TEL AVIV – The Palestinians pose a “greater existential threat to the Jewish state of Israel than Iran and Syria,” the director of a Philadelphia-based think tank told Breitbart in a wide-ranging interview on the heels of a new poll that shows the overwhelming majority of Israelis (78%) do not see an end to the conflict in sight.
Gregg Roman, director of the Middle East Forum (MEF), cited demography, politicized violence and proximity as the reasons why the intransigent Israeli-Palestinian conflict is more dangerous to the future of the Jewish state than even Iran.
“The crux of the conflict is the Palestinian rejection of the right for Jews to have self-determination and live in their ancestral homeland,” Roman said.
“Israel knows how to deal with Iran. With the Palestinians, [Israel is] one step behind on every new form of rejectionism. In the long term, if not solved, they pose an existential threat to the idea of a Jewish State,” he added.
“The Palestinians are rewarded for rejecting, Israelis are punished for accepting,” he said, and added that the problem was compounded by the fact that the Palestinians believe “time is on their side.”
According to Roman, the only way for the conflict to be resolved is when the Palestinians admit they have lost.
Last week, MEF made headlines around the world with the Israel Victory Project (IVP), a campaign launched by MEF’s founder and president Daniel Pipes, in which billboards of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh in a pair of Speedos greeted commuters on a Tel Aviv highway.
The image of the terror chief at the beach lugging a suitcase full of Qatari dollars is accompanied by an Arabic-language caption which translates as, “Thank you Israel, I love you. Ismail.”
Underneath are the words, “Enough being scared. Demand victory for Israel.”
According to the MEF’s website, the Israel Victory Project aims to “steer U.S. policy toward backing an Israeli victory over the Palestinians to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict.”
“It’s not about America dictating policy to Israel, it’s about America giving Israel oxygen to breathe to decide what’s best for it,” Roman told Breitbart.
But the IVP initiative is also aimed at galvanizing Israelis into a national movement for victory.
Days after the Haniyeh satire, a poll by New Wave Research commissioned by IVP revealed just how jaded Israelis have become in regard to solving the conflict.
According to the poll’s findings, fewer than 10% felt that Israel was currently winning the conflict and 78% didn’t see an end in sight.
Eighty-two percent of respondents believed that Israel’s policy against the Hamas terrorist organization was too soft and 33% were in favor of targeted assassinations of terror leaders.
Eight percent thought that Israeli operations in Gaza, such as Cast Lead and Protective Edge, were helpful.
According to Roman, Israel is hyper-focused on responsive warfare and conflict management during calmer times, but what is really needed is “less Iron Domes and more F16s.”
“Every day that we allow the Gaza conflict to continue is a day that Hamas becomes more creative and finds more ingenious ways to kill Jews,” he said.
Perhaps most tellingly, a staggering 84% of Jewish Israelis surveyed felt that it was important for Israel to achieve victory against the Palestinians in order for there to be peace.
Roman maintains that historically wars are only won when one side surrenders.
“War is when one side acknowledges defeat, not when one side declares victory,” Roman said, citing wars throughout history in which there was unconditional surrender, including the American Civil War, the Second World War and the Six Day War.
“The conflict has to end on Israeli terms before new terms can be negotiated,” he said.
Roman cited Israel’s peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan and said that both countries signed the accords only once they realized they could not defeat Israel militarily.
On the other hand, the failed Oslo peace accords with the Palestinians changed the conflict resolution paradigm from one of “peace for peace” to “land for peace” and was a disaster that led to years of terror.
With caucuses in both the Israeli Knesset and U.S. Congress represented by lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle, MEF’s victory paradigm is one that crosses partisan lines, he said.
“It’s an idea that transcends political identity,” he stated.
And it is one that is having an impact on discourse at the highest levels.
Roman pointed to recent statements made by President Donald Trump’s Special Mideast peace envoy Jason Greenblatt that put into question some of the thorniest issues in the conflict and core tenets on the Palestinian side, including the Palestinian refugee misnomer and the Palestinian “right” to a capital in east Jerusalem.
“The language that [Trump advisers Jared] Kushner and [Jason] Greenblatt have been using is at least somewhat influenced by the victory paradigm,” he said.