“The Hostage Lobby in Israel vanquished its Victory Lobby”: Interview with Daniel Pipes

A regular interlocutor of L’Informale for years, Daniel Pipes, president of the Middle East Forum and one of the most renowned  analysts of the Middle East, gave us the following interview, the third since Hamas attacked Israel on 7 October 2023.

In an analysis for the Middle East Forum, Zvi Hauser writes, “Any conclusion of the war that does not include the elimination or withdrawal of Hamas’s military force from Gaza will be interpreted as a Hamas victory, however extensive the damage it suffers.Do you agree? 

I completely agree, not only because logic necessitates the ending of Hamas’ power in Gaza but also because this has been the oft-repeated stated aim of the Israeli government. I keep two blogs, one of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statements calling for victory, another of others doing so. Focusing on the former, I count Netanyahu having done so 163 times in 56 statements since Oct. 7 

The emerging Hamas-Israel deal looks like an Israel capitulation to Hamas. In our November interview, you said that a “half failure” for Israel “looks most likely,” but this looks much worse. True 

Yes, much worse. Israel’s Foreign Minister Israel Katz asserted on Apr. 27 that “The release of the hostages is the top priority for us,” adding that “if there will be a deal, we will suspend the operation” in Rafah, Hamas’ last stronghold in Gaza. I draw three conclusions from this: Hamas will live on to fight Israel again; the Hostage Lobby in Israel vanquished its Victory Lobby; and all that big talk by Netanyahu about an “absolute victory was just blather.  

Ending the war, not defeating Hamas, seems to be the Biden Administration’s priority. Correct? If so, why? 

Yes, correct. Biden wants Israel safe but won’t allow it to win. He simultaneously sends $17 billion in military aid to Israel and threatens to impose sanctions on the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda battalion. This oxymoronic policy results from Biden’s wish both to protect Israel and to win the votes of the anti-Israel leftists he needs to win reelection as president in November.

What are the geopolitical consequences of an Israeli defeat in Gaza?   

Hamas retains the ability to attack Israel from Gaza and gains in its ambition to control the West Bank. The mullahs in Tehran feel encouraged to pursue their war-by-proxy with Israel. Arab state leaders see Israel as a less-reliable partner versus Iran. A harder-right prime minister emerges in Jerusalem 

Israel replied minimally to the Iranian attack. Is that more an American or Israeli decision? 

Accounts vary, with some seeing Israel wanting to hit Iran but restrained by the Americans, others seeing this as basically an Israeli decision. I don’t know enough to judge between them.  

You first met Benjamin Netanyahu in 1983. Please assess his handling of the current crises. 

His long and mixed record got pushed aside on Oct. 7 and, from a weak spot, he is trying to resurrect Israeli deterrence and his own reputation. I fear he is the wrong person for the job. Like Neville Chamberlain, he should have resigned when disaster struck.  

Next, please assess the Biden Administration’s record. 

What I earlier called an oxymoronic policy pleases no one and achieves no goals. It saddens me to watch both Netanyahu and Biden put their personal interests ahead of their respective national interests 

Some of America’s most elite universities are witnessing an unprecedented venom against Israel and the intimidation and harassment of Jewish students. Please explain how this came to be 

It culminates decades and decades of anti-Zionism bordering on antisemitism. Finally, all the pieces were in place. University administrators are as little prepared for this outburst as Israel was on Oct. 7.  

What must universities do to fix the problem? 

They must break the prevailing monoculture of leftism. To give one example, the University of Pennsylvania (which I live near and where I have been documenting the anti-Israel encampment): 99.7 percent of political donations from its faculty in 2021-22 went to Democrats.

 Is Donald Trump or Joe Biden better for Israel as the next U.S. president? 

Trump adopted pro-Israel policies when president far more than Biden, who acquiesces to his left wing. But Trump is a mercurial figure and has become embittered since losing in 2020, so I dare not predict what his second-term policies toward Israel might be. That’s especially the case if Netanyahu is prime minister because Trump deeply resents Netanyahu’s congratulating Biden on becoming president (as though Netanyahu had a choice), even cursing him for this  


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