Daniel Pipes, the brilliant and tenacious analyst of Middle East strategy, has just published an important essay, “Peace Process or War Process?” In good Clausewitzian terms, Pipes argues that peace will come to the Middle East only through victory. The Palestinians first must feel defeated in order to make peace. He concludes,
Israel’s win, ironically, would be the best thing that ever happened to the Palestinians. Compelling them finally to give up on their irredentist dream would liberate them to focus on their own polity, economy, society, and culture. Palestinians need to experience the crucible of defeat to become a normal people — one whose parents stop celebrating their children becoming suicide terrorists, whose obsession with Zionist rejectionism collapses. There is no shortcut.
On the positive side, the U. S. administration should work with Israel, the Arab states, and others to induce the Palestinians to accept Israel’s existence by convincing them that they have lost. This means impressing on the Israeli government the need not just to defend itself but to take steps to demonstrate to Palestinians the hopelessness of their cause. That requires not episodic shows of force (such as the 2008-09 war against Hamas in Gaza) but a sustained and systematic effort to deflate a bellicose mentality….
Diplomacy aiming to shut down the Arab-Israeli conflict is premature until Palestinians give up their anti-Zionism. When that happy moment arrives, negotiations can re-open and take up anew the Oslo issues — borders, resources, armaments, sanctities, residential rights. But that is years or decades away. In the meantime, an ally needs to win.
What Pipes does not spell out is what victory would look like. Just what would Israel have to do in order to persuade the Palestinians they have lost? To persuade the Serbs they had lost in the First World War, Austria killed in battle half the country’s military-age men. Rather than accept defeat Serbia moved a large part of its civilian population over the mountains in mid-winter to Greece. To persuade the South that it had lost the American Civil War, the Union killed nearly 30% of its military-age men, and even afterward Gen. Robert E. Lee had difficulty persuading his officers to surrender rather than commence guerrila warfare.
Sometimes people would rather die than accept the available terms of surrender, and wars continue until all those who wish to fight to the death have had the opportunity to do so. Sometimes wars continue until the present generation gets too old to fight.
In a recent “Spengler” essay for Asia Times, I characterized the Palestine problem as “hopeless, but not serious.” Subsidies give the Palestinians a living standard double that of Egypt and much higher than Jordan or Syria, paying perhaps a quarter of young Palestinian men to carry guns. Persuading them to give up the guns and take a pay cut is not an easy task, particularly if it involves the destruction of cherished illusions about throwing the Jews into the sea. The United Nations relief agencies have created a new sort of people with whom it is extremely difficult, and probably impossible, to have a peace.
To paraphrase Bertolt Brecht, the right thing to do is for the government to dismiss the people and elect another — except he meant it ironically, and I mean it in dead seriousness. This can occur through 1) immigration, 2) attrition in war, or 3) aging. One has to find a Palestinian people that is content to find employment in a Holy Land theme park for Christian tourists, for example.
Because Palestinian gunmen hide amongst civilians, unlike the Confederate Army of 1861-1865, attrition is too messy a prospect. Immigration is proceeding apace but it creates adverse selection, for those who can leave, do, depleting the skills of the population and leaving in place those who have no other profession but the gun. The best thing to do would be to ignore the situation. That’s right: simply announce that it is not a priority for diplomacy. Drastically reduce funding for the Palestine Authority (the easiest way is to insist on a fair census and adjust for the 1.1 million non-existent residents for whom the PA is receiving aid).
As I wrote in the cited Asia Times essay, and reiterated in another way in an article for the Public Square portion of this website yesterday, there is no demographic “time bomb.” Arab (and more generally Muslim) fertility is plunging at an astonishing rate, except in Pakistan). In a generation the present cohort of young people will be approaching retirement, and the generation that replaces them will be far smaller in relative terms. Aging societies are more placid.
Annoying as it is, Hamas is not going to develop a nuclear bomb; the attentions of the US should be concentrated on countries that well might develop nuclear bombs.
Patience, patience. Israel is relatively safe behind its security barrier and booming economically (as well as demographically). Let the Palestinians sit there and wonder what will happen next. If other Arab countries complain about the position of the Palestinians, Washington should say: “If you don’t like it, you go talk to the Israelis.”