We are currently facing critical and pivotal days for the Israeli society. The lives of all of us are at stake, particularly the lives of Israeli hostages and the thousands of soldiers on the frontlines.
23 Days since Hamas’ horrific terror attack, the Israeli society is still grieving. The brutal and inhumane assault by Hamas on Israeli civilians resulted in the killing of more than 1,400 babies, children, women, and men, and the kidnapping of now 239 people. It has put our entire society in agony and fear.
The topmost responsibility of the Israeli government right now must be to bring back the hostages. There is nothing more important than this.
This terror attack has led to a profound realization in Israel that Hamas, with its political and military wings, cannot be considered a legitimate entity and that the desire to eliminate Hamas’ military and political arms is widely considered justified and valid.
And yet, it’s widely acknowledged that wars and military operations are a continuation of politics by other means. That is they are tools for achieving political objectives. Hence, even a justified military objective of destroying Hamas military and political arms, responsible for the brutal terror attack, cannot succeed without a well-defined political strategy and clear diplomatic goals.
Considering for a moment, that these military objectives are plausible (and there’s a big question mark on that), how could we go to war, without knowing what the government of Israel’s vision is for the day after meeting these targets? Without a clear diplomatic strategy, the military will also struggle to eradicate Hamas and prevent its resurgence or the emergence of similar groups. Without a clear diplomatic strategy, the military could be destined for years of war and conflict within the Gaza Strip.
Moreover, an escalation of the current war by expanding, for example, the ground invasion of the Gaza Strip, would come at a high cost, both in terms of human lives (both Israeli and Palestinian), Israel’s economy, maintaining security in other regions, and Israel’s diplomatic relations. More crucially, an escalation carries a real danger to the lives of the hostages and risks the potential for a regional conflict, especially with the threat of a full-scale Hezbollah attack on the northern front.
Furthermore, in Gaza, the death toll is already reaching in the high thousands, with hundreds of thousands who fled their homes, and the entire population lacking basic humanitarian needs. Even in such hard times for the Israeli society, and even when the military objections to destroying Hamas’ military and political arms are justified, Israel must comply with its obligation to avoid harming innocent civilians. Human rights and international law are not mere recommendations to be applied in times of peace and prosperity but are critical to be maintained at harsh times like now. Any military operation must consider its limits and boundaries set by international humanitarian law.
Looking inward, the war with Hamas has also highlighted how Israel has neglected its priorities. It underscores the leadership vacuum, exposing the incapacity of the government to effectively manage the situation. Narrow political interests of government members raise question marks whether this government can confront such a situation when the government seems to fail in all its duties. Furthermore, the messianic zeal of dominant government members suggests that they have other, dangerous interests, in mind.
What’s more, since the outset of this war following Hamas’s cruel barbarities against Israelis, settlers have taken advantage of the reduced attention on the West Bank and the prevailing anti-Palestinian sentiments to intensify their violent campaign aimed at forcibly transferring Palestinian communities. Not only should these actions be condemned across the board, but they also put Israel at risk of opening a new front during this ongoing war.
Today, the tragic events of October 7th have made it clear to the entire Israeli public that the policies of Netanyahu and the right wing have led to a complete failure. Since 2009, following the collapse of peace talks initiated by Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu has pursued a perilous policy with the explicit goal of preventing a two-state solution and advancing the expansion of settlements and outposts in the West Bank. To this end, Netanyahu and his governments have bolstered, funded, and tacitly supported the Hamas terror organization, while simultaneously undermining the Palestinian Authority. Remarkably, the Palestinian Authority, despite its shortcomings, cooperates and assists Israel in preventing terrorism in the West Bank. This cooperation continues even during these turbulent times and is confirmed by past agreements with Israel.
Hence, Israel must change course and establish explicit diplomatic objectives that ensure a substantial shift in Israel’s relations with the Palestinians. The sole political aim under consideration is a two-state solution achieved through negotiations with pragmatic representatives of the Palestinian people.
Recognizing that both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, living here have the right to security and self-determination, thus requires setting the goal of a two-state solution, without further settlement expansion in the West Bank and absorbing outposts that take Palestinian land and drain our military, which can ensure real security. We must establish this as our goal and vision and create opportunities and pathways to achieve it.
We are not naive. We know that a peace agreement or reconciliation is many years far and away.
Much has been said about comparing the 1973 Yom Kippur War with the current situation. The flawed intelligence and government approach, military unpreparedness, and a surprise attack on Israel also then. We should also recall that before the 1973 Yom Kippur War there was an opportunity for peace with Egypt before the war, but the leadership wasn’t ready to consider it. It took a war with many casualties, followed by another four years, until a peace agreement was reached with our formidable enemy. Unfortunately, Israeli governments have often missed opportunities for peace with the Palestinians and instead chose to empower Hamas at the expense of a Palestinian state.
It may be hard to envision a peace agreement with the Palestinians today. And indeed, the peace agreements with Egypt and Jordan did not yield warm people-to-people relations. Yet, they provided us with much-needed security and stability. This terrible disaster should prompt us to channel our forces and energies to such a pathway.
In these times, we need a clear political vision leading to a two-state solution that will ensure long-term security for the State of Israel and for Palestinians.
Israel is our homeland. We will not accept any terror attack on us. And as our fellow friends and comrades are in the battlefield, as our families and children are under missiles from Lebanon and Gaza, and as civilians in Gaza are living under daily military attacks, we do not forget the importance of a political vision.
Peace – Now.