Chief Palestinian-Arab negotiator Saeb Erekat revealed in a candid interview that Israel’s then-prime minister, Ehud Olmert, had offered Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in 2008 more land than he had asked for in an attempt by Israel to exchange land for peace. Despite the inducement, and Erekat’s urging Abbas to accept it, Abbas said no.
This was the same response Arafat had given to Ehud Barak at Camp David some eight years earlier, to the amazement of then-President Bill Clinton.
Throughout the various attempts to create a Jewish state alongside an Arab state, the Arabs have had one response: No.
For those who still cling to the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can be resolved by some exchange of land for peace, neither the failed Oslo Accords, the disaster of Gaza, nor the klepto-tyranny that has emerged in Judea and Samaria will dissuade them.
Far too many Western diplomats think that the solution to the Palestinian-Arab problem is to be found in the paradigm of labor relations. That conveniently ignores that neither the workers nor the managers in the West want to destroy the steel mill — unlike the situation with the Palestinians, whose raison d’etre is the destruction of Israel.
There is one way for this problem to be solved, and that is through victory. That is the thinking outside the box of the Middle East Forum’s Israel Victory Project. It seeks this victory not as a WWII devastation, but as a reassertion of Israel’s policy of deterrence as practiced from 1948 to 1993. That policy would be engaged on multiple fronts, including economic and diplomatic.
The Israel Victory Project’s greatest asset is its focus on moving away from the farcical “peace process,” which has made life worse for both Israelis and Palestinians alike. The “peace process” has sacrificed another generation of Palestinians to the hatred that serves the ambitions of the unelected Palestinian-Arab chieftain and his wealthy sons — who have all flourished economically under their family’s kleptocracy.
The Palestinian-Arab oligarchy — as distinct from the Palestinian-Arab people who continue to live in misery — has no incentive to change the status quo. The peace process has become a minuet of coming together with Israel, retreating, consulting with various partners, and ultimately achieving nothing.
The Israel Victory Project does not advocate specific tactics or outcomes. It is a paradigm shift away from the absurdity of rewarding the Palestinian elite while they continue to plot the elimination of Israel.
As a sharp turn away from the dysfunctional peace process, the Israel Victory Project deserves attention — but its belief that it can change the hearts and minds of ordinary Palestinians, after decades of anti-Semitic indoctrination, is also misplaced.
There are only two alternatives to solving the problem. Either the Arabs will defeat Israel and perpetrate the second Holocaust that they repeatedly boast about to a receptive world, or Israel will undertake a massive resettlement of Palestinian-Arabs as the Muslim countries did with 850,000 Jews after World War II.
The Palestinian-Arabs will not make peace. Their culture of honor and shame does not permit Jews to inhabit “sacred Muslim ground.” Their orientation toward time is to embrace a revered, mythological past rather than to anticipate a rewarding future. To resurrect this past, they have been willing to consign their children to lives of despair, and they will continue to do so.
The Israel Victory Project suffers from mirror imaging — projecting the values of the West where they do not belong. It excludes a World War II-style victory. But let’s be honest: If we had made a negotiated peace with Germany and Japan, would they be the advanced, economically vibrant democracies that they are today? Of course not!
In the aftermath of the 75th anniversary of D-Day, we are reminded that sometimes you need the mentality of a “Great Crusade” — an unyielding pursuit of conquest.
The Arabs can fight an interminable number of wars, lose, and rise up another day to fight again. Israel can only lose once.
There are conflicts where the only option for peace is to destroy the enemy’s institutional structure, without compromise, without equivocation, but within the bounds of the rules of civilized society and to implement policies that are less about the enemy’s future than about one’s own security.
After World War II, that is what the Allies did, and the world is better for that decision. Israel needs to learn by example. After 70 years of different negotiation strategies, it is time for Israel to move on to a different policy. The Israel Victory Project is a step in the right direction, but its reliance on changing Palestinian-Arab attitudes toward Israel is far and away too optimistic to be successful.
Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor of political science, University of Cincinnati, and a distinguished fellow with the news and public policy group Haym Salomon Center. Follow him @salomoncenter.