After six days of intensive air raids by the Israeli Air Force on Gaza, in an effort to stop the missile attacks against Israel from terrorist groups in Gaza, more and more voices are being raised in Israel to accept a cease-fire and enter into negotiations to end the violence. As of this writing, it seems that a cease-fire can be reached very soon.
In a letter signed by leading cultural personalities in Israel – including Amos Oz, Yehoshua Sobol, and 88 others – they called for a cease-fire and dialogue with Hamas. While dialogue with Hamas is rejected by the Israeli and American governments, more and more people are realizing that we have been negotiating with Hamas for years, ever since the abduction of Gilad Shalit. Indeed indirect talks led to his release from captivity last year. And we are actually talking to Hamas again, to end this round, albeit through intermediaries.
In addition, Amnon Mitzna – who was the Chairman of the Labor Party in Israel for several years, and the mayor of Haifa, and a career officer in the Israel Defense Forces – has called vociferously on the radio for the end of the offensive, arguing that we have done enough and a ground offensive will only hurt us now. He also said that he has shared his thoughts with Defense Minister Ehud Barak (but it was not clear if Mr. Barak was paying him any attention).
Furthermore, Rabbi Michael Melchior – a former member of Knesset with Meimad/Labor and a minister in the past governments of Israel – wrote an important posting today on his Facebook page, in which he said that he feels full solidarity with the IDF operations in the south, especially when trying to do so while minimizing harm to innocent civilians. However, he added:
I have been walking around lately with an inner feeling that is deep and painful that despite the fact that what we are doing is justified, it is not a real long-term strategy and has no chance to solve the problem of the residents of the south and of the State of Israel. Perhaps even the contrary is true. It gives a sense of ‘doing something’ which leads to momentary satisfaction, but actually it only deepens the problem and eliminates the possibility of a real solution for the complicated and complex situation we are facing.
If our assumption is that there is ‘no alternative,’ we are taking the curse of Esau that the world will live by the sword, but then we must also know and accept that we will never have any real hope for a different future. I believe there is another way… So I believe that what we need to do now is achieve a hudna (truce in Arabic) with Hamas for several years and in that time to enter into accelerated negotiations for a comprehensive and just peace based on two states for two peoples with the Palestinian leadership team.
I voted for Melchior in the last elections, as did most people in my family, and I would probably vote for him again, if he was running and had a reasonable chance to get elected.
I too, like Rabbi Melchior, was incapable of writing anything for the last six days but today I can say that as the war in the south of Israel and in Gaza rages, I am anxiously hoping that a ceasefire will be announced today or tomorrow, before more lives are lost on both sides and even more physical and psychological trauma sets in, causing further damage to both the Palestinian and the Israeli peoples. The sooner the violence stops the better. We need to return to dialogue and negotiation rather than use war as a form of conflict resolution.
I believe that the use of force cannot resolve our conflict. Negotiations for peace are the only way to bring about sustainable security for all peoples in the region.
In the meantime, those of us who are engaged in peace education will continue our peace-building work on the ground in Israel, bringing Jews, Christians and Muslims together in ongoing dialogue and educational programs. In the end, peace will certainly ensure us more security than ongoing war and recurring violence.