Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Member of Knesset and former Interior Minister Gideon Saar are focused on victory in Likud’s leadership election tomorrow. Whoever wins, the day after their focus must pivot to Palestinian defeat.
Unfortunately, tomorrow’s Likud leadership elections are going in a similar fashion to the recent Israeli general elections, in that clearly enunciated policies are taking a backseat to slogans and personalities.
It is obviously not just an Israeli phenomenon as the discourse in democratic elections around the world are frequently denigrating into meaningless and empty sloganeering.
However, in the State of Israel, a nation facing very real and imminent security threats, both foreign and domestic, the people need a more in-depth and comprehensive laying out of positions on issues that are on the average citizen’s agenda.
Both Netanyahu and Saar have impressive credentials and have contributed much to Israel over the years. Both have also served in the defense establishment’s Security Cabinet, so know well the challenges the Jewish State faces from near and afar.
As members of the Likud go to cast their votes, many of the millions of Israelis living within rocket range from Gaza and Lebanon will be looking at them. The hundreds of thousands of Israelis for whom dashing to their bomb shelters and worrying if their children will come home from school and kindergarten will be pleading with them to consider their plight.
It could be argued, owing to the current political impasse, that these primary elections are just as important as those on March 2nd. Whoever wins will almost certainly become the leader of the biggest party in the larger right wing bloc and will have significant moral authority to form the next government.
That is why it is so vital that Israeli voters hear from both of the candidates how they intend to rid Israel of the incessant state and non-state actor threats which continues to mobilize on its borders, and even more so the pernicious ideological threat that simmers in West Bank and Gaza based institutions claiming to represent Palestinian interests.
The former can be dealt with by tactical airstrikes and ground mobilizations, the only real answer to the latter is Palestinian defeat.
Israel has tried to manage the conflict with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and other terrorist entities, while placating its less violent ideological succedents, both on and within its borders for too long. Conflict management is failing the people of Israel.
Israel needs to end the conflict with these terrorist organizations and their fellow travelers, and this can only end in one of two ways. One unacceptable way, that Israel is defeated, is an unconscionable thought and one no leader can entertain.
Which leaves us with one real and sustainable option, and that is for the Israeli Government to allow the Israel Defense Forces to defeat our enemies and achieve an unwavering, complete, victory that will improve Israel’s deterrence and force the Palestinians to accept their defeat. As Daniel Pipes writes this victory must be recognized from the “head of Hamas to the lowliest street sweeper.”
Both candidates have used the right language.
At the inauguration ceremony for new IDF Chief of Staff Avi Kochavi, Prime Minister Netanyahu said: “All of our efforts at building our power in the past few years are aimed at making sure that the army is ready for a single goal – victory in war. And the stronger we are, the better our chances are at peace.”
Last year, at an Israel Victory Project event in Jerusalem, MK Saar said: “The ‘victory paradigm,’ like Jabotinsky’s ‘Iron Wall’ concept, assumes that an agreement may be possible in the future, but only after a clear and decisive Israeli victory.”
Both talk of peace and the possibility of agreements with Israel’s neighbors but understand that neither can happen without Israel exerting its will on its opponents and force them to accept defeat in their war aims, which remain the complete destruction of the State of Israel.
Whomever is the leader of the Likud in the upcoming elections will also have a compatible IDF Chief of Staff in Kochavi, who has repeatedly talked of the need for victory and has sought to reinstall this concept at all levels of the army.
It is an opportune time for an Israeli leader to lead the nation beyond conflict. The first step is for the new leader of the Likud to raise the banner of victory in his acceptance speech to the voters of the Jewish state who will consider this position favorably during the general election.
Leaders in the Middle East have largely lost patience with the Gazan terrorist organizations, who have received support, funds and arms from Iran, Qatar and Turkey. Many pragmatic Sunni nations are even ready to provide tacit support, or at least show little opposition, to Israel’s defeat of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The Iranian people are fed up with their leaders giving money to terrorist organizations while they massively increase the cost of living.
In the United States, Israel has probably the most supportive and friendly administration it has ever had, and one which understands the need for significant military intervention to defeat a terrorist organization, as it assisted in the defeat of ISIS recently.
The State of Israel has a window of opportunity to take the necessary steps in defeating its enemies which have terrorized its people for too long.
The next Likud leader will have to make momentous decisions, and those who will vote in the leadership elections need to know what they are voting for. They need to hear an articulated policy in how they will defeat the enemies at Israel’s gates.
The majority of Israelis who will not be voting in the upcoming Likud leadership elections are relying on them to demand a concrete policy discussion.
Defeat and victory should be defining issues in choosing their, and most likely, Israel’s next leader.
Gregg Roman is Director of the Middle East Forum