Even those still mourning Hillary Clinton’s loss must admit: if she were US president, Israel would be drowning in peace processors. The Oslo Evangelists would return, wielding their tired ideas, their worn maps, their usual fingers pointing at Israel, their inexcusable blinders regarding Palestinian incitement – replicating president Barack Obama’s failures.
Shimon Peres, their spiritual guru, never admitted that the Oslo peace process failed, despite Yasser Arafat’s deadly tricks, despite Palestinians’ return to terrorism in 2000. By contrast, president Bill Clinton blasted Arafat, saying: “I’m a failure and you have made me one.” Those who cannot acknowledge mistakes cannot learn from them.
Those ready to escape the Oslo rut should consult the historian Daniel Pipes.
His recent Commentary essay “The Way to Peace: Israeli Victory, Palestinian Defeat,” reflects two rules of war so conventional they have become clichés: “to the victor belong the spoils,” and, as Dwight Eisenhower said, “in war, there is no substitute for victory.” Israel should do what victors do, Pipes says, crushing Palestinian hopes of destroying Israel. Only by feeling defeated will Palestinians finally accept Israel.
This Thursday, Republican Representatives Ron DeSantis and Bill Johnson will launch the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus (CIVC) boosting this plan – I wish they had bipartisan support.
Oslo made Israelis diplomatic Charlie Browns, forever running to kick the football – only to have Palestinians as Lucy pull it away at the last minute, repeatedly. The Palestinians make demands as if they won.
Many Israelis, bullied by the international community, believe that if they make the right concession, peace will reign. Meanwhile, the UN fuels the fouler delusion that Israel will disappear if Palestinians find the right resolution to delegimitize it.
The result is a Palestinian national movement that gives nationalism a bad name.
The Palestinians are the world’s crybabies, forever demanding, complaining, blaming; never compromising or accepting responsibility for their violent actions.
Pipes argues that, historically, only tit for tat “deterrence” worked, “punishing Palestinians when they aggress.” Palestinian violence should trigger financial penalties and land seizures. His approach requires what Blame-Israel-Firsters call “collective punishment,” because terrorism is a collective crime, supported by Palestinian leadership, media, clergy, society and money.
Consider the current Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strike. Many, like their leader Marwan Barghouti, are convicted terrorists.
Barghouti killed four Israelis and Greek monk Tsibouktsakis Germanus, whom reporters called “an innocent bystander” – when all terrorism victims are – because the killers mistook him for a religious Jew.
Prisoner demands include expanding family visits and broadcasting more television channels into the cells. Israel should cut all those goodies immediately, trusting the other prisoners to pressure the strikers.
Similarly, note the two sisters from Gaza recently caught using permission for cancer treatment at Israeli hospitals to smuggle explosives into Israel, and the Tel Aviv hotel terrorist who entered Israel using a one day “peace pass.” Israel must retaliate, closing each border for a day – and banning “Natural Peace Tours’” passes for a month.
These measures sound harsh, but terrorism is cruel. The alternative is normalizing the terrorism which in 2017 has already killed Guy Kafri, Shira Tzur, Yael Yekutiel, Shir Hajaj, Erez Orbach, Erez Levi and Elhai Teharlev. Zero tolerance, preemptive strikes and aggressive retaliation are the best defense against more tragedies.
I would extend Pipes’s analysis to the lessons learned 15 years ago, as Palestinian suicide bombers derailed the Oslo peace process. The conventional wisdom then said Israel couldn’t punish Arafat, retake the West Bank, or stop terrorism. So initially Israel treated terrorist acts as individual crimes requiring particular punishments.
When terrorists murdered 130 Israelis in March, 2002 (and the American administration, post-9/11, repudiated terrorism globally), Israel reconquered much of the West Bank. Operation Defensive Shield put the Palestinians on the defensive, smashing their independent, brazen terrorist infrastructure, restoring the balance of fear in Israel’s favor. Yet it was “defensive.”
Demoralized by the quick turn from peace processing to suicide bombing, Israel never celebrated its victory. The outcome, therefore, was clear militarily, but ambiguous diplomatically.
While Pipes emphasizes “closing down the apparatus of war,” I would risk mixing messages – a bit – by also opening up the apparatus of peace. Incentives for peace should accompany punishments for war.
The Netanyahu government’s initiatives improving the Palestinian economy, lifting unnecessary checkpoints, facilitating Palestinian autonomy, should continue.
At the same time, seeking out-of-the-box solutions, diplomats should go beyond contiguity, treating different Palestinian regions as islands – calling them “archipelagos” or “Singapores” not the inflammatory “Bantustans” – rewarding good behavior in micro-regions.
This approach would reflect liberation from the ethnocentric assumption that Palestinian nationalism represents a unified, Western form of nationalism. Some Palestinians are fundamentalist terrorists waging jihad against Israel. Some are cynics, milking the international community.
Some are tribalists concerned with preserving ancestral, familial turf. Some are secular idealists trying to build the first liberal nationalist Arab state. Others are pragmatists hoping to prosper and improve their lives. A sophisticated policy would apply pressure points selectively, strategically, to this multifaceted people, rather than empowering the extremists by only dealing with them – and appeasing them.
History teaches that fear and despair imposed by victorious democrats on authoritarian aggressors can produce peace. It happened with the Nazis and the Japanese after World War II. We’ve failed to make peace as lambs, so let’s act like lions again. Hard-headed strategy will work, not soft-hearted tactics, with moral clarity, national pride and red lines emboldening Israel to punish behavior no other country is expected to tolerate.The writer is the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s. His forthcoming book, The Zionist Ideas, which updates Arthur Hertzberg’s classic work, will be published by The Jewish Publication Society in Spring 2018. He is a Distinguished Scholar of North American History at McGill University.
Follow on Twitter @GilTroy.