Photo Credit: IDF Spokesperson/Flash90
Israeli Combat Engineering Corps of the Central Command during a military training in the Golan Heights in northern Israel on Sept. 4, 2008.

{Originally posted to the MIDA website}

The term “victory” has recently emerged in the public-security discourse of the political agenda. In an interview given last year,  Avigdor Lieberman, Defense Minister at the time, declared that the IDF’s central value guiding him in choosing a new chief of staff was the value of victory. In his first speech, Israel’s new Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, also stated that the IDF’s main goal is to “win the war and achieve victory”. He recently even commissioned a “victory seminar” for the General staff to assist.

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In the last year and a half, the”Israel Victory” Knesset caucus headed by MK Oded Forer (Israel Beytenu), MK Avraham Neguise (Likud) and MK Elazar Stern (Yesh Atid). A couple of months ago, with the beginning of the election campaign, Minister of Education Naftali Bennett also adopted the term “victory” in his campaign vocabulary: he even included the slogan “Israel returns to winning” as its slogan for his brand “new right” political party, “HaYamin haChadash”.

The term “Victory”,  in its military-security context, was heard as well in the slogans of Benny Gantz’s  “resilience for Israel” political party (Hosen LeYisrael). Recently, President Rivlin surprisingly declared that “it was time [for Israel] to achieve victory” in the INSS conference a few weeks ago. In a campaign video of the Avoda party, Gen. (res.) Tal Russo said: “ Zionism is about entering an impossible battle and winning.”

Of course, part of is is only electoral rethorics, in which political candidates from the left and the right compete over who has the toughest reputation regarding Israel’s security and the war against terrorism. Yet, even for an election campaign, the use of the words “victory” and “winning” is quite unusual in comparison to previous elections. Moreover, as I mentioned, the discourse about victory rose before the election campaign even began, and some of it did not come from politicians but rather from the heads of the security establishment.

The use of the term “victory” in reference to our attitude towards our enemies is not that obvious. This is a discourse that has not been heard in our region for many years and is even considered as beyond the pale and unspeakable in the Israeli society.  “Victory” as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was perceived as crude, aggressive, militant and unfair. On the other hand, we got accustomed to the fact that – by default – our discourse is tainted with terms of appeasement, negotiations and painful concessions.

It is time, 25 years after the Oslo accords, 13 years since the unilateral disengagement from Gaza and 8 years since the beginning of the Arab Spring, that we wake up, learn the lessons of the past and recognize the failure of the appeasement and unilateral withdrawal discourse. It is time to learn from History. Peace agreements have always been the result of victory, in a way that allows the winner to impose defined conditions on the defeated foe.

Israel’s International standing

In recent years, we witness signs of understanding from Western Europe, and even more so from the Arab countries, that Israel is not the problem of the Middle East but rather an essential and central part of the solution to said problems. Of course, the Iranian threat “helps” bring us closer, but this is mainly because Israel has become a technological, economic and military power. This is not acceptance with Israel’s justice, but an internalization that is preferable to cooperate with the State of Israel than fight it. Consequently, we must prove to our enemies that they can not continue to fight us. Now that Israel is gaining unprecedented status in the international arena and now that Israel starts cooperating with Arab states, we must stand up for ourselves and defeat our enemies. Only an unequivocal decision to achieve victory, will cause the Palestinian to internalize their defeat and their futility of armed struggle against us.

Unfortunately, past experience shows that at the very moment of truth, when our enemies have been weakened and we got strengthened –  we, each time, decide to take pity of them and be compassionate and give up, instead of achieving an indisputable and definite victory. It happened 25 years ago with Oslo, just after the fall of the Soviet Union, the patron of our enemies then, and after the large and educated wave of immigration of the Jews of the Soviet Union that reinforced Israel. This happened when, after the fall of the hostile regime of Saddam Hussein (who was a generous patron of Palestinian terror), the government decided to withdraw from Gaza. This is happening again these days, despite our growing geopolitical standing and a stronger than ever alliance with the United States and the weakening of the European Union. Once again, we refrain and avoid conflict resolution.

It must not happen again. The argument that Israel is a small country that can not allow itself to stand up to the superpowers is no longer true today. Israel in 2019 is a superpower according to all the relevant criteria.

A change in thinking…

Professor Daniel Pipes, a Jewish-American historian who serves as the president of the Middle East Forum, described it well: “Peace is not made with enemies, but with former enemies. Throughout human history, the wars ended when one side was defeated and gave up.”

It has always been, and will always continue to be this way. We must understand it and act accordingly instead of dreaming of changing the way humanity operates. Therefore, it is very important that we finally put the terms of reconciliation and concessions away, and start talking and most importantly thinking in terms of victory and defeat, not only now but after the elections as well.

(Alex Selsky is the CEO of the World Israel Beytenu movement, former adviser to PM Netanyahu, member of the Executive of the World Zionist Organization and the Board of Governess Of the Jewish Agency, lecturer at the school of Politics and Journalism at the Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem. Translated to English by Rachel Touitou)

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