Regardless of whether it is practical, wise, or foolhardy at this moment in time, offering suggestions for peace between Israel and the Palestinians must be done.
We should each day audibly reiterate the hope and prosperity that could occur if the Palestinians opt for peace. One might argue that the prosperity that would come with peace is self-evident, but a people who live in despair and poverty and feel their plight is not only the result of Israel’s policies but actually the desire of Israel need to be reminded and reassured that peace would bring prosperity.
Opting for peace would necessarily mean that Hamas surrenders and is replaced by a Palestinian government that agrees to coexist with Israel.
Of course, such a breakthrough is easier to conceive of than to implement. But such a dream needs elucidation and repetition if Palestinians are to reject Hamas and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not an entity, which can be militarily countered but never really eliminated. It is understandable that any country must and will defend itself against the terrorists’ senseless violence.
But ultimately, the defeat of terrorism requires the aggrieved party to voluntarily lay down its weapons and choose another way. The terrorists themselves are beyond reason and redemption, but the mass of the Palestinian population not yet radicalized might be reached.
When I visited Israel in 2013, I suggested to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that incremental improvements in the lives of Palestinians might lessen their rage and propensity to commit violence. In principle, he didn’t disagree, but in practice, he was not very open to concrete proposals.
When I suggested that Israel allow a modern port to be constructed in Gaza under the joint security of Israel and the Palestinians, Netanyahu responded that Palestinians already had a port — in Israel. Not exactly a recipe for significantly lowering tensions.
When I suggested that the West Bank and Gaza gradually be allowed to assume control of the economic duties paid by commerce crossing their borders, Netanyahu was similarly not eager for change in either the West Bank or Gaza. In Gaza, he saw no opening for negotiations with Hamas. Of course, he is correct that a Palestinian port could only happen when Hamas is gone, but the Palestinians need to hear that a port and prosperity would be the result of them rejecting Hamas.
Even before Hamas took over, construction of a port in Gaza never really was allowed to proceed. Albeit Israel’s opposition did come in response to the Second Intifada and missile attacks from Gaza.
Constant attacks over decades have left many Israeli leaders beleaguered and open only to retrenchment, reprisal, and defense and unable to understand the need to discover and persuade reasonable voices in Gaza. Selling peace and selling Israel as a neighboring country that desires prosperity for Gaza is no easy sale. Hence, the need for continuous voices touting the prosperity that could come with the rejection of Hamas and violence.
The Abraham Accords seem to be an example of some of Israel’s neighbors finally grasping that normalizing peaceful relations with Israel can be a win-win situation.
No one can blame the Israelis for considering Hamas to be incapable of good-faith negotiation. Yet while it is true that Hamas cannot be negotiated with, the non-Hamas Palestinians must hear a message of hope of what could come if they renounce violence.
For a long-term peace to occur, Palestinians must believe they will materially benefit by rejecting Hamas. Palestinians need to hear that rejecting violence and recognizing Israel would make possible the building of a modern port in Gaza, that the blockade will end, that the gulf sheikdoms would be allowed to facilitate regional and international trade, that travel into Israel from Gaza for work would be allowed, that desalinization technology would be shared, and that the benefits of free trade will allow Gaza to finally prosper — but only if and when Palestinians completely reject the violence.
Some will say, “Oh, the Palestinians already know this, and they choose Hamas and violence.” I would argue that the Palestinians need to be told and retold of the benefits of rejecting violence. Sure, the Palestinians are seeing the stick that comes as a result of terrorism, but the tribal world we live in is so polarized and jaded that it’s likely many Palestinians don’t even believe that Hamas has committed the atrocities against civilians including women and children. So, instead of dropping leaflets to a million Palestinians to flee or be bombed, perhaps we might consider leaflets announcing the prosperity and benefits if they choose a government that recognizes Israel and renounces violence.
Perhaps it is naïve to believe that enough Palestinians might choose peace, but the cycle of terrorism, followed by military reprisals, followed by more terrorism is not the answer.
You can read the Op-Ed HERE.