their position that ultimately they will take over all of Israel – and kill all the Jews – and the Israelis’ position that no Jews should be killed is NOT that they would meet Israel halfway to iron out other boundaries giving them a once and forever state; the midpoint to them and their European and Leftist enablers is that they will kill one-half of the Jews.

    I remind myself of an Egyptian-Canadian professor from University of Waterloo who said on television, during terrorism against Isreli civilians, that only Israeli Jews who served in the IDF, or wil serve in the IDF were the ones he supported killing. We see things in a completelky different way and as I claim in my books, we have entirely different ideologies. Their ideology of course is in accordance with Islamism.

    Without answering your six points specifically, I defer to Victor Rosenthal, a brilliant Israeli ex-American who writes under the pen-name of Abu Yeduda. He writes on the question of the annexation.

  3. He clearly has not read Ted’s article. “Annexation” (really applying sovereignty) in stages would not make Palestinian Arabs citizens of Israel. In any case, the areas in question are almost entirely inhabited by Jews or uninhabited. Currently, Area C is under Israeli military rule using Ottoman and Jordanian precedent. Replacing Israeli military rule over Jewish communities with civil rule is easy and just. Without the Jordan Valley, Israeli lacks crucial strategic depth. This is the bare minimum. So-called liberals wish to deny Israeli Jews civil, religious, and property rights and think Israel is omnipotent. Many don’t even know this. Many don’t even know the terms of the Oslo Accords or what Area C refers to or that most of the Jewish holy sites are there, which the pals burn down when they can and attack worshipers. I would think that Mr. Pipes would even if he doesn’t see the obvious absurdity of the Jewish state relinquishing Judea, from which the name comes.

  4. Poor Daniel seems to have lost his way. The world followed Aristotle for almost 2,000 years and science was inhibited until Aristotle was debunked.
    By the way: 30% is well under half way. Doesn’t even reach midpoint.
    Supporters of Middle East Forum have been conned. They should reconsider all support!

  5. There never was and never will be compromise with the Palestinians. A fair comparison would be Chamberlain attempting to compromise with Hitler. The only thing tyrants like Hitler or the Palestinians understand is facts on the ground. Sovereignty in Judea and Samaria will be such facts. Pipes like Aristotle, loves patting himself on the back…for being “reasonable”. Unfortunately reason only works when your opponent is also using it. Palestinians are driven by tribal and Islamist forces which do not allow for reason.

  6. Pipes lost his way. First of all the factual error this “annexation” will NOT add Arabs to Israeli Citizenship ranks. First NONE of the “settlements” have Arab Residents. Their maybe a few in the Jordan Valley but not many. In the Jordan Valley the largest amount of Arabs live in Jericho and it will NOT be annexed.

    It does matter that the ~500,000 Jews living in Judea&Samaria have their homes made permanent under Israeli Civil Law. All building and land issues will be under Israeli Law and not under the Ministry of Defense.
    The Jordan Valley is consensus a permanent part of Israel across political lines in Israel except a few far far leftists and Arabs.

    So Israel acts to secure its future by applying its Civil Law to these areas. It also tells the rest of the world we are not going anywhere no matter what you say, so get it used to it.

    Did Pipes write this factually bad article with misplaced views because he is die hard NEVER TRUMPER? It was really a bad article. In fact “annexing” this land in Judea&Samaria is on the path to Victory. Granted victory will need further reducing the terrorists in Judea&Samaria.

  7. Aristotle was wrong. Virtue is not the midpoint between extremes. As Barry Goldwater famously said:
    “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”
    Virtue depends on one’s moral standards. Virtuous action depends on how closely a particular action comes to one’s standard of virtue.

    Because we are supporters of Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, whether annexation is good or not will depend on whether the consequences of annexation are good for Israel or not. It is not a question of choosing a middle ground between extremes.

  8. I admire Dr. Pipes’ ability to get EVERYONE upset with him. In a world filled with lying, covetousness and every kind of ungodliness, that is a good quality.

  9. Yishai Fletcher very precisely refutes all the points in Pipes poor article.

    1. Crazily Pipes states, Trump will have a fallout with Israel, over Israel annexing territory in Judea/Samaria. That is absurd as Trump and his key staff are in favor of this and encouraging Israel to do this exact thing as part of his plan. Pipes where have you have been? Have you not read Trump’s plan?

    When it comes to sovereignty, Daniel Pipes is wrong
    Contrary to a conservative’s warnings, sending a signal that Israel intends to stay in its historic heartland forever will do much to deflate jihadist intentions.


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