Over the years, significant international pressure on Israel created an anomaly where ironically, the more Israel seeks peace and compromise with its unreformed enemy, the further peace is pushed into a distant future.
IDF’s new Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi recently asked the IDF command to prepare the Israeli military for victory. If properly supported by Israel’s top political echelon, it could ultimately translate Israel’s many tactical but inconclusive victories into a strategic Israeli victory that finally ends the conflict between Israel and her hostile neighbors.
In May 1948, most military experts were convinced that the nascent Jewish state would not survive the onslaught by numerically superior and better-equipped Arab forces. However, the Arabs and the military experts failed to take into account the Jewish people’s determined fighting spirit and improvisation skills. In an unlikely twist of history, the Jewish people, which was for centuries associated with powerlessness, created against all odds one of the world’s finest and most powerful defense forces.
When facing existential threats, the IDF’s fighting capabilities proved to be second to none. While winning impressive tactical victories, domestic and international factors have prevented Israel to translate these gains into a strategic victory that ends the conflict. Over the years, significant international political pressure on Israel created an anomaly where Israel won in the military battlefields but kept losing in the political aftermath. After Israel’s spectacular military victory during the 1967 War, the late Israeli statesman Abba Eban famously noted that it was the first conflict in human history where the winning Israeli side wanted peaceful compromise while the losing Arab side demanded unconditional surrender.
This phenomenon was not merely due to international pressures. Due to the Jewish people’s long history of persecutions and oppression, the Jewish state has often been reluctant to use its full military might beyond securing its survival. Jewish highly principled ethics has also made the Israel Defense Forces the world’s most moral military force. While Israel has frequently been demonized for using “disproportionate force”, in reality it has used far less force than other Western democracies facing far less severe threats than Israel. Unlike any other country, Israel has risked the lives of its own soldiers in order to minimize enemy civilian casualties. Israel is also providing electricity, medicine and food to Hamas-ruled Gaza, an enemy entity bent on Israel’s destruction.
According to this misguided left-leaning Jewish reasoning, peace would eventually come with the improved life quality of Israel’s enemies emanating from cooperation with Israel. The fact that Hamas and PLO are not driven by economics or by peaceful coexistence but by the desire to wipe Israel off the map was conveniently deleted out of the equation. Israel’s late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s words summarized this misguided mindset: “You don’t make peace with friends, you make it with very unsavory enemies.” The key words missing in this sentence are former enemies. Post-1945 peace between the Allies and Germany/Japan was only realized after the aggressive Nazi and imperial regimes in Berlin and Tokyo were replaced with democratic governments embracing peace. If the delusional Oslo Peace Accord mindset had been applied in 1945 with an unreformed Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, the Second World War would still be raging today.
Ironically, the more Israel has been seeking peace and compromise with an unreformed enemy, the further genuine peace is pushed into a distant future. In June 2005, Israel’s former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Israel Policy Forum:
“We are tired of fighting; we are tired of being courageous; we are tired of winning; we are tired of defeating our enemies.”
This pacifist mindset might work with peaceful neighbors like Iceland or Denmark. However, with hostile neighbors like Hamas and Hezbollah, it was an undeclared invitation for further aggression against Israel. In 2006, the Shiite Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hezbollah attacked Israel, which triggered the Second Lebanon War. Israeli soldiers blamed the Israeli government and military establishment for blunders and preventing a solid Israeli victory against Hezbollah. As a result, Hezbollah is today an even greater menace than in 2006 and has essentially transformed Lebanon into an anti-Israel Iranian vassal state.
Liberals in Israel and abroad have repeatedly argued that Israel cannot expect its neighbors to embrace Zionism. The defeated Germans and the Japanese in 1945 did not embrace Americanism. Quite the opposite. Resentment towards America continued long after the war had ended. However, post-1945 Germany and Japan were in no position to dictate anything. By being forced to accept defeat, Germany and Japan eventually transformed into thriving and peaceful democracies.
The goal of an Israeli victory is not to make Israel loved among her neighbors. Its purpose is to force Israel’s enemies to give up their goal of annihilating the Jewish state. This requires a sustained Israeli determination to use a combination of its considerable military, economic and political power. It also requires resisting the desire for immediate illusionary peace in favor of a genuine long-term peace settlement where the Israeli victor sets the rules for its defeated enemies. An Israeli strategic victory to end all future wars is not only a crucial Israeli interest. Like the defeated Germans and the Japanese, Israel’s hostile neighbors would benefit greatly from being decisively defeated. By giving up their fantasy of destroying the Jewish state, the Muslim Arab population in Gaza, Judea, Samaria and beyond could instead focus on improving their own lives and joining the 21st century.