Is Israel Losing the Gaza War? What to Do? A position paper

March 11, 2024

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Losing The War

Israel is fighting against the Palestinian people and people cannot be defeated. Russia tried this in Afghanistan but had to withdraw, as did the United States. When fighting people, if the leaders are killed, others take their place; if they sign a defeat, the people give birth to terrorists.

Some think thatIsrael is winning the war because of its military control in Gaza and killing of many terrorists. The result is the opposite. One of the reasons Hamas is growing in popularity and recruitment is Israel's combat strategy. For everyHamas member killed, a dozen of new fighters join in their place. Many Israelis have come to this conclusion and argue that the war with the Palestinians is going to be a 100-year war, if not longer.

Israel does not have the ability to fight along-term war. A significant portion of the Israeli combat forces are reservists. The implication of a prolonged war is devastating economic consequences. The people also cannot endure prolonged continuous terror.

Israel is losing on another front, the war for global public opinion. There are many reasons for this. Among them:

  1. The role of mass media: The internet and social networks did not exist in previous wars. A country could bomb and kill thousands of people, and it took a long time for the news to spread, and their emotional impact was limited. Today, the physical destruction and human suffering caused by the war are documented immediately. In some cases, they are even staged. They are also broadcasted through social media and other communication channels almost in real-time. Watching the killing of children and women, and mass hunger, arouses overwhelming anger leading to emotionally charged     protests, marches, and fiery speeches. Prevalent public opinion influences politicians' decisions. President Biden, for example, needs to temper his     strong support for Israel due to the growing opposition among many of his voters.
  2. Supportive audience: Palestinians have a larger supportive audience due to the magnitude of the Muslim population worldwide and the prevalence of anti-Semitic sentiments.
  3. Displaying pain: Palestinians broadcast their pain, partly staged. Israel, in order to prevent pain for a nation still in trauma, refrains from broadcasting and censors the horrors caused by the Palestinians.
  4. Complexity of the message: It is not easy to convince people that Jews, who were persecuted for 2000 years, and after suffering the Holocaust,     need a piece of land where they feel safe. In contrast, it is easy to convey the Palestinian message: the colonialist Jews came, killed many of us, expelled us from our homes, stole our land, and made us homeless and identity-less. For seventy-five years, they left us locked in refugee camps without a future.
  5. Available resources: Arabs have enormous resources for campaigns to promote the Palestinian cause. They have spent billions of dollars to support Middle Eastern studies at universities in the United States, where the Palestinian agenda is advanced. The narrative they have created in academia over the past thirty years has influenced many influential  intellectuals in the West.

Winning the global public opinion challenge is huge undertaking. Israel is preoccupied with its internal political problems; its foreign ministry is dysfunctional and uses anti-Semitism as an excuse not to confront the threat with due vigor. Israel losing in this war to its detriment and to the detriment of world Jewry; anti-Semitism is reaching dangerous levels. Attacked from three fronts and without support from the world, Israel is in existential danger.

What to do?

A country's ability to survive in the long term is determined by its integration into the international community and the extent to which it changes the negative consciousness of the people it fights against. As President Lincoln said, "I defeat my enemies by turning them into allies."

For Israel to focus on the global public opinion, it must first free itself from internal political conflicts that consume its energy. Secondly, it must be clear about the desired solution to the Palestinian issue. Since this effort requires along time simultaneously, it is necessary to engage the best public relations companies worldwide, many of which are Jewish-owned, to address public opinion in their countries. Israel should recruit and organize thousands of qualified Israelis living abroad, to serve, like those serving in the in the military in Israel, to be spokespersons and influence public opinion in their countries.

Certain changes in perceptions, behavior, and the structure of political forces are required for peaceful coexistence and building peace with the Palestinians.

Living in denial. I believe denial is a Jewish cultural trait. It's one of the ways Judaism preserved its sanity during the persecutions it endured in exile. Denial, however, leads to stagnation and inaction, which is dangerous.

The Palestinians also deny reality. Yes, they can fight for a hundred years, but they cannot win. If Israel faces existential danger, after the horrifying experience of the October massacre, trauma by the Holocaust, will not go to the slaughter again. It will use its nuclear arsenal. Perhaps it will cease to exist, but it will not be the only one to.

Arrogance. The Israeli security establishment did not respond to warnings about the impending Yom Kippur War. It ignored signs of the attack on October 7th. Many of Israel's strategies, in my opinion, are based on what Israel wants and insists that it is how it should be, while stubbornly ignoring bitter reality.

Hamas also has its own arrogance. Hamas leadership has declared that it is willing to sacrifice millions of Palestinians to achieve its goal of Israel's destruction. And it lived up to its promise. On October 7 it provoked the Israeli attack on innocent children and women, by hiding in their homes and schools.

Arrogance and denial are central obstacles in negotiations aiming for a realistic and rational solution. Foreign powers can help remove these obstacles.

The role of foreign powers is to exert pressure on both Palestinians and Israelis. Setting sanctions on Iran and Qatar to force them to stop their support for Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist organizations, and on the other hand, threatening to cease support for Israel, may bring the Israeli government and the Palestinian Authority to the negotiating table for meaningful discussions and to plan a lasting solution. Coerced solutions from the outside may exacerbate the situation. Both sides may oppose a foreign to them solution and undermine it.

