Daniel Pipes: 'Israel Has No Policy'

As recent decades have been plagued by Islamic terrorism and wars in the Middle East, Islam has moved to the center of Western political discourse. And Daniel Pipes has been at the center of this debate, providing tens of millions with his insightful analysis. This analysis has made Dr. Pipes an authority on matters related to Islam and Middle Eastern affairs. In addition to providing analysis through his personal website and the Middle East Forum, which he founded, Pipes travels around the world, speaking at universities, think tanks, and other venues. His appearances often provoke disruptions and angry protests, while simultaneously arousing fervent support.

We sat down with him to talk about Israel, Iran, Barack Obama’s presidency, and other timely issues. He also reminisced about a debate -- which he calls a highlight of his career -- in London in 2007 in which he and a British neo-conservative, Douglas Murray, defeated their opponents, London Mayor Ken Livingstone and Salma Yaqoob, a local Respect-Party politician from Birmingham.

Pipes has tough words for the Israeli political leadership. According to him, Israel is simply trying to cope as crises occur; its leadership lacks a strategic vision or a plan to deal with basic security issues. In Pipes’ view, Israel has become a dramatic opposite of what the young country was in the 1950s and after, when it was led by a talented leadership with a vision of Israel’s long term interests.

The interview took place in Herzliya, Israel.

Israel needs a policy.

Q: Has Israel given up on the idea of victory?

Daniel Pipes: I would say that it isn’t trying to win; it has no idea what it is doing.

Q: Wouldn't you agree that the international community is preventing Israel from winning?

Daniel Pipes: No. It’s an internal problem. From 1948 until 1993 Israel had a policy of deterrence that implied a goal of victory. In 1993 the leaders adopted a policy of appeasement, i.e., give something to your enemy in the hopes it will leave you alone. Appeasement was abandoned in 2000 in favor of unilateral withdrawals which then ended in 2006. Now there is no policy at all. There is no place where the government of Israel is trying to go; it is simply trying to put out brush fires. What is it trying to do in Gaza, for example? Is it trying to get rid of Hamas? Trying to get Egypt to take over the place? Or trying to get Gilad Shalit released? I discern this to the lack of policy objectives. This is not an issue of outside pressure.

Q: Does Israel need such a rigid policy, a clear vision of the future, considering that its economy is booming?

Daniel Pipes: Israel is booming economically, but it’s increasingly under criticism bordering on delegitimation to the point that an economic boycott by Europe could take place, with other countries joining in. Israel could become an isolated state like South Africa. New Zealand doesn’t need a strategy; Israel does.

Q: What are the chances of a peace deal between Israel and Syria?

Daniel Pipes: Minimal. I don’t see the Syrian leadership wanting to split from Iran, the dynamic force in the Middle East. Being with Iran feels like the winning team. So, a deal with Israel looks unlikely.

Q: What if Iran changed?

Daniel Pipes: Yes, if something happened that caused Iran to be the losing team, the weak horse, then others, like Assad, would have second thoughts.

Q: And if Iran goes nuclear then Syria wouldn’t split with Iran.

Daniel Pipes: That would give Damascus all the more reason to stick with Tehran.