‘The two-state solution is the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians,” said John Kerry during his Arab-Israeli conflict swan song, just as he was about to step down as secretary of state. It is a refrain uttered so often and by so many officials both here in Israel and abroad, that its meaning oftentimes seems hollow, almost 25 years after the Oslo Accords were signed. The Israel Victory Caucus, in cooperation with the Middle East Forum, is not advocating for a two-state, one-state or even three-state solution, but it is actively lobbying MKs and members of Congress to reexamine how Israel should regard the Palestinians before the parties meet at the negotiating table.
As such, the neoconservative think tank argues that a new approach to the conflict is needed. Specifically, that Palestinians must make some painful concessions of their own, and, most importantly, admit defeat.
“True peacemaking means finding ways to coerce Palestinians to undergo a change of heart, give up rejectionism, accept Jews, Zionism and Israel,” MEF president and scholar Daniel Pipes wrote in Commentary magazine last January.
In other words, the three noes proudly espoused by Arab states in the 1967 Khartoum Resolution – no to peace, no to recognition and no to negotiations – must officially be put in the past in order to forge ahead.
To that end, MEF has assisted in the launching of the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus after establishing a version of this in the US Congress. Spearheaded by MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beytenu) and co-chaired by MK Yaakov Peri (Yesh Atid), the caucus will host two high profile events to highlight this new way of thinking about the peace process.
On July 9, they will host an English-language panel discussion open to the public titled “How Can Israel Achieve Victory,” at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center. Forer and Pipes will be joined by MK Yehudah Glick (Likud), the former commander of the British Forces Afghanistan Col. Richard Kemp and former MK Einat Wilf, a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute and the Baye Foundation adjunct fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
Two days later, there will be an official ceremony at the Knesset marking the caucus’s launch, with an array of ministers, MKs and lay leaders from across theIsraeli political spectrum in attendance.
As for backing within the Knesset, MK Merav Ben- Ari (Kulanu), MK Avraham Neguise (Likud), MK Bezalel Smotrich (Bayit Yehudi), MK Oren Hazan (Likud) and Glick will also attend. The ultra-Orthodox parties are the only members of Knesset who will not be represented.
Pipes asserts that only by coercing the Palestinians into acknowledging that they have lost this nearly 70- year battle with Israel, will it help talks start anew and liberate Palestinians from their existential mind-set as a nation of refugees.
“An Israel victory liberates Palestinians. Defeat compels them to come to terms with their irredentist fantasies and empty the rhetoric of revolution,” he argues, saying this fresh start will enable Palestinians to formulate the building blocks for a functioning society.
This approach should not be considered as punishment, MEF director Gregg Roman argued during a Channel 10 interview. “This is not to punish them. There are international limitations. We cannot enter a Palestinian village, destroy all the homes and say we won. It doesn’t work like that,” he said.
Pipes cites several historical examples of a need for a decisive victory, including the Americans vs the Vietnamese and the Russians vs the Afghanis. The key concept of his approach is “victory, or imposing one’s will on the enemy, compelling him through loss to give up his war ambitions. Wars end, the historical record shows, not through goodwill but through defeat,” he writes.
Deterrence and maintaining the status quo is no longer sufficient, and being the magnanimous partner at the table only exacerbates matters.
Pipes points to a post-Oslo reality where we’ve seen intifadas and the rise of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement as a reaction to Israeli concessions.
“The Oslo exercise showed the futility of Israeli concessions to Palestinians when the latter fail to live up to their obligations. By signaling Israeli weakness, Oslo made a bad decision worse. What is conventionally called the ‘peace process’ would more accurately be dubbed the ‘war process,’” he writes.
This initiative, though, has no hope of moving forward without American support.
Therefore, the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, spearheaded by Congressmen Ron DeSantis (R-FL) and Bill Johnson (R-OH) was established last April on Capitol Hill. Congressmen Keith Rothfus (R-PA), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), and Alex Mooney (R-WV) all took part in that spring session to talk about the paradigm shift that must occur. Although the caucus is dominated by Republicans, the MEF explains that they expect Democrats to come on board as well.
“I am delighted that these two sister caucuses, one in the US Congress and one in the Knesset, will work closely together to push the concept of an Israeli victory over our enemies in both countries,” Forer said, highlighting that US support for this initiative is crucial.
“For too long, Israel has adopted the concept of concessions and failed negotiations with the Palestinians, but it is clear that this has not worked, and historically, peace has only ever arrived when one side wins and the loser sues for peace,” he said.
“The most important and urgent issue is the recognition by the Palestinian leadership and society in general of Israel as the legitimate nation-state of the Jewish people and our permanent presence in our indigenous and ancestral homeland. Once this has been attained, we can talk peace,” he added.
“Israel is America’s closest ally in the Middle East, and the worldwide community of nations and leaders, including [Palestinian Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas, must accept that Israel has a right to exist – and that is non-negotiable,” Johnson said.
“Our initial CIVC meeting was very positive, and I am committed to spearheading the charge that makes it crystal clear – America will ensure that Israel not only survives, but thrives. I look forward to working with my counterparts in the Knesset Israel Victory Caucus.”
DeSantis hopes this mind-set will gain traction in the Knesset and is putting his full support behind this cause.
“The United States and Israel share a strong friendship that will only be strengthened by the formation of a companion Israel Victory Caucus in the Knesset. Israel is here to stay and our policies must reflect this fact. I look forward to working together to advance policies that recognize Israel’s permanence and that further the political, military and economic ties between the United States and Israel,” he said.