The Palestinian Arabs and their cause has never been as popular throughout the world. As nations push for a permanent ceasefire, the Palestinian Arabs are poised to claim victory no matter how many Gazan buildings are flattened, and how many terrorists killed. Unless the Palestinian Arabs feel defeated after this war, Israel will not have gained any deterrence value, and all of its soldiers and civilians will have died in vain. Given these circumstances, how can Israel possibly win? The answer lies in understanding how the Arabs perceive victory and loss.
Unlike Westerners, Arabs don’t care much about lives or buildings, if they did Hamas would not use its civilians as human shields. If they cared, they would provide their civilians with shelters or at least protect them in their tunnels. They did neither.
From the Arab perspective, the most important commodity is honor, and the Arab’s land is their honor. By conquering an Arab’s land, you rob him of his honor, which is more precious than life itself. This is why the 1948 War was called “The Nakhba” or the “the catastrophe” since Arabs were displaced from their land. While Arabs lost many lives and buildings in many of the future wars and conflicts with Israel, none of them were a true catastrophe for the Arab, only the conflict in which they saw “their land” conquered and taken by the Jewish state.
Israel cannot win this war unless the Palestinian Arabs lose land. Only then will they feel defeated and deterred. Only then will they bow their heads in defeat. Until that point, even if Israel wipes out a million Gazans and flattens all of the buildings in Gaza, it won’t deflate the Arab, it will only galvanize and embolden them to plan further massacres until they achieve their ultimate goal of the complete destruction of the Jewish state. Only defeat on their own terms will put an end to their national aspirations of liberating the entire land between river to the sea.
But what will the Americans say?
It’s a fair question, so lets give it some thought. Israel is not in its nature a warrior nation. Despite its small size, it isn’t interested in conquering its neighbors or expanding its boundaries. Israel is simply a nation that wants to be left alone to live in peace. That is why the concept of conquering land provokes an innate repulsive response for most Jews, and rightly so. It's not Israel’s business conquering the land of other nations. However, in this case, we are not talking about conquering foreign land.
The Bible clearly states (Genesis 15:18) that G-d has given the entire land between the Euphrates and the Nile to the Jewish people. This isn’t a right wing conspiracy theory, its written in black and white in the Bible. The entire land between Euphrates and the Nile is promised to the Jewish people, those are the boundaries of the true Jewish state. The Jewish people have no right or authority to renounce this claim.
That being said, Israel doesn’t launch pro-active wars to reclaim its land either. Only in cases that it is attacked first by a bitter, genocidal enemy, Israel is within its right and obligation to take back the land which is part of its biblical boundaries- be it Gaza, Lebanon, Syria or otherwise. If the Arabs would have succeeded in any of their wars to defeat the Jews, they would have conquered Israel, wiped out the population and taken the land. If you decide to wipe out the Jewish state, but you need to be prepared to be wiped out yourself.
Jews should not have qualms about taking land from an enemy that tried to conquer and destroy our country.
Secondly, just like death and taxes, historically boundary changes have always been a fact of life. Countries by their very nature seek to expand their economic resources and geopolitical power, and expanding boundaries was the way they would achieve these twin goals.
After World War II, when the world was still reeling from the brutal Nazi conquest of Europe, the United States crafted a way to achieve its economic and political goals without having to massacre civilians and change boundaries. They found a way to expand their economic resources and geopolitical power by expanding “influence” throughout the world instead of through physical boundary changes. Through economic/military give and take, they could encourage countries to fork over resources and political control, while allowing their client states to maintain the façade of independence.
This is exactly what happened with Ukraine and it's what's happening in Israel today where Israel is a “client” of the US. Israel maintains the appearance of independence, whereas the US maintains de facto control of the Jewish state, in exchange for the benefits of “partnership”.
This mechanism whereas the US is able to maintain control through influence is currently on the line in the conflict in Ukraine and Taiwan. If either of those countries are defeated, America's ability to control without expanding boundaries will be damaged and the world will rapidly revert to the way it always was: strong countries expand boundaries to grow while weaker countries shrink.
Instead of waiting for world events, Israel should take the initiative and take land, either as a defensive no man's land or because that land rightly belongs to it, and by doing so, win this war. Anything short of this outcome, will only serve to kick the can down the road yet again.
Avraham Shusteris is an accountant in Ramat Beit Shemesh. He made aliyah from Monsey with his family in 2018.