Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

Defeating Hamas, Staying President and Leading the World

Hamas can be defeated militarily. Israel’s war effort has set the goal to dismantle Hamas’ ability to continue to govern Gaza and to threaten Israel. Israel has the military might to destroy Hamas’ infrastructure, capture their stockpile of weapons and rockets, destroy their ability to manufacture more weapons, and to eliminate the network of command centers and tunnels beneath the Gaza Strip. We are witnessing every day the ability of Israel’s bombs to flatten into rubble entire neighborhoods of Gaza. Israel is determined to kill the political and military leaders of Hamas and permanently break their chain of command. I cannot see a scenario where at the end of this war, Hamas continues to be able to rule Gaza and to threaten Israel. But Israel’s powerful army cannot destroy the idea of Hamas and its ideology. An entirely different toolbox is needed to confront the idea and the ideology of Hamas.

Ideas and ideologies are defeated by providing better ideas and ideologies. The victory for Israel in this war is not solely the dismantlement of Hamas’ ability to rule Gaza and threaten Israel, it must also be the return of the hostages and a political victory. If Israel reoccupies Gaza and remains there for an extended period of time, victory will quickly turn into insurgency. When Israel entered south Lebanon in 1982 the Shiite villagers first threw candy and rice at the victorious Israeli soldiers and not long after that were placing road side bombs to kill them. That must be the lesson learned regarding a reoccupation of Gaza. The most important condition for achieving defeat of Hamas must be the transformation of Gaza into a place of hope by providing a genuine reason for Palestinians to have a better future. Specifically, Palestinians must be able to understand that they can live for Palestine and they do not have to die for Palestine.

While Hamas will definitely lose this war that they launched against Israel, they have defeated Netanyahu’s 14-year strategy of removing the Palestinian issue from the Israeli and global agenda. Suddenly after years of being considered non-viable, the two-states solution is back on the agenda. Even Israelis and Palestinians who before October 7 were “one-staters” are suddenly talking about the two-states solution. It is the materialization of the two-states agenda into reality that is precisely the idea and ideology that can replace Hamas’ ideology of sanctifying death and the destruction of Israel.

No Palestinian in the world has the patience and the willingness to hear more empty words about the two-states solution. The open-ended Oslo peace process with no definitive end-game is dead and has been for years. There is no room anymore (not that there ever was) for Kissingerian “constructive ambiguity”. Now is the time for decisiveness and determination. Any renewed peace process must begin from the end-game: two states for two people. The foundation stone must be engraved with the words “every person living between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea must enjoy the same right to the same rights”. Israelis and Palestinians alike must recognize that the 7 million Israeli Jews and the 7 million Palestinian Arabs living on this common homeland will all remain here and all have the right to be here. To make this real, President Biden must pave a new path for the United States and all OECD nations to declare that when the war is over, they will immediately recognize the State of Palestine and that the State of Palestine will be welcomed as a full member state of the United Nations. That is not only the first concrete step towards replacing the idea of Hamas with an idea of hope for a better future for the people of Palestine, it is also the way for President Biden to regain the support of the young generation and progressives in the Democratic Party that he has lost because of his absolute support for Israel even while thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are being killed.

The international community which must recognize the State of Palestine to make the two-states solution real again, must also insist that the Palestