Twenty years ago, the idea of Israel defeating the Palestinians appealed to maybe 3% of Jewish Israelis. The dominant Oslo spirit asserted that, given enough concessions, money and hope, Palestinians would abandon their enmity toward Israel and become its peaceable neighbors.
So pervasive was the spirit of accommodation, even defeatism, that as late as 2007 the prime minister of Israel could declare that "peace is achieved through concessions. We all know that."
But relentless Palestinian vitriol and violence eventually disabused most Jewish Israelis of this gentle hope. By now, according to a poll commissioned by the Middle East Forum, barely a quarter of them still hold on to the Oslo dream. (The poll, with 703 likely Jewish voters and a 3.7% margin of error, was conducted in Hebrew by New Wave Research on July 7-11. It follows similar MEF-commissioned polls in 2017 and 2018.)
In contrast, it finds that a plurality of Jewish Israelis support that once-marginal idea about Palestinians needing to experience the bitter crucible of defeat – what I call "Israel Victory."
This approach draws on common sense (conflicts go on so long as both sides expect to win) and the historical record (wars usually end when one side gives up) to argue that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict can be resolved only by Palestinians accepting the Jewish state of Israel.
How do Jewish Israelis currently see this issue? Let us begin with what the survey finds by way of consensus.
- 70% agree that "it's time to stop managing the conflict and begin winning it."
- 76% agree that "negotiations with the Palestinians should take place only after they consistently show they accept Israel."
- 79% agree that "Israel's security establishment is too timid vis-à-vis the Palestinians."
- 82% say the government is "too soft" in its policies toward Hamas.
- 82% agree that "Palestinian rejection of Israel is the source of the conflict"
- 91% agree that "Palestinians will benefit when they stop making war on Israel."
To sum up, the survey finds that 84% of Jewish Israelis say it's somewhat or very important "to achieve victory in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." (Of that number, 58% deem it very important, 26% somewhat important.) Also, by a two-to-one ratio, they like the sound of "Israel Victory" (Hebrew: nitzahon Yisrael), finding the term either sensible or inspiring.
These numbers suggest a sense of exasperation not just with the Palestinians but also with Israel's government and even its semi-sacrosanct security establishment (82% say "too soft" and 79% say "too timid," respectively). The people want a change.
The people are right about this, and not just because they suffer from unabated Palestinian violence. Looking at the larger picture, West Bank and Gaza Palestinians hang like an albatross from Israel's neck. They alone, not Iran, Turkey, Syria, or Israel's Arabs, spur the global phenomenon of anti-Zionism, with the attendant antisemitism, United Nations resolutions and economic boycotts. Israel urgently must address the alleged iniquities against the Palestinians living under the Palestinian Authority or Hamas.
More of the old, failed policies virtually guarantees disaster, should there be a President Sanders or Prime Minister Corbyn. Only "Israel Victory" tackles this problem by addressing the roots of Palestinian hostility.
BUT EXASPERATION, it turns out, does not automatically translate into detailed policy preferences. When asked, "How do you define an Israeli victory in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?" a mere 32% say, "Palestinians [must] give up their goal of eliminating the State of Israel." An equal number call for a peace agreement with the Palestinians to end the conflict – a reversion to the discredited Oslo formula.
Likewise, just 41% opt for "Palestinians giving up their dream of eliminating Israel" as their preference for ending the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And only 49% consider their government "too soft" vis-à-vis the PA.
These figures point to a sense among Jewish Israelis that Palestinian aggression must be more actively confronted, without agreeing about the nature of the change. In other words, this topic calls for education and discussion, out of which will emerge policy recommendations.
Accordingly, the Middle East Forum is launching a victory campaign in Israel over the next eight weeks, consisting of commissioned research, events, debates, conferences and rallies. By election time, we hope the path to "Israel Victory" will be clearer.
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.