For over six decades the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has intensified despite massive Israeli military victories and catastrophic Palestinian and Arab defeats. It appears that no victory however sweeping or any defeat however drastic can resolve the bring a solution. Eric Lee is too quick to use national essentialism to attack Freedland. All Freedland is doing is pointing out the reality: Israelis and Palestinians have to live with each other.
The politics of both societies, Hamas and the Israeli National bloc, cannot be crushed or wished away. They are factors that have to be dealt with. We will have to engage with each however distasteful this might be.
The issue in Gaza is not whether Israel has a “right” to defend itself. We should not be diverted by the anti-Semitic imagery about Israel that the Gaza war has generated. I agree it needs to be opposed but that does not mean supporting Israel’s war. The issue is whether this action is wise. I question its wisdom. I do not see how bringing trauma to the children of Gaza can aid Israel’s future security. Nor do I see that the strategic objective of removing Hamas is achievable. It has a military wing, it does carry out terrorist attacks on civilians, its does have an anti-Semitic charter, but it is not reducible only to those features. It is also a mass nationalist political movement, a self-help group and an organization that has subscribed to democratic norms. It is that more complex reality which has to be addressed.
You can kill its militants but you cannot kill its ideas. It is also important to understand that Hamas was not always committed to violence. When it was founded in the 1980’s it opposed the PLO for using provocative violence. That historical fact can be a useful resource. The PLO had many similar political positions to Hamas when Israel opened informal and then formal negotiations. The Oslo negations took place in 1992 and 1993 despite the PLO’s Covenant calling fo the destruction of Israel. The Covenant of the PLO and the political discourse of much of the official literature of the PLO is in fact indistinguishable from today’s Hamas. But Israel wisely found the way of negotiating. Israel does need to find a way of talking to Hamas – and I am well aware that it has very good contacts already.
Pressing the peace agenda is all the more important in this war. We must fight for a political agenda. The Arab Peace Initiative must be at its center. It does not call for the Palestinian’s right to return to Israel but for “a just solution to the Palestinian Refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with UN General Assembly resolution 194.” Note the phrasing – to be agreed upon – and the reference is to a resolution which does not contain an unconditional right to return.
All friends of Palestine and Israel should support all proposals for an immediate ceasefire based on the two principles suggested by the International Crisis Group:
1. Hamas would halt all rocket launches, keep militants at 500 meters from Israel’s borders and make other armed organizations comply.
2. Israel would halt all military attacks on, and withdraw all troops from Gaza.
In my view to make such a ceasefire hold international forces will have to be deployed. Under such a force new conditions could be created in Gaza and West Bank for new elections and step towards to the creating a Palestinian state.
We cannot afford more sweeping victories or more crushing defeats.
Reader in Law