Sunday, June 11, 2006

Pipes Pouts

Ruthie Blum, a dear friend, interviewed Daniel Pipes who was in Jerusalem recently and he had some very important things to say.

Here are some of them:-

What do you "lambaste" Israel for?

Israelis have lost their way when it comes to relations with the Arabs, and more specifically, when it comes to war goals. I criticize Israelis - and I mean the body politic, not specifically the leadership - for thinking that management of the conflict is the best that can be done.

As opposed to…?

As opposed to winning. Over the course of the past 15 years, one has seen a host of proposals on how to manage the conflict. Some of these proposals became government policy; many others are simply proposals. What they have in common, from Left to Right, is that they see this conflict as unwinnable, as merely manageable.

The security fence is a case in point. I am for it. Clearly, it has had - and in the future, when it's completed, will have even more - the effect of keeping out would-be murderers. But a wall is not the way to win a conflict. A wall is a tactical mechanism to protect oneself, not a strategic way of winning a war. Winning a war requires imagination - perspective - to impose your will on your enemy. That is classically what victory means: imposing your will on your enemy. It doesn't mean massacring or impoverishing the enemy, but causing him to give up his goals. This notion is virtually absent from Israeli political discussion.

So, from an Arab point of view, what constitutes the imposition of will on an enemy?

I understand this conflict between Israel and the Arabs to be defined by war goals. Israel's war goals consist of winning the acceptance of its Arab enemies, in particular that of the Palestinians. Acceptance means no longer using force - or other means, for that matter - to eliminate the Jewish state. The Arab war goals, conversely, are to eliminate the Jewish state. I see this as binary - as black and white. One side wins, one side loses. Compromise cannot take place. Oslo was a grand experiment in compromise, and it failed. In the end, one side imposes its will on the other.

Now, if the Arabs impose their will on Israelis, it means there will be no sovereign Jewish state. There could be a Jewish population living under Palestinian or other Arab rule. Or it could be that the Jews flee. It could be that they're murdered. But there's no more sovereign Jewish state. What's so striking is that Israel, which is a modern, sophisticated, globalized country, seems not to understand this. Very few Israelis are aware of the need to win. As an outsider, I watch with frustration as the Israelis don't get the point.

What is the ultimate Palestinian war goal, then, statehood or the elimination of Israel?

Oh, definitely the elimination of Israel. That is to say, there is far wider agreement on this than on the notion of a Palestinian state. Recall that making the region Israel controls into southern Syria drove Arab politics in the early 1950s. Then came the heyday of Pan-Arab nationalism in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Today, Hamas strives for an Islamic state whose boundaries need not be those of Mandatory Palestine. All of these outlooks agree on the need to eliminate Israel but disagree on what should replace it.

Many Israelis who favored disengagement from Gaza say that the success of the withdrawal can be seen in the chaos - perhaps civil war, even - now taking place in the PA between Hamas and Fatah.

I disagree. First, I see no causal effect between the Israeli withdrawal and the anarchy in the PA - which began much earlier. I documented it from February 2004 in a blog titled "The Growing Palestinian Anarchy."

Second, I'm not altogether sure that this violence benefits Israel. Short-term, there's a diversion of attention away from Israel. But long-term, the forces unleashed now might well harm Israel.

Third, this surely is not the way to judge the withdrawal, which needs to be assessed from Israel's point of view on the basis of whether it has enhanced Israeli interests and security or not. I'd say there are strong reasons to claim it has not.

Is there a causal relationship between Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon and the events leading up to disengagement from Gaza?

I definitely think there was. There are a few pieces of evidence. First, a number of statements by Palestinian leaders indicated how deeply they were influenced by the Israeli withdrawal in May 2000. Second, it vindicated the Palestinian use of violence. This requires some background.

The great debate among Palestinians is not over goals; the elimination of Israel is a consensus goal among 80 percent of the Palestinian population, while the other 20% has no voice. The debate among that 80% for two decades has been how best to deal with Israel.

The PLO answer is to engage it. Look at all the benefits it won by making fraudulent statements and giving empty assurances: It got the Palestinian Authority, a proto-military force, greater world support and so forth.

To which Hamas replies that the PLO has degraded itself, lost its purpose and betrayed the purity of the cause. This has been the key debate among Palestinians.

In this light, the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, driven by Hizbullah, signalled that Palestinians, too, can achieve their goals without negotiations, without trucking with the enemy. Just relentlessly hammer away, kill, attack, year after year, and the Israelis will take flight. There's no need for negotiations, for agreements, for international involvement. This powerful argument resonated in Palestinian circles.

How so?

The first manifestation of this came just two months later, in July 2000 at Camp David. Despite Barak's quite extraordinary offers, Yasser Arafat not only said no, but he did so without making any reciprocal offers. I mean, he was pressured to go there by the US government. And he showed up. But he said no to everything, and the talks collapsed. Two short months later, the violence began - violence in good part inspired by Hizbullah tactics - a very different form of violence from what had been seen before: particularly the suicide bombing, a Hizbullah tactic, and the use of videos to build up the would-be suicide bomber giving testimonial, or then showing the actual scene of the attack. So, whether tactical or strategic, Hizbullah set the pace. Showed the Palestinians how to do it.

How did this affect the withdrawal from Gaza?

The dominant Palestinian slogan last summer was, "Today Gaza, tomorrow Jerusalem."

There's no question that they saw the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza as a vindication of their use of force. I'd be hard-pressed to gainsay them, because it's quite clear to me that had there not been violence in Gaza, the Israeli military and the Israeli civilians would still be there. They only left because of the violence.

And the West Bank?

The same applies there. Should there be a withdrawal there, too, it's because it became too difficult. When things get painful - whether in Lebanon or Gaza - Israelis leave. That sends a signal that violence works. It presumably will be applied in Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv as well.

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