Pipes on the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process

Testimony by Daniel Pipes, Director of the Middle East Forum & Distinguished visiting professor, Pepperdine University before U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Subcommittee on Middle East and South Asia February 14, 2007, 2:30 p.m.

What next in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, which some call the “peace process”?

I shall argue three points:

    – that these negotiations have been so counterproductive, they could better be called the “war process”;
    – that their failure results from an Israeli conceptual error fifteen years ago about the nature of warfare; and
    – that the U.S. government should urge Jerusalem to forego negotiations and return instead to its earlier policy of deterrence.

Reviewing the “Peace Process”

[My earlier post challenging Daniel Pipes to take a position was entirely wrong as this testimony indicates. Clearly he rejects the peace process and negotiations until the Palestinians are defeated, totally.]

It is embarrassing to recall the elation and expectations that accompanied the signing of the Oslo accords in September 1993, when Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin shook hands with Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader. For some years afterward, “The Handshake” (as it was known) served as the symbol of brilliant diplomacy, whereby each side achieved what it most wanted: dignity and autonomy for the Palestinians, recognition and security for the Israelis.

President Bill Clinton lauded the deal as a “great occasion of history.” Secretary of State Warren Christopher ruminated on how “the impossible is within our reach.”[1] Yasir Arafat called it an “historic event, inaugurating a new epoch.” Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel discerned in it “the outline of peace in the Middle East.”[2] The press enthused; one columnist, Anthony Lewis of The New York Times, deemed the agreement “ingeniously built”[3] and “stunning.”[4] Time magazine made the three principals its “men of the year” for 1993.

These heady expectations were then grievously disappointed. Before Oslo, when Palestinians lived under Israeli control, they benefited from the rule of law and a growing economy, independent of international welfare. They enjoyed functioning schools and hospitals, they traveled without checkpoints and had free access to Israeli territory. They even founded universities. Terrorism was declining as acceptance of Israel increased. Then came Oslo, which brought Palestinians not peace but tyranny, failed institutions, poverty, corruption, a death cult, suicide factories, and Islamist radicalization. Yasir Arafat early on had promised that the West Bank and Gaza would evolve into the “Singapore of the Middle East,”[5] but the reality he shaped became a nightmare of dependence, inhumanity, and loathing.

To Israelis, Oslo brought unprecedented terrorism; if the two hands in the Rabin-Arafat handshake symbolized Oslo’s early hopes, the two bloody hands of a young Palestinian male who had just lynched Israeli reservists in Ramallah in October 2000 represented its dismal end. Oslo also provoked deep internal rifts and harming the country’s standing internationally. Israelis watched helplessly as Palestinian rage spiraled upwards, spawning such moral perversions as the U.N. World Conference Against Racism in Durban. That rage also re-opened among Westerners the issue of their country’s continued existence, especially on the Left. From Israel’s perspective, seven years of Oslo diplomacy largely undid 45 years’ success in warfare.

Palestinians and Israelis agree on little, but they concur that the Oslo accords failed.

Yitzhak Rabin’s Error

Why did things go so badly wrong? Where lay the flaws in so promising an agreement?

Of its multiple errors, the ultimate mistake lay in Yitzhak Rabin’s misunderstanding of how war ends, as revealed by his catch-phrase, “one does not make peace with one’s friends. One makes peace with one’s enemy.” The Israeli prime minister implied that war is concluded through a mix of goodwill, conciliation, concessions, mediation, flexibility, restraint, generosity, and compromise, all topped off with signatures on official documents. In this spirit, his government initiated an array of concessions, hoping that Palestinians would reciprocate.

They did not. Those concessions, in fact, made matters worse. Still in war mode, Palestinians understood Israeli efforts to “make peace” as signals of demoralization and weakness. The concessions reduced Palestinian awe of the country, made it appear vulnerable, and incited irredentist dreams of its annihilation. Each Oslo-negotiated gesture by Israel further exhilarated, radicalized, and mobilized the Palestinian body politic. The quiet hope of 1993 to eliminate Israel gained traction, becoming a deafening demand by 2000. Venomous speech and violent actions soared. Polls and votes suggest a mere 20 percent of the Palestinian population today accepts Israel’s simple right to exist.

