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An alternate diplomatic statement from Israel

I wasn’t the only person suggesting that Israel could have responded to UNSC 2728 a bit differently when I wrote my blog post last week.

Without in any way detracting from the necessity to destroy Hamas, or the responsibility of Hamas for starting this conflict and contravening all norms of human behavior, a bit more imagination, the capacity to conceptualize a different approach, working towards the same ends in a different way, would give Israel more options, more legitimacy, and therefore arguably more time, to achieve its objectives in Gaza, and potentially at a lower cost in terms of human lives and human suffering among both Israelis and Palestinians, in terms of its own global standing, and in terms of its readiness for the wider war against Iran and its proxies around the region.

In light of Monday’s terrible tragedy, and the reaction to it, here is an updated version of the alternate diplomatic statement that Israel could have issued, and could still issue, if it wishes to think and act differently, revitalize its alliances and partnerships, and in particular, pre-empt the hardening of the diplomatic position that seems to be underway:

“The State of Israel mourns the death of the seven heroic aid workers accidentally killed in Gaza this week. We unreservedly apologize for this devastating tragedy, and for the failures and misunderstandings that led to it, to the loved ones of those killed, to World Central Kitchen, and to all other organizations whose confidence has been shaken.

We state clearly, it is in our interests to support and protect the delivery of aid to the Palestinian civilian population. This tragedy is a setback for ourselves as well as all our partners working towards alleviating the hunger and suffering in Gaza.

The State of Israel has already pledged to commission an independent investigation into this tragedy and to take on board the recommendations on how to avoid such tragedies in the future. We are not waiting. We are already reflecting on what went wrong and taking corrective measures, pending the outcome of the investigation.

We know no words or actions can bring back seven cherished lives. But we do wish to confer posthumous awards to these servants of humanity, based on a new ‘order of merit’ in their names for humanitarian contributions in this region, which Israel will endow and award on an annual basis.

While we do not wish to deflect blame for our operational failure in this instance, we implore the international community, and in particular the international organizations present in Gaza, to call out Hamas by name for the way in which it steals aid flows directed to Gaza’s civilian population, uses aid and the aid infrastructure as an instrument of its power, locates its military infrastructure in and around aid storage and distribution points, and has subverted all attempts to establish secure delivery channels for aid in the conflict zone.

We know it and they know it, but calling it out is not easy and it takes courage. We saw what happened to UN workers, Sarah Muscroft and Matthias Schmale when they had the courage to say what they saw, even in what to many appeared a balanced way. We know that international organization staff feel loyalty and a deep duty of care towards those in Gaza that depend on them, and a deep sympathy for the predicament of Gaza and Palestinian civilians overall.

But calling out Hamas is necessary. The underlying cause of tragedies like that on Monday, and in fact the ongoing tragedy of long-running conflict in Gaza, starts and stops with how Hamas behaves.

In 2005, Israel withdrew fully from the Gaza Strip, a decision which was taken with great difficulty amid huge opposition within Israel. We withdrew thousands of people from their homes and ended the Jewish presence in Gaza after thousands of years’ history. It was a painful step. However, our leaders at the time agreed with the United States and our other allies, Gaza would be the testing lab for the Palestinian leadership to learn lessons and build capacity. Sadly it has not worked out that way. A new start is again required.

In this respect, the UNSC Resolution 2728 offers a pathway Israel is ready to explore to reach an outcome to this conflict that returns the hostages, satisfies our legitimate security needs in the aftermath of October 7th, and protects Palestinian civilians who are not our enemy, but – like us – victims of Hamas, and their cowardly and cynical use of human shields from the civilian population and the aid industry.

Israel laments that the UNSC members could not bring themselves to condemn the perpetrator of the disgusting terrorist act that was carried out on October 7th, but we like everyone are looking to the future, G-d willing a better future.

For Israel’s part, we welcome UNSC 2728 and will – bravely and courageously, with huge levels of self-restraint – unilaterally accept upon ourselves a ceasefire to the end of Ramadan. We trust, indeed, we demand this will be extended to give Israelis some peace and time for healing during the holy period of Passover.

We demand, but do not honestly expect, that the ceasefire will be respected by Hamas. We note that every past ceasefire has been broken by Hamas. We note their cynical efforts to manufacture continued conflict that pins the blame on Israel. We call on the international community, the international organizations and the world’s media to call out Hamas for their manipulations.

Even more so in light of Monday’s tragedy, Israel will now focus the efforts of the IDF on securing the much-needed increases in the flow of aid to the Palestinian civilian population. To this end, we announce an emergency conference of humanitarian agencies and donors in Jerusalem to jointly strategize on how to quickly achieve the increases that are needed while protecting aid from theft by Hamas, preventing the smuggling of weaponry or dual-use technologies that will only prolong this conflict, and of course, working on improved mechanisms for coordination and the safety of humanitarian workers.

Israel will offer the necessary facilities in Jerusalem to all donors and humanitarian agencies, adjacent to a joint operations room that will allow for real-time monitoring of aid flows into Gaza for all parties in the interests of achieving success, creating transparency and enabling smooth coordination.

Israel reserves the right to defend our troops and to protect the aid flows going into Gaza and the orderly distribution of that aid to Palestinian civilians. We also reserve the right to detain all non-authorized persons in Gaza bearing arms or preparing to use arms, to forcibly disarm such persons if they do not comply with instructions, and to disable terror tunnels and other attack infrastructure as necessary preemptive measures.

Israel is therefore doing its part to ameliorate conditions amid this terrible tragedy, but we must truthfully declare: our hearts cannot be stilled and our voices cannot be silenced without the return of our hostages, many of them innocent women, children and the elderly that the enemy took from their homes amid a self-glorified, self-publicized orgy of torture, rape, murder, desecration of the dead, and humiliation of the living.

Israel therefore expects that within days of the unilateral ceasefire coming into force, the release of the hostages will take place, as per UNSC Resolution 2728 and the recent International Court of Justice ruling. If such release is not forthcoming, Israel will reserve the right to resume intensive search and rescue activities, recognizing that no government would leave behind its captive citizens in similar conditions.

Should Hamas abide by its requirements, Israel shall coordinate with the UNSC through its allies the steps towards a permanent ceasefire, contingent on the surrender and exile of the Hamas leadership, the dismantlement of the remaining tunnels and munitions in Gaza, the reform of Gazan institutions, and the establishment of a civilian Palestinian leadership, not previously implicated in terror activities, demonstrably committed to peaceful co-existence, as is our aspiration as the Israeli leadership.

We dream again, as we did in 2005, for a future in which a free, open and prosperous Gaza is an integral part of a free, open and prosperous Middle East.”

About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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