We Were Right to Hang Billboards Showing Abbas and Haniyeh as Defeated Terrorists

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Billboard in Tel Aviv reading 'Peace is made only with defeated enemies.'
Billboard in Tel Aviv reading 'Peace is made only with defeated enemies.'Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

“Defeated, humiliated, pleading” was the title of Odeh Bisharat’s op-ed in Monday’s Haaretz, written in response to billboards we hung that showed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas defeated. By “we,” I mean the Israel Victory Project, a project of the Middle East Forum-Israel, which I head.

This organization holds that over the past few decades, Israeli society and its main decision makers have been inculcated with a worldview that believes more in containment and restraint and less in victory. This is the result of an incessant drumbeat of slogans like “land for peace,” which are based on Israeli concessions as a condition for peace with the Palestinians.

We seek to offer the public a different kind of thinking – a paradigm change from Israeli concessions to Israeli demands: namely, acceptance of the Zionist idea and the Jewish state. We aren’t talking about Arab humiliation, as Bisharat claimed, but about defeating terror.

The point of the billboards was to spark public discussion about the crying need to change the thinking that characterizes the “peace camp,” which has come to dominate Israeli thinking. There’s no debate about the billboard’s provocativeness; that was one of its goals – to spark a lively debate about the warped mode of thought in which our enemy is not only our partner, but also a victim.

Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai’s response helped us prove the point. Huldai, in his objection to the billboards, made it clear that he doesn’t see Abbas and Haniyeh as terrorists who are enemies of the Jewish state and its citizens, but as victims.

He gave a seal of approval to the Palestinians’ feelings of victimhood and supported their view that their demands for ownership of the land are just. Even worse, he gave a degree of legitimacy to their violent methods. It’s important to stress that such behavior is what motivates their lies and enables them to tread water, while dragging us with them.

The comparison that municipal spokesman Eytan Schwartz made between the two Palestinian leaders and Jewish children in the Holocaust merely bolsters this conclusion. Nobody with even a basic knowledge of the Holocaust and the reality of our conflict would compare Abbas to a Jewish child in the Holocaust.

This shouldn’t need to be said, but just in case anyone is confused, a Jewish child in the Holocaust who was strangled, shot to death or died of hunger was innocent. Abbas supports terrorism, and nobody is seeking to kill him. Only to defeat him.

Abbas has earned this description through his own words and deeds. As is well known, he pays salaries to terrorists and does nothing to prevent incitement; he even encourages it. In this context, it’s worth recalling his statements from 2014, when he described Jews as defiling Jerusalem’s holy sites.

And perhaps the opposition of Huldai and fellow members of his camp doesn’t stem from the billboard’s harshness, but from another message it contained – the failure of the left’s paradigm of chronic concessions, which is second only to Palestinian rejectionism. U.S. President Donald Trump’s deal of the century also seeks to put an end to this rejectionism.

Former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who met with Abbas, and Huldai, who removed the billboards, exemplify the disintegration of the left’s paradigm, which used to be dominant here. Regrettably, some people still buy it, even though it’s very easy to see what Israeli concessions wrought.

The Oslo Accord brought hellish terror attacks. The second intifada, according to Palestinian Authority officials, was planned after Yasser Arafat returned from the Camp David Summit in July 2000, not because then-MK Ariel Sharon visited the Temple Mount. Even after the Wye agreement in 1998, there were terror attacks. And everyone remembers what happened to the Gaza settlements and where rockets from the Gaza Strip are hitting today. Concessions whet the terrorists’ appetite.

The ridiculous accusation about encouraging genocide should also be addressed. Just as there was no genocide during Israel’s operations in Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014, there was also no such thing in this billboard. What did the billboard show? What happens during military operations – destruction.

Another criticism was the problem of children being exposed to a violent billboard. But here, the “peace camp” really shot itself in the foot.

Lest anyone has forgotten, this camp is interested in negotiating with terrorists in the full knowledge that every previous concession led to violence and Israeli deaths. In the worst case, children were among the murdered. In the best case, they were exposed to rivers of blood, which were deemed legitimate back then, because they came from “victims of peace.” To the best of my knowledge, that’s just a bit more traumatic than a Photoshop of Abbas and Haniyeh on their knees.

Defeat, incidentally, doesn’t have to be achieved through military means. It can also be a result of political, diplomatic and economic pressure.

I was originally in favor of a different billboard, featuring a Hamas military parade as a potential military target. The problem with that billboard was that it would have fed into the view that Hamas is a problem but Abbas is legitimate. Therefore, we decided on a billboard that put Abbas on a par with Haniyeh.

True, it was very provocative, even a bit too provocative, in my opinion. And I wish we hadn’t needed it to remind the Israeli public who we’re dealing with. But this conflict was forced on us. And we must understand that the time has come to try something else to break this Palestinian rejectionism.

The debate here is between people who want to bring peace and people who want to continue feeding Palestinian rejectionism. That’s what this billboard tried to convey, and that’s the debate we wanted to spark. And if we’ve lived with real terror attacks for years, we’re strong enough to handle a billboard.

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