Rabin made a shattering mistake, which his successors repeated. One does not “make peace with one’s enemy” but with one’s former enemy. Peace nearly always requires one side in a conflict to give up its goals by being defeated. Rather than vainly trying to close down a war through goodwill, the way to end a war is by winning it.

“War is an act of violence to compel the enemy to fulfill our will,” wrote the Prussian strategist Karl von Clausewitz in 1832, and technological advancement has not altered this insight. So long as both sides hope to achieve their war ambitions, fighting either continues or potentially can resume. Victory consists of imposing one’s will on the enemy by compelling him to give up his war goals. Wars usually end when one side gives up its hope of winning, when its will to fight has been crushed.

Defeat, one might think, usually follows on a devastating battlefield loss, as was the case of the Axis in 1945. But that has rarely occurred during the past sixty years. Battlefield losses by the Arab states to Israel in 1948-82, by North Korea in 1953, by Saddam Hussein in 1991, and by Iraqi Sunnis in 2003 did not translate into despair and giving up. Morale and will have consistently matter more. Despite out-manning and out-gunning their foes, the French gave up in Algeria, the Americans in Vietnam, and the Soviets in Afghanistan. The Cold War ended, notably, without a fatality. Crushing the enemy’s will to fight, then, does not necessarily mean crushing the enemy.
Preferring to Finesse War

Arabs and Israelis since 1948 have pursued static and binary goals. Arabs fought to eliminate Israel, Israelis fought to win their neighbors’ acceptance. The details have varied over the decades, with multiple ideologies, strategies, and leading actors, but the goals have barely changed. The goals are also unbridgeable; eventually, one side will lose and one will win. Either there will be no Jewish state or it will be accepted by its neighbors. Those are the only two scenarios for ending the conflict. Anything else is unstable and a form of war.

The Arabs have pursued their war aims with patience, determination, and purpose; the exceptions to this pattern (e.g., the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties) have been operationally insignificant because they have not tamped hostility to Israel’s existence. In response, Israelis sustained a formidable record of strategic vision and tactical brilliance in the period 1948-93. Over time, however, as Israel developed into a vibrant, modern, democratic country, its populace grew impatient with the humiliating, slow, and tedious task of convincing Arabs to accept their political existence. By now, almost no one in Israel still sees victory as the goal; no major political figure on the scene today calls for victory in war. Uzi Landau, who argues that “when you’re in a war you want to win the war,” was rewarded by being ranked so low on the Likud party’s parliamentary list in the 2006 elections that he lost his seat. Since 1993, in brief, the Arabs have sought victory while Israelis sought compromise.

In this spirit, Israelis have openly proclaimed their ennui with fighting. Shortly before becoming prime minister, Ehud Olmert said on behalf of his countrymen: “We are tired of fighting, we are tired of being courageous, we are tired of winning, we are tired of defeating our enemies.” Yoram Hazony of the Shalem Center correctly characterizes Israelis as “an exhausted people, confused and without direction.”

In place of victory, Israelis have developed an imaginative array of approaches to manage the conflict:

    Unilateralism (build a wall, partially withdraw): Ariel Sharon, Ehud Olmert, and the Kadima party.

    · Lease for 99 years the land under Israeli towns on the West Bank: Amir Peretz and the Labor Party.

    · Territorial compromise: Yitzhak Rabin (and the Oslo process).

    · Develop the Palestinian economy: Shimon Peres (and the Oslo process).

    · Exclude disloyal Palestinians from Israeli citizenship: Avigdor Lieberman.

    · Push the Palestinians to develop good government: Natan Sharansky (and President George W. Bush).

    · Territorial retreat: Israel’s left.

    · Insist that Jordan is Palestine: Israel’s right.

    · Transfer the Palestinians from the West Bank: Israel’s far right.

Contradictory in spirit and mutually exclusive as they are, these approaches all aim to finesse war rather than end it.

Not one of them addresses the need to crush the Palestinian will to fight. Just as the Oslo negotiations failed, so too every scheme that avoids the hard work of winning.

The Hard Work of Winning

Who does not win, loses. To survive, Israelis eventually must return to their pre-1993 policy of establishing that Israel is strong, tough, and permanent. That’s achieved through deterrence – the long, boring, difficult, bitter, and expensive task of convincing Palestinians and others that the Jewish state is permanent, and that dreams of eliminating it are doomed.

