April 18, 2017
Israel Won’t Defeat the Palestinians Militarily, But Must Defeat Them
Dear Friend of FLAME:
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Six-Day (1967) War, in which Israel defeated its Arab attackers—Egypt, Jordan and Syria—the time is ripe to nail down some lessons from that experience. First is that in order for there to be peace, enemies must be defeated.
It was definitive defeat that eventually brought Egypt and Jordan to peace negotiations, and though Syria never agreed to peace, it has practiced peaceful coexistence ever since its defeat.
Ironically, the one Arab group that wasn’t defeated in the 1967 war was the Palestinians, who, because they were (and are) not a state, had no mechanism to fight in the war, nor to lose the war, nor to make peace.
Palestinians were actually Jordanian citizens from the time of Jordan’s seizure of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank), following Israel’s War of Independence in 1948, until Jordan’s decisive defeat in 1967. Before that, the Palestinians were a stateless Arab group that wasn’t even known as Palestinian.
The fact that the Palestinians paid no price for the 1967 Arab invasion and loss has been a problem for Israel ever since . . . but it’s also been a problem for the Palestinians. Because the Palestinians were never defeated, they actually believe they have rights—not only rights to lands lost by Jordan (and won by Israel), but they also persist in believing, as Jordan, Egypt and Syria once did, that the Jewish state must be driven from all of Palestine, including present-day Israel.
Thus Palestinian Arabs stubbornly nurture a set of tragic, self-destructive beliefs: They deny Jewish ties to the Holy Land, deny Jewish rights to self-determination and deny Israel’s viability as a state, believing that it can be defeated. While Israel has thrived over the past 69 years, Palestinian society has been mired in waging a futile war against Israel, causing the Palestinians to sink into economic bankruptcy and political dysfunction.
The solution to this problem—for both groups—is for Israel to decisively defeat the Palestinians, which would allow both groups to make peace and get on with productive life. However, as this week’s FLAME Hotline featured article clarifies, defeating the Palestinians—even the violent terror group Hamas—cannot be achieved by the kind of bold, definitive military measures that won the day in June 1967.
As founding director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies Efraim Inbar asserts, Israel must defeat its non-state enemies through attrition. President Trump can assist this effort by supporting Israel’s rigorous defensive measures against its enemies and by making clear to the Palestinians that they will never—ever—have a state unless and until they face reality.
I hope this piece will help you in your conversations with friends to make clear that the only thing standing between the Palestinians and their own state is Arab willingness to make a realistic deal with Israel. Realistic means acknowledging that the Arabs lost all their belligerent wars with Israel so far, and they are fated to lose all future wars, whether diplomatic or military.
Finally, I hope you’ll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME’s current hasbarah campaign to expose five despicable media myths about Israel’s settlements in Judea and Samaria.
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)
You’ve no doubt often read in the N.Y. Times and other mainstream media of “Israeli settlements on Palestinian land” or “settlements regarded as illegal by the international community.” Yet these objective-sounding phrases represent malicious propaganda—disguised lies told so often that millions of Americans believe them. In order to make Americans—especially college and university students—aware of this media treachery, FLAME has just begun publishing a new position paper: “Israeli Settlements: Obstacle to Peace?” This paid editorial, exposing the five greatest myths about the settlements, is appearing in magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers, with a combined readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it is being sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and President Trump. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion—and U.S. support of Israel—comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able—with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to donate now. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that the American people and the U.S. Congress end our support of blatantly anti-Semitic, global jihadist organizations.
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The Burden of Israel’s 1967 Victory
By Efraim Inbar, Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, April 5, 2017
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Considering the ways Israel’s opponents have changed over the decades, the collective yearning among Israelis for a decisive, 1967-style victory is unrealistic. The false hope for such success impedes clarity of thinking and causes the Israeli public to lose confidence in both the military and the political leadership. The only approach that can succeed in Israel’s current conflicts is a patient, attritional, repetitive use of force. Israelis should take comfort that time is on Israel’s side.
In June 1967, the Israel Defense Forces waged war alone against Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. It achieved a stunning victory in six days. The military skill demonstrated by the Israelis was remarkable—so much so that battles from the Six-Day War continue to be studied at war colleges around the world.