Russia and China may welcome the continuation of the conflict; their aspiration is to divert American and European attention from Ukraine and Taiwan. Hopefully, they might act differently, knowing that the crisis in the Middle East could escalate and lead to a third world war with catastrophic nuclear consequences that would also affect them.

Cultural differences: Respect plays a central role in Arab culture. Palestinians see Israelis as oppressors, conquerors, and demeanors who look down on them as if they were inferior in intelligence and ability. Israelis, on the other hand, perceive Palestinians as liars, unreliable and dangerous people to turn one’s back to. Legislation, from both sides, prohibiting racist expressions enforced by law, is required. Reform in the educational system that condemns and eradicates hatred towards one another is mandatory. And in order to foster mutual respect, both peoples need to knowHebrew and Arabic, the history of both nations, and the philosophical foundations of both religions.

Common interest. At present, the conditions are lose-lose. Both sides suffer, and no one really wins. Both sides need to fund and develop joint economic initiatives that cultivate a common interest, fostering a win-win mindset.

Perceptions and behavior. Current leaderships on both sides assumes that the only way to deal with the other is through force. The solution that follows this assumption is one of continued killing or deportation of one of the nations. We are talking about millions of people.

Germany's humiliation after World War I gave birth to World War II. In contrast, the Marshall Plan for the reconstruction of Germany succeeded in establishing an ally. The same happened with the reconstruction plan for Japan. That's the direction change must take. There needs to be a shift from decisions based on fear to decisions based on faith. It takes leadership that has courage and builds hope.

To implement a Marshall Plan for Gaza, Israel needs to combine its resources with those of supportive Arab countries, and together with the Palestinian Authority, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs together, rebuild Gaza. To communicate to the Palestinians and to the world that we are not against the Palestinians but against Hamas terrorists. This project will be a test of the feasibility of coexistence. Through joint work for a common goal, perceptions may change, the desired changes spelled above may be initiated, and their probability of realization be tested.

One state or two? One state is the end of the Zionist vision of establishing a Jewish state. This is probably not negotiable. Two states make many Israelis feel very vulnerable. The Palestinian states may turn into a new Gaza and rain rockets on Israel from the north, east, and south. International guarantees that the Palestinian states will be demilitarized are not sufficiently assuring. Foreign powers interests change over time. An alternative: three states, Israel, Palestine in the West Bank, and one in Gaza, each with its legislative, executive, and judicial institutions, anthem, flag, and membership at the United Nations. It is a solution similar to the European Union with some changes that local conditions require: one police force for the three states to control nationalist tendencies and prevent them from deteriorating into terror, one military force for three, one education ministry to foster trust and mutual respect, and one trade and industry ministry to promote common economic initiatives.

This model is intended to preserve the cultural and national aspiration for self-government while nurturing coexistence

It is desirable for Gaza to become the first Palestinian state of the union through the Marshall Plan. Once it becomes clear that the proposed idea is succeeding, the West Bank could be the next Palestinian state.This plan, or any other plan agreed upon by the parties, can be implemented since Israel currently controls Gaza and the West Bank and needs to be able to turn any solution agreed upon with the Palestinian authorities into reality.

TheRight of Return for Jews to the Jewish state will remain a fundamental law of the State of Israel. Israel will not demand that the Palestinians renounce their right of return as a precondition for the implementation of the aforementioned plan. The Palestinian leadership cannot and will never waive this demand. This issue should be left for a later stage. Each state, however, will have laws governing who can buy land or obtain residency within its territory.

Conditions for Success

The first priority is to return the captives at any cost, and in order to implement the proposed Marshall Plan, Israel should stay in Gaza and neutralize Hamas's control there.

The solution for peace requires new leadership, constructive, charismatic, and politically peace-oriented. I am not familiar with Palestinian leadership. Someone with charisma and support from a significant portion of the Israeli voting population might succeed in bridging the gap to build a coalition wall-to-wall with Arab Israelis but without settler parties who are not peace seeking.

The new coalition needs a new vision that unites the fragmented state. Without a shared vision, destructive political infighting will continue, and Israel will not advance towards a sustainable peace. The Declaration of Independence provided a vision: the establishment of a Jewish state. That vision has been achieved. Now Israel needs a new vision that articulates and clarifies what it means to be a Jewish-Democratic society, a deeply pluralistic society but guided by Jewish values? This new vision must be anchored in a constitution.

I suspect that one of the main obstacles for developing the new vision, how to be Jewish and democratic simultaneously, is the deep-seated, may be subconscious fear, among the ultra-Orthodox, that extensive democracy could lead to too much openness that could increase the number of those leaving the fold and lead to assimilation. To address this concern, Jewish education will be mandatory in Israeli schools to teach Jewish philosophy and values that nurture Jewish identity.

In conclusion, the idea is to turn the disaster of Gaza into an opportunity to begin the healing process of the region. The alternative, if there is no peace and the anti-Semitic tsunami sweeping the world is not stopped, Israeli faces a real existential threat and a nuclear disaster could spread beyond the Middle East.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes