Everyone knows that Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews. Few know that 300,000 of the one and a half million Jews who fought in the Allied armies lost their lives fighting the Nazi forces.
In the seventy-seven years since 1945, no one has ever doubted who won and who lost the war. This offers the foremost example of what one might call "victory awareness." When the losing side admits to having lost and acknowledges its erroneous ways, no one questions the war's outcome. World War II ended with an unconditional Nazi surrender and admission of defeat along with the victory of civilization.
In contrast, Israel has won many wars: the War of Independence, the astounding 1967 victory, the 1973 Yom Kippur War, and the recent rounds against Hamas. Yet, a lingering doubt remains as to who won. Israelis keep asking themselves: "Did we really win?" Did Israel win the 1982 Lebanon War or the 2006 Lebanon War?
One hears claims about "restoring deterrence" or "dealing a severe blow to the enemy" but not claims of victory. This results less from Israel failing to win decisively on the battlefield and more because it did not fight the battle for victory awareness. It is not enough to vanquish the enemy: the world must also know and be convinced that you won.
I, therefore, founded the Knesset's "Caucus for Commemorating the Legacy of Jewish Heroism during World War II." In its first meeting, I presented the legacy I hoped the caucus would apply to Israel's wars: that the Jewish state would make clear to itself and to the world the nature of its victories.
Unfortunately, in the Israel of recent years, terms like "victory" and "decisive win" have been replaced by a far milder and more elusive terminology of "deterrence," "containment," and "painful blow." That discourse must change and, with it, the goals. Israel must only go to war if it is determined to win a decisive victory and vanquish the enemy. The IDF must thoroughly inculcate these goals in its troops. That way, soldiers, officers, and the public at large will know that Israel sends its sons and daughters into battle to achieve a better future for coming generations.
MK Evgeny Sova was deputy speaker of the Knesset and co-chairman of the Israel Victory Caucus in 2021-22.