Israel's military achievement had another extremely important effect. It went a long way toward convincing the Arab world that Israel cannot be easily destroyed by military force; Israel is a fact the Arabs must learn to live with. Indeed, 10 years later—after Egypt had lost another war to Israel, this one in 1973—its president, Anwar Sadat, came to Jerusalem to offer peace.
The swift and decisive victory of 1967 became the standard to which the IDF aspired—and the kind of victory expected by Israeli society in future engagements. This is problematic, considering the ways Israel's opponents have changed and the means they now deploy.
The unrealistic anticipation that victories on the scale of 1967 should be the end result of any military engagement hampers clear thinking and impedes the adoption of appropriate strategy and tactics. Moreover, it encourages what is often an impossible hope for a quick end to conflict. In the absence of a clear-cut and speedy outcome, Israelis lose confidence in the political as well as the military leadership.
Israelis, most of whom have some military experience, still long for decisive victories in the Gaza and South Lebanon arenas. The wars in which the IDF has participated so far in the twenty-first century, which appeared to end inconclusively, left many Israelis with a sense of unease. They miss the victory photographs of the 1967 war.
Slogans of the Israeli Right such as "let the IDF win" reflect this frustration. Similarly, the Left claims that Judea and Samaria can be safely ceded to a Palestinian state because these territories can be reconquered, as they were in 1967, if they become a base for hostile actors. The calls for the destruction of Hamas also bear witness to a lack of understanding of the limits of military power.
But grand-scale conventional war, in which the IDF faces large armored formations and hundreds of air fighters as it did in 1967, is less likely today. The 1982 Lebanon War was the last to display such encounters. Since 1982, Israel has scarcely fought any state in a conventional war.
To a significant extent, the statist dimension in the Arab-Israeli conflict has itself disappeared. Egypt and Jordan are at peace with Israel. Syria and Iraq are torn by domestic conflict and are hardly in a position to challenge Israel militarily. Many other Arab countries, such as the Gulf and Maghreb states, have reached a de facto peace with Israel, an orientation buttressed by the common Iranian threat.
For the past three decades, Israel has been challenged primarily by substate actors, such as Hamas (a Sunni militia) and Hezbollah (a Shiite militia). Such organizations have a different strategic calculus from that of states. Because of their religious-ideological zeal, they are more difficult to deter than states, and their learning curve is much slower.
It took Egypt three military defeats (1948, 1956, and 1973) and a war of attrition (1968-70) in the span of 25 years to give up the goal of destroying Israel. In contrast, Hezbollah has been fighting Israel for a longer period and remains as devoted as ever to its goal of the elimination of the Jewish state. The heavy price inflicted upon Gaza since 2007 by the Israeli military has not changed the strategic calculus of the Hamas leadership, which still aspires to Israel's demise.
Hamas and Hezbollah do not possess arsenals of tanks and air fighters, which would be easy targets for Israel. The decentralized structure of their military organizations does not present points of gravity that can be eliminated by swift and decisive action. Moreover, their use of civilian populations to shield missile launchers and military units—a war crime—makes IDF advances cumbersome and difficult due to slower troop movement in urban areas and the need to reduce collateral damage among civilians.
Urbanization among Israel's neighbors has greatly reduced the empty areas that could have been used for maneuvering and outflanking. The use of the subterranean by Israel's foes, be it in Gaza or South Lebanon, is another new element that slows advances.
It is naive to believe that the IDF can or should win quickly and decisively every time it has to flex its muscles. Late Prime MInister Yitzhak Rabin warned several times during his long career against the expectation of a "once and for all" victory. The defeat of Israel's new opponents requires a different strategy: attrition.
Israel is engaged in a long war of attrition against religiously motivated enemies who believe both God and history are on their side. All the IDF can do is occasionally weaken their ability to harm Israel and create temporary deterrence. In Israeli parlance, this is called "mowing the grass"—an apt metaphor, as the problem always grows back.
The patient, repetitive use of force is not glamorous, but it will eventually do the trick. Unfortunately, many Israelis do not understand the particular circumstances of the great 1967 victory. They have lost patience and do not realize that time is, in fact, on Israel's side.
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