Daniel Pipes has been a keen observer of the Middle East for quite some time, but like others prognosticating future American policy in the region under president-elect Donald Trump, he does not know what to expect. Nobody does, he says, but he does know what he’d like the Donald to do, when he assumes the mantle of commander-in-chief.
He’d like the incoming president to give Israel the green light to do what it has to do to make it clear to the Palestinians that their dream of eradicating the State of Israel will fail. In short, he says, he’d like the United States to allow Israel to win the conflict and ensure that the Palestinians know they’ve lost. Only that way – once the Palestinians are sure of the outcome – can there be a deal that will end in peace.
Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum, presented that perspective on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict at a lunchtime briefing for a small group of the organization’s supporters and donors in Toronto Nov. 15. He also addressed the Iran nuclear deal, saying he’d like to see a revolution topple the unpopular regime, and spoke about the ongoing conflict in Syria. Referring to the future of ISIS, he said the group will soon be defeated, and he mentioned other areas of hostility in the broader Middle East.
As for the idea of winners and losers in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pipes said a negotiated settlement has failed and there are very dim prospects of it succeeding in the near future. Conflicts go on and lead to war when there is no clear winner, he said, pointing to the aftermath of World War I, in which Germany believed it had not been defeated, a situation that led to World War II.
“The only way warfare ends is when one side gives up,” he said.
Strong Israeli deterrence would ensure the Palestinians pay a stiff price when they attack Israel. That will provide the best chance for an end of the conflict. Pipes pointed to the campaign led by Ariel Sharon in the 1950s of retaliating severely when Palestinians launched terrorist attacks against Israel.
Referring to the campaign promise by Trump that he would move the American embassy to Jerusalem, Pipes said, “I’m very skeptical.”
Didn’t former Canadian prime minister Joe Clark make the same promise? he asked.
Such a move entails “lots of consequences. U.S. interests would take a hit,” he said.
Pipes suggested, however, that an embassy move might occur as part of a larger deal.
Turning to that broader stage, Pipes said Israel’s prospects are good. It maintains diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries, and it is an economic powerhouse, surviving the last recession with barely a blip. “They are the superpower of water technology.”
The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement has had some effect, particularly in Europe, but 95 per cent of Israeli exports are on a business to business basis, and are largely “invisible” to would-be boycotters, he said.
Israel does face plenty of hostility, he continued, most of it from the political left, even at a time when the Muslim world is becoming less hostile.
You can see that in the U.S. domestic scene, where the level of hostility increases as you go to the political left, while favourable attitudes increase as you move to the right, he said.
Turning to Europe, Pipes said the influx of one million Muslims into Germany is seen quite differently by the elite – the politicians, professors and press – than by the general population. The elite doesn’t see a problem, but the broader population sees the influx as “alarming.”
The terrorist attacks in France have led to more of a willingness to discuss the issue – “violence trumps politics” – while in countries like Sweden, where there have been no attacks, the views of the elite prevail.
Pipes predicted that “the anti-immigrant and anti-Islamist electorate is going to grow and grow” across Europe.
As for Canada, Pipes said Toronto is unique on the world stage in boasting a strong Muslim opposition to Islamist influence. He cited Tarek Fatah and Irshad Manji, among others, as leading voices in fighting political Islam.