INTO THE FRAY: The Israel Victory Caucus : Kudos and Caveats


The launch of Israel Victory Caucus is an initiative that has the potential to be a positive paradigmatic game-changer in the discourse on  the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Palestinians will have to pass through the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction, and despair as they repudiate the filthy legacy of Amin al-Husseini and acknowledge their century-long error…there is no shortcut.Daniel Pipes, A New Strategy for Israeli Victory, Commentary, December 14, 2016.

At just about the time that this column was submitted for publication (Thursday, April 27, 2017), an event of potentially great long-term significance was taking place in Washington. This was the launch of the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC) by Congressmen Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH).

Welcome & Timely

The launch was the culmination of an initiative of the Middle East Forum (MEF), headed by its president, prominent scholar, Daniel Pipes, aided by MEF Director, Gregg Roman.

According to a MEF press release : “The caucus calls for a new U.S. approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ending the emphasis on Israel making ‘painful concessions’ and instead putting the onus on Palestinians – they must give up the goal of destroying Israel and recognize Israel as the Jewish state.

A similar sentiment was conveyed in a remark by Rep. DeSantis : “Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East, as we share common national interests and possess similar national values. Israel is not the problem in the Middle East; it is the solution to many of the problems that bedevil the region.American policy must ensure that Israel emerges victorious against those who deny or threaten her existence.”

This launch of a congressional caucus promoting the notion of Israeli victory, rather than Israeli appeasement, is a decidedly welcome and timely—indeed, a long overdue—development.  This is particularly true since in the political and strategic discourse in Israel itself, the idea of “Victory” seems to have been entirely expunged from the lexicon of the nation’s decision-makers—both as an attainable (alas, even a desirable) operational goal and as a valid cognitive notion. Disturbingly, this appears to be the case even among the senior echelons of the IDF officer class and other branches of the security establishment.

Indeed as MEF president Pipes lamented several years ago: “no one at the upper echelons of Israel’s political life articulates the imperative for victory. For this reason, I see Israel as a lost polity, one full of talent, energy, and resolve but lacking direction…”

It is left to hope that the newly launched CIVC will constituent a step towards remedying this grave lacuna.

Collapse of conventional wisdom 

The conceptual foundations of CIVC are eminently sound and derive from the indisputable failure of conventional wisdom regarding conflict resolution, in general and the Israel-Palestinian conflict, in particular.

Thus, in his recent Israeli victory is the only way to advance peace process, Roman challenges prevailing precepts: “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.”

He adds pointedly: “The negotiations fallacy is especially evident in the Arab-Israeli conflict”. 

Roman goes on to stipulate the elements of a bold new strategy for attaining peace. Citing several historical examples to corroborate his contention –from the time of the Roman Empire, through the American Civil War to World War II—he asserts “For most of human history, military victory ended wars”. Applying this to the Arab Israeli context, he concludes: “In order for there to be peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors, Israel must win and the Palestinians must lose.”

Condemning concessions

The elements of Roman’s blueprint closely mirror the principles laid out by MEF president Pipes, in several earlier pieces, including a recent piece in Commentary, A New Strategy for Israeli Victory . 

In it, he articulated the imperative for imposing defeat sufficiently devastating on the Palestinians so as to break their will to persist in fighting Israel and their endeavor to destroy the Jewish state.  He provides a compelling case against Israel’s two decades long policy of concessions intended to generate Palestinian goodwill and argues, as I have done repeatedly in the past,  that these have not only proven to be futile but detrimental, Indeed, they have tended to whet the Palestinians appetite, rather than satiate it.

Pipes castigates successive Israeli governments: “Thus [Rabin’s] government and all its successors agreed to a wide array of concessions…always hoping the Palestinians would reciprocate by accepting the Jewish state…They never did. To the contrary, Israeli compromises aggravated Palestinian hostility. Each gesture further radicalized…the Palestinian body politic. Israeli efforts to “make peace” were received as signs of demoralization and weakness.”

Against this backdrop of the recurring failure of repeated concessions and conciliation, Pipes proclaims: “Wars end, the historical record shows, not through goodwill but through defeat.”

