One of the constants in Israeli history is that Israel wins wars but loses in the post-war diplomatic front, so Israel doesn’t succeed in converting its war victories into everlasting peace with its neighbors.
Why is this so? Is it because the Israeli leaders are so preoccupied with the daily tasks of managing Israel, that they have no time to plan ahead? Is it because no one thought about the future?
About the value of planning ahead, Eliot A. Cohen wrote that two great war statesmen planned ahead and defined what are their war goals. They knew what kind of peace they want to have. One of them (Abraham Lincoln) achieved it, and the other’s (Winston Churchill) opinions stood the test of time.
Two other war statesmen won wars but did not win everlasting peace. One of them was David Ben-Gurion, who failed to define what he wants to accomplish in the 1948 War of Independence, and toward what kind of peace to strive. One of the consequences is that Israel did not have peace with any of its neighbors until the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
This pattern, of fighting and winning but without planning ahead the kind of desirable victory, continued in the Arab-Israeli wars since 1948, in spite of journalists having spent lots of ink writing about it and heavily criticizing the leaders for this shortcoming. The only exception, of which I am aware, is the 1982 Lebanon War (now known as the First Lebanon War), whose goals were defined. However, this exception proves the rule, because those goals were not consistently pursued due to political pressure from various leaders and other reasons.
Now I suspect that the consistent failure to define war goals was not an oversight by overwhelmed Israeli leaders, but part of a systematic problem. To define war goals and to get most of the Israelis to agree with them, one needs first to define what kind of Israel one wants and get this vision accepted by the overwhelming majority of the Israelis. If we want to emphasize territory annexion, we need one set of war goals. If we want to emphasize human rights, we need another set of war goals.
The systematic problem is that Israelis cannot agree what kind of Israel they want. There is a conflict between the secular (who want a state of the Jews) and the religious (who want a Jewish state). There is also a conflict between the Settlers (who want to annex as much land as the world will let them) and the Leftists, who care about the human rights of Palestinians living in land currently controlled by Israel.
A consequence of the internal conflicts is that it is impossible for any Israeli leader to define, articulate and consistently pursue any coherent set of war goals. At least if he does not want to commit political suicide (Ariel Sharon at 1982, anyone?) or reap lots of poisonous criticism from people who don’t agree with his vision of Israel and the war goals to be pursued.