This will not be easy or quick. Perceptions of Israel’s weakness due to terrible missteps during the Oslo years (1993-2000) and even after (e.g., the Gaza withdrawal of 2005) have sunk into Palestinian consciousness and will presumably require decades of effort to reverse. Nor will it be pretty: defeat in war typically entails experiencing the bitter crucible of deprivation, failure, and despair.

Israel enjoys one piece of good fortune: That it need only to convince the Palestinians of this, not the whole Arab or Muslim populations. Moroccans, Iranians, and Malaysians, for example, take their cues from the Palestinians and will with time follow their lead.

I look at this process through a simple prism. Any development that encourages Palestinians to think they can eliminate Israel is negative, any that encourages them to give up that goal is positive.

The Palestinians’ defeat will be recognizable when, over a protracted period and with complete consistency, they prove that they have accepted Israel. This does not mean loving Zion but it does mean permanently accepting it. They must overhaul their educational system to take out the demonization of Jews and Israel, tell the truth about Jewish ties to Jerusalem, stop inculcating hatred of Jews, and accept normal commercial, cultural, and human relations with Israelis. Stiff demarches and letters to the editor will be fine, but not violence. Symbolically, when the Jews living in Hebron (on the West Bank) have no more need for security than Arabs living in Nazareth (in Israel), one can conclude that Palestinians have accepted Israel and the war is over.

Which Side Should Win?

Like all outsiders to the conflict, Americans face a stark choice: endorse the Palestinian goal of eliminating Israel or endorse the Israeli goal of winning its neighbors’ acceptance.

To state the choice makes clear that there is no choice – the first is offensive in intent; the second defensive. No decent person can endorse the Palestinians’ goal of eliminating their neighbor; along with every president since Harry S Truman, and every congressional resolution and vote since then, the 110th Congress must continue to stand with Israel in its drive to win acceptance.

Not only is this an obvious moral choice, but Israel’s win is actually the Palestinians’ as well. Israel’s success in crushing the Palestinians’ will to fight would actually be the best thing that ever happened to them. Compelling Palestinians finally to give up on their foul irredentist dream would liberate them to focus on their own polity, economy, society, and culture. Palestinians need to experience the certitude of defeat to become a normal people – one where parents stop celebrating their children becoming suicide terrorists, where something matters beyond the evil obsession of anti-Zionist rejectionism. There is no shortcut.

U.S. Policy

Americans especially need to understand Israel’s predicament and help it win its war, for the U.S. government has a vital role in this theater. My analysis implies a radically different approach for the Bush administration and for this congress. On the negative side, Palestinians must understand that benefits will flow only after they prove their acceptance of Israel. Until then – no diplomacy, no discussion of final status, no recognition as a state, and certainly no financial aid or weapons.

On the positive side, the administration should work with Israel, the Arab states, and others to induce the Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence by convincing them the gig is up, they have lost. This means impressing on the Israeli government the need not just to defend itself but to take steps to demonstrate to Palestinians the hopelessness of their cause. That requires not episodic shows of force (such as the war against Hizbullah last summer) but a sustained and systematic effort to alter a bellicose mentality.

Also, given that Israel’s enemies — the PLO, Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran — are also America’s enemies and that Israel has a significant role in the U.S.-led “war on terror,” an Israeli victory would greatly help its U.S. ally. In smaller ways, too, tougher Israeli tactics would help. Jerusalem should be encouraged not to engage in prisoner exchanges with terrorist groups, not to allow Hizbullah to re-arm in southern Lebanon or Fatah or Hamas in Gaza, and not to withdraw unilaterally from the West Bank (which would effectively turn over the region to Hamas terrorists and threaten Hashemite rule in Jordan).

Diplomacy aiming to shut down the Arab-Israeli conflict is premature until Palestinians give up their hideous anti-Zionist obsession. When that moment arrives, negotiations can re-open with the issues of the 1990s – borders, resources, armaments, sanctities, residential rights – taken up anew. But that moment is years or decades away. In the meantime, a war needs to be won.

[1] http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/pubs/wye/warren.htm.

[2] Los Angeles Times, 14 September 1993.

[3] The New York Times, 17 September 1993.

[4] The New York Times, 13 September 1993.

[5] Agence France-Presse, 4 June 1996.

June 5, 2007 | 28 Comments »

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