“The bitter crucible of defeat…”

Accordingly, he proposes striking out in a new (or more precisely, a renewed) direction: “This brings us to the key concept of my approach, which is victory, or imposing one’s will on the enemy, compelling him through loss to give up his war ambitions…”

He observes: “Wars usually end when failure causes one side to despair, when that side has abandoned its war aims and accepted defeat, and when that defeat has exhausted the will to fight,” and correctly cautions that,  by contrast: “…so long as both combatants still hope to achieve their war objectives, fighting either goes on or it potentially will resume.”

In applying these general principles to the specifics of the Israeli-Palestinian context, Pipes presents (see opening excerpt) a stark and stern prescription for ending the conflict: “Palestinians will have to pass through the bitter crucible of defeat, with all its deprivation, destruction, and despair…

In this, Pipes largely embraces the spirit of measures I called for just over a decade-and-half ago in an Op-Ed piece entitled Conquer or capitulate (and again, in a later version),  in which, I argued (much like Pipes and Roman) that, without inflicting devastating defeat on the Palestinians, there would be no end to the conflict.

There were, however, some important differences between our approaches—which brings me from the kudus to the caveats.

Defining “Defeat” 

If the idea of “peace through victory” is to become more than an academic exercise in political theorizing, it needs to be advanced from its conceptualization to its operationalization.

This means the prescribed “Victory”—and its derivative “Defeat”—cannot be left as abstract concepts.  Clearly, if they are to be adopted as practical policy goals, they need to be given clear operational definitions.  For without a clear idea of  what has to be achieved on the one hand  and what has to be inflicted on the adversary on the other, the notion of “peace through victory”—and any congressional caucuses founded on it—will never, indeed can never,  lead to any actionable policy prescriptions.

It is, thus, not sufficient to merely advocate desisting from a policy of conciliation and concessions, but it is essential to designate what would be considered an adequate victory and a resultant effective defeat?

Moreover, given the attainment of such “victory”, what are the ramifications of victory to be and what should the elements of “post-victory” policies comprise?

Can the currently declared demands of the Palestinians, prior to “defeat” (i.e. statehood), be acceded to, pursuant to “defeat”—without such defeat becoming, paradoxically and perversely, a medium for attaining the fruits of victory that previously eluded them.

These are questions that the CIVC initiative cannot ignore or evade if this worthy endeavor is to be translated into practical policy.  This is particularly true, since, according to the previously cited MEF press release, a parallel caucus in Israel’s Knesset is to be launched in Jerusalem this July.  For while it may be possible for the US-based legislative caucus to confine itself to well-intentioned generic policy guidelines, this is a luxury an Israeli-based legislative caucus does not have.

Victory: From Conceptualization to Operationalization

For if such a caucus is to be in anyway politically relevant, it will not be able to avoid formulating actionable policy prescriptions relating to the conditions that need to be achieved for Israeli victory and to be imposed for Palestinian defeat.

This would involve addressing questions such as:

Would “victory”/”defeat” entail the formal declaration of surrender by the Palestinians?  If so, by which Palestinians?

Would this have to be binding on both Fatah and Hamas? If not, what would the repercussions of this be? If it would include Hamas, would it be binding on other radical extremist organizations?  If not, what would the repercussions of this be?

Would “victory”/”defeat”   call for exile (permanent or temporary?) of the belligerent Palestinian political leadership? If so, to where? If not, what would be its fate and status? Would they be prosecuted/ incarcerated?

Would “victory”/”defeat” entail dismantling all of the armed Palestinian organizations and a resumption of Israeli responsibility for law and order? For how long?

Perhaps most crucially: How many Palestinian casualties would Israel need to inflict in order to achieve “victory” (i.e. unconditional Palestinian surrender)? Could Israel inflict this number without incurring highly detrimental international sanctions? Could Israel inflict such a number without precipitating international intervention, even military – by, say, Turkey, Iran, or other Arab states?

But beyond such specific questions,  perhaps the most elemental  and  daunting challenge would be not to stipulate what constitutes “victory” but to persuade decision-making echelons that such “victory” actually is feasible.

Given the hold that concessionary political correctness has on the mindset of many Israeli decision-makers this will be no easy task even if the potential advantages of obtaining such a victory are not disputed. This would require initiating and fostering/promoting vigorous and ongoing public debate to apply pressure on decision makers to adopt a concept now largely discredited as unobtainable. 

Avoiding Inappropriate Analogies. 

In stipulating parameters for Israeli victory, and the resultant ramifications for subsequent Israeli policy, it is important not to be misled by inappropriate historical precedents.

