After last week’s violence, lots of people are asking: What can be done to prevent more violence between Israel and Gaza? Is there any way to end the cycle of violence?
Here are some possible responses:
What can the Hamas leadership do?
- They can decide to stop wasting lots of money on arms and tunnels, and invest it instead in infrastructure for their people. There is absolutely no point in their investment in military hardware since they know full well that not only can they not defeat Israel militarily, but that any violence against Israel is counter-productive to the welfare of their citizens. They would be better off investing their money in housing, food and medical supplies.
- They can organize real non-violent demonstrations, far from the fence. This would capture the attention of the world. Without attempts to storm the fence.
- Last week, there were some reports in the press about a possible truce with Israel for 10 years – what they call in Arabic a “hudna”. If they are serious about this, then they should invest all their energies—with the help of their friends around the world, especially in European capitals and in countries like Turkey, Egypt and Qatar, —to make this happen. This could provide the necessary long-term calm to rebuild Gaza and make it a human place to live.
- They must stop preaching about “the right of return” and a “march of return” since it creates false hopes for their people, and they know this very well. They know that Palestinians will not be returning to live in the state of Israel. They are well aware that this is a non-starter and has zero chance of happening. If and when there is a peace agreement, then Palestinians who were refugees will return to the state of Palestine.
- Last, their religious leaders must stop preaching about the so-called religious duty of “martyrdom.” This drives young people to do totally suicidal deeds, like charging the fence, and it creates an atmosphere that is completely counter to any normal life among the people of Gaza. Rather than martyrdom, they should give sermons about hope and courage to find a better path to a healthier way of life for all of their people.
What could the Israeli leadership do?
- They must work with serious international players to end the siege of Gaza so as to end the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Some of Israel’s military leaders have been recommending this for a long time already, but they have apparently been ignored by right-wing political leaders, especially Mr. Lieberman, Israel’s current minister for Defense. . This is so obvious that one wonders why the Israeli and international leadership don’t get it. The top priority is to help to end this humanitarian disaster since everyone knows that as long as it goes on Gaza will remain a breeding ground for extremists and rejectionists.
- Negotiate with the Hamas leadership—even through back channel talks with international intermediaries—for an effective and life-affirming long-term truce (hudna). Take this offer seriously. Get our friends the Egyptians (and others)—who helped to end this latest round of hostilities—to work on this with us quietly but for real.
- Stop inciting the Israeli public against Palestinians at every possible opportunity. Palestinians are human beings. They are not just “terrorists” or “Hamas operatives” or objects to be shot at. Rather than continuing to incite Israelis against Palestinians, try to promote cooperation and trust wherever possible, especially in areas like health care and nutrition which are so vital.
- Stop the “shoot to kill” policy. This is not only immoral but it creates more “terrorists” every day. If Israeli soldiers are so well trained and talented, they do not need to kill Palestinians, both in Gaza and in the West Bank, on a regular basis. But this is not the soldiers’ fault. It is the fault of the political leaders who are pushing for this aggressive policy. This must stop.
- Lastly, stop casting all the blame for the mess that we are in on the other side. Accept some responsibility for our mistakes and correct them. Most of all, get back to the negotiating table, and be ready to make some painful compromises for peace. This will give both sides of the conflict some hope for the future, rather than the current situation of only “living by the sword” which our Prime Minister has offered as his policy.
For those who have been asking “what can be done?” I have presented above a short list. Many more things can be done. This is just a beginning. I believe that these steps could go a long way to change the dynamic in our region from one of continued violence to the possibility of peaceful coexistence.