My Friday started with our family’s shih tzu /cairn terrier/rabbit mix lick-assaulting my leg, feet, and hands, and ended with an email that added 15,000 miles to my Mileage Plus account….followed by another lick-assaulting.
Plus as an added bonus, a family verbal assaulting: You’re going to Israel? Who intentionally goes to a war? What can you possibly accomplish other than worry your friends and family?
In question order: yes, me and a lot.
With the return flight completed, I can now put everyone’s fears to rest. I survived the J Street emergency mission to Israel, at least a week’s worth of meetings, visits and missile alerts (for some of us) crammed into two very meaningful and impactful days.
The seminal message I took home from our trip was this: There is no military solution. The only way we will ever get to two states for two peoples is to view the cyclical violence as a problem that can only be solved politically.
When Hamas and its affiliates use their Gaza base to assault Israelis by lobbing missiles, digging tunnels, and intentionally attacking and terrorizing Israeli civilians, it only moves all Palestinians — even those in the West Bank — further away from a political solution. Israel has proven quite willing to manage the crisis for the last 47 years. Violence only creates more of a bunker mentality and less trust in even the moderate, Fatah-led West Bank leadership.
When Israel responds or initiates attacks against Hamas and its affiliates and, as a result, injures or kills thousands of Gazan civilians and displaces hundreds of thousands more, it only creates even more hatred against Israel. Injuries, deaths and displacements aren’t somehow any less real if they are the result of unintentional acts or unintended results. And to expect Gazans to blame Hamas for making them vulnerable to an Israeli attack is a logic-leap that few victims (of what is seen as an entirely voluntary act) would make.
What’s needed? We could start with people we met on our trip.
If we could only get people like the Bedouin mother of the two-month old baby struggling to recuperate in Beersheba’s Soroka Medical Center from a Hamas missile attack, the family members of an Israeli soldier struggling to overcome the grief of losing their 21 year-old son, while mourning with sympathetic visitors at their shiva, the 58 year-old Palestinian leader who focuses on bringing Jews and Arabs together in cooperation and understanding at the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa, and the 67-year old Gazan businessman, under constant bombardment and without water or power, but still managing to retain hope, together with a new breed of political leadership.
Leaders who don’t see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict almost solely in military terms. Leaders who don’t focus on only their own suffering, their own losses, their own rights… and the other side’s current and historical wrongs. Leaders who actually have a vision and long-term strategy. (Avigdor Lieberman, Naftali Bennett, Danny Danon, and anyone associated with Hamas and its affiliates are among those in power who need not apply.)
It isn’t critical to reaching a sustainable two-state agreement to establish which side’s tactics are most morally reprehensible. What is critical is to cross the psychological rubicon and accept that your vital interests can’t be fully met unless and until your enemy’s vital interests are also met.
That’s not to excuse the attacks on, or any of the deaths or injuries suffered by, innocent civilians. It is to suggest that we need fewer hammers seeing every problem as a nail.
I’ll get much more specific on people and strategies in an upcoming column.