In making the historical case for the victory-induced peace, both Pipes and Roman invoke  the cases of Germany and Japan. Roman writes: “….German and Japanese ill-will toward Western democracies in World War II rapidly dissipated, thanks to the bitter pill of defeat; friendship soon followed.”; while Pipes remarks: “…if Germans and Japanese, no less fanatical and far more powerful, could be defeated in World War II and then turned into normal citizens, why not the Palestinians now?

While this is factually true, these instances are unlikely to be instructive for the Israel-Palestinian conflict, at least as far as post-victory policy design is concerned.

After all, it should be recalled that in these cases the vanquished powers were not surrounded by, or adjacent to, countries with large populations of ethnic kin/co-religionists, who could sustain resistance and incite unrest within their borders.

Thus, Germany was not surrounded by a swathe of Teutonic nations, nor Japan by a swathe of Nipponese nations, which could provide a constant stream of insurgents and armaments to undermine any arrangement or undercut any resolution the victorious powers wished to implement.

This, however, would definitely be the case in the Israeli/Palestinian situation, as was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, where neighboring Islamic states constituted a virtually unending source of instability and incitement after initial victory.

Clearly, this is an element that has dramatic implications  for post-victory policy—especially with regard to the prospect of relinquishing Israeli control over any territory to Palestinian rule—even after a crushing defeat has been inflicted.

The CIVC initiative is an enterprise that has the potential to be a positive paradigmatic game-changer with regard to the resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  As such, it merits more than one column in this INTO THE FRAY series.

Accordingly, subject to breaking news, I will devote next week’s column to further analysis of the possible pay-offs and pitfalls this commendably daring initiative could herald.

In it, I intend to broach such topics as: “Distinguishing deterring enemies from defeating them”; “The Palestinian-Arab-Muslim nexus”; “Kinetic and non-kinetic routes to victory”  and perhaps most importantly “The Victory  caucus and the Humanitarian Paradigm: Two highly compatible concepts

Until then: Happy Independence Day

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.


April 28, 2017 | Comments »

Leave a Reply

19 Comments / 0 Comments

  1. I am very pleased, even excited , that Dr. Sherman has now got beyond his earlier calls for victory by Israel in the Palestine conflict’ to consideration of what “victory’ would actually consist of, how it could be achieved, and above all, the obstacles to it that will need to be overcome if victory is to be achieved. There is no question that Israel’s long-term survival and security depend on a clear victory over her enemies. They will not negotiate peace with Israel, and even if they do, they will not keep their word–unless they have first been so completely defeated that they will decide that they have no choice. As to what victory will consist of–it requires not only the total destruction of all Arab military and terrorist forces, the end of all financial resources with which to continue the conflict, a population so desperately needy that they clamor for peace, and above all of these, a total shift of both public opinion and governmental policy in the non-Muslim world in favor of Israel, and against its enemies. While I think it is possible that Israel could achieve all these components of victory, the obstacles to them are immense, and there is no possibility of victory at all unless Israel a) has a government completely committed to victory above all other goals and values, and b) the non-Muslim world joins with Israel in repressing the international jihadist movement and imposing meaningful changes in Islamic society. These changes, at a minimum, would require an educational system that inculcates religious-ethnic tolerance and peaceful coexistence, an Arab media that does the same, complete freedom of religion for non-Muslims, including the right to change one’s religion and to proselytize by non-Muslim missionaries. A prolonged Western occupation of some Muslim countries would be the minimum requirement to achieve these goals. But it would be possible to achieve them if a) the leftist ideologues who are entrenched in Israel’s power structure, and who are committed not to an Israeli victory but what they inaccurately believe is “justice” for the Palestinians, are uprooted from their positions of power on all levels of Israeli society, and replaced by activists committed to an Israeli victory, followed by b) a massive, well-funded public relations campaign by people absolutely committed to an Israeli victory and without any other agenda, and c) Islamic terrorism reaches such horrific proportions that the West, Russia, China and India all realize that they must form an alliance to repress it if they are to survive, and that Israel would be a very useful addition to that alliance. More later.

  2. I completely buy what Martin is advocating in this article.

    As I have written in my paradigm,

    If you want peace it is time to forget being politically correct and proportional in fighting Palestinian terrorism. It is time to be determined to win the conflict and not just say the conflict will continue forever. It is not acceptable that every few months or years that Palestinians shoot rockets at Israelis, blow up bombs, kidnap children or resort to other forms of violence against Jews in Israel.
    Two states in the Land of Israel west of the River Jordan is a formula for war not peace. The Palestinian (Arabs) have for 100 years not accepted the permanent presence of the Jews.

    Israel has a legal, historical and moral right to the land of Israel west of the Jordan River


    People who say we should negotiate with the now called Palestinians do not realize this is the middle east and this is not splitting up Czechslovakia to the Czech and Slovak Republics under the umbrella of the EU.

    Victory is the complete destruction of all the terrorists groups and the jailing or deportation of their supporters.

    Those that are left can be dealt with by a new paradigm. This can include the assisted (“humanitarian”) emigration of local Arabs and buying out of their properties.

  3. ISRAEL the winner of battles looser of Wars. not only on the battlefield but on the aftermath. a winner does not surrender it’s history, it writes the surrender document with the first words ‘sign here or else.’

  4. Baruch Hashem,there seems to be a more serious,borderline feeling of uniting the ideas of the brightest and most daring of our thinkers,doers and innovators !Eliminate the dreamers for now!

  5. @ LM Howard:
    The lawyerization of the US has long passed the point of no return. Which is to say, the USG has become so arrogant and BIG that it gives no pause to enacting — who knows? — many, MANY thousands of new laws each year; plus the state and local government multiplier.

    This creates an insatiable demand for ever more lawyers to argue over what all those laws mean; and palatial, lawyer-filled courthouses in which those arguments will be aired.

    The last thing Israeli taxpayers need is to take on a burden of educating hostile Arab kids. The tax burden for providing “education” to Jews is already too much to take, thanks; or maybe you feel that the Israeli government is currently not big enough.

  6. @ Philippe:

    The United States has suffered from the growth in power of the Army lawyers to dominate the actual rules of engagement. Currently, the US military is fighting back.

    Israel should legislate the authority of the courts. The U.S. Constitution permits Congress to do this for every level except the Supreme Court.

  7. “…the idea of “Victory” seems to have been entirely expunged from the lexicon of the nation’s decision-makers—both as an attainable (alas, even a desirable) operational goal and as a valid cognitive notion. Disturbingly, this appears to be the case even among the senior echelons of the IDF officer class and other branches of the security establishment.”

    Unfortunately, the experience that I and other senior American military planners have had with the IDF hierarchy confirms this statement. Abraham Lincoln had this problem with his generals at the beginning of the Civil War. Franklin Roosevelt had this problem with his generals during the early part of World War II.

    There are many very different areas, each of which has a different definition of victory.

    One, of immediate importance, is to neutralize Hezbollah. The United Nations, the United States and Israel have permitted Hezbollah to develop a very sizable, improved missile attack capability against Israel. Israel has made very bombastic statements which have not been backed up by immediate, intensive actions. These “threats” which have not resulted in very forceful action have damaged the credibility of the deterrence power of the IDF. I would define victory as one step beyond convincing Hezbollah “never again”. That step would be its senior leadership telling each other: “don’t even think about it”. The specifics of achieving this level of deterrence should be a requirement of the IDF planners. If they cannot meet this test they should be replaced immediately.

    A second important action would be more actively deter terror attacks. Given the family structure and the family honor system the parents, siblings, uncles, etc. of any terrorist should be held responsible for the terrorist actions. Any reward or compensation given to the terrorists should be immediately subtracted tenfold from revenues that go to the Palestinian Authority either through Israel or the United States.

    Imprisonment for terror should cease being a country club and become a
    locus for intensive reeducation. This can be accomplished by holding prisoners in isolation from one another. Cutting off family visits. Etc. etc.

    The bodies of dead terrorists should not be freely returned but used as bargaining items for the return of Jewish prisoners and the bodies of deceased IDF soldiers.

    The way to counter objections by the international community is to employ passive aggression. When Israel is responsive to international demands the number and intensity of these demands increase. If Israel verbally expresses great concern and then demonstrates a sluggish nonresponse the international agencies will re focus elsewhere.

    Obviously there is much more to this package, and I will leave it to planners to work out the details.

    A third area is the education for terror and resistance in the Palestinian/UN school systems. Here, Israel should aggressively take over the furnishing of textbooks and the supervision of the schools. Israel has complained much and and has done little to change the indoctrination of a whole generation of Palestinian youth. It might take 10 to 20 years to clean up the swamp but as long as it exists there will always be a dagger pointed at Israel.


  8. Great reviews of current ideas by Sherman and Feiglin. The one advantage of Feiglin”s plan is that he hits the nail on the head. The land belongs to us because Hashem gave it to us.If it upsets those who cannot accept this fact,then the Arabs will outwit us and win. Are we too stupid to see how just is our cause ?

  9. :
    These warmongers need to get out of their ivory towers, get their kids out of private schools, pick up weapons and, as a savage horde, rumble into hostile territory so as to kill many thousands of their enemies and of those not killed, forever smash their will to fight.

    Complete a-holes.

  10. Excellent article and bravo forming the newest Congressional Caucus. A congressional caucus is a LOBBY. And that’s not a bad thing. A lobby, whether a company or a cause, what a lawyer is to a client. It’s an advocacy-based system. You have the Congressional Black Caucus, the Women’s Caucus, I have no idea what AIPAC stands for these day, frankly. Finally. IN Congress, itself. An advocacy group. For Victory. For Us. Bravo.

    “Build it and He will Come” – “Field of Dreams” (1989)

    “Fanaticism consists of redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.”
    – Georges Santayana

  11. Another brilliant column by Sherman.”Peace through victory” is a great slogan. Sherman points out its easier said than done.

    At the moment Israelis are swayed by the slogan “peace through concessions”. They must be convinced to reject such a notion and to embrace the need for “peace through Arab emigration”. Both Sherman and Feiglin have embraced the need for Arab emigration. I am working with two different groups who want the same thing but intend to implement it by different means.

    At this moment, we are fighting to gain traction on a political level for our ideas. If you can connect me to anyone that can assist, I am all ears.

  12. xx

    This is by far the best Martin Sherman I have read to date. He covers everything and from all angles, as far as I can tell. He brings out the major problem, that the enemy, even viciously crushed, would have an endless supply of reinfoecements etc.

    My solution would be just another more crushing defeat, even getting them BEFORE they reach the “killing ground”, like the way the Air Force destroys the munitions destined for Hezbollah that they don’t want them to get. There may need to be several wipeouts before the enemy-who will always be the enemy until the end of time- settles down into impotent sullenness.

    In modern Israel history, we have had only ONE real opportunity to avoid all what had followed since, leaving things far worse now than they were before.

    This was immediately after the 1967 War when the Arabs were stunned into almost catatonia. At the historical period, the Arabs were still in a very primitive mode of life, and thinking process, their leaders were merely local muktars. They had not yet seen their power or imagined using their dormant influence on the International Community.

    That scoundrel Dayan ruined it all….but the Government was just as much to blame for not immediately rescinding Dayan’s lunatic give-away to our enemies who were actually shaking in their baggy britches, ( remember the picture of the keys hand-over into shaking hands and their comically sagging voiuminous nether garments etc) from fear that we would do to them what they always did to us… made them into immediate, on-the-spot menschen…. He ruined our sole opportunity, until now it seems impossible to achieve……. without the strenuous devastation I mention above, and even then it may only die down to a cyclical state of eruption, confronation, war, victory…etc.

  13. I think the MEF and CIVC are on the right track. Victory, however, is only a stop on the long road to Peace. How does one participate in this discussion beyond leaving comments in the box?

  14. Sounds exactly like Obama ” leading from behind ” in Lybia . A bunch of advisors far from the battlefield have devised a sure-simple-logical-efficient-pleasant strategy for israel ” Just Win ” !
    Those advisors with the best good will for israel, have in mind ” zbang ve gamarnu ” of 1956-67. Maybe their views are a little bit out of touch with the reality of the area since 1973 – 1982/86 Lebanon – 1993 Oslo – 2000 Lebanon – 2006 Gaza etc..I just point out those dates as exemples of lost occasions to win , or lost occasions to avoid huge mistakes .So they want to be more rightwing than the ultra-patriots like Rafael Eitan , Rehavam Zeevi , but they don’ t take into account that the left still dictate the ethos, the social-moral agenda , the judicial oppression of the voices of the political majority . This is not a mere matter of military strategy , this is a matter of education at school, in the medias , in the universities , in the street , in the day-to-day behavior of the population .