Once again we are engaged in chaotic times in the region with the recent escalation of violence in Gaza and Southern Israel. As we think of both the Israeli and Palestinian lives lost and those affected by the conflict, it’s important to keep in mind what will happen the day after the end of the Operation and our next steps to create a more positive future. Violence itself, justified or not, cannot bring stability or peace.
To imagine a peace process now for Israelis is a difficult idea under the bombardment of rockets. Many will argue that this isn’t the time or there is no partner, but the reality is that Israelis will need to make a choice after the ceasefire, between complacency in an increasingly dangerous status-quo or to take the opportunity to pursue peace and security for themselves.
As history has proven, terrorist organizations in Gaza will remain a threat even after precise and strong military campaigns. The only method to truly test Hamas’ legitimacy and power is to give a real chance for a permanent status agreement. Should a peace agreement be successfully completed with President Abbas in the West Bank, Hamas’ legitimacy would crumble.
Israel has hoped for years for a Palestinian leadership that would oppose terrorism, ensure security, concentrate on building future state institutions, and recognize the State of Israel in secure borders. President Abbas has been doing exactly that for a number of years. According to opinion polls conducted among Palestinians, most support an agreement on the basis of two-states and will legitimize it in a referendum or elections. If we don’t take advantage of the current partner we have today, we will likely miss this partner for years to come.
Others have wrongly understood that withdrawal from territories, such as Gaza, has only brought increased terror. On the contrary, leaving Gaza was a unilateral action, in spite of President’s Abbas’ warnings that such a move would strengthen Hamas and his plead to do it in the context of an agreement. Many forget that missiles were fired from the Gaza Strip when the IDF was present there, in addition to attacks against settlers who were once living in Gaza. In the West Bank, there is an authority focused on preventing violence and terrorism, which also works in successful cooperation with the Israeli security establishment. The Palestinian Authority has already demonstrated its ability to maintain security in recent years, despite warnings of increased terrorism that would result from Israel leaving cities such as Jenin and Nablus, and the removal of dozens of checkpoints. The security cooperation that exists will only be strengthened by an agreement. The security situation will be defined by the relations between the parties, and not how much land each controls.
Following the Arab uprising, we are only now getting a clearer picture on what the future Arab leadership will encompass. Egypt’s current role and messages during this recent escalation in Gaza has shown increased accountability to public opinion, which itself is very attentive to the Palestinian issue. Reaching an agreement with the Palestinians will only contribute to improving relations with the Arab world. The Arab League every year has reaffirmed their commitment to the Arab Peace Initiative from 2002, which Israel has yet to formally respond to.
Now more than ever, it is clear that the status-quo is not viable and that violence will only rise. The once perceived security calm is quickly eroding and the current moderate Palestinian leadership has an expiration date. Meanwhile, rockets continue to be fired and settlements continue to expand and reduce the window of opportunity for the two-state solution. The demographic threat is fast approaching and by 2015 there is expected to be equal numbers of Jews and Arab between the Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. Those who oppose the two-state solution – as detailed in the Geneva Initiative – have no real alternative solution.When elements in the region and the international community continue to abide by tired excuses for why not to reach an agreement, they are only ensuring continued instability. If no diplomatic action is taken, then it’s only a matter of time before the next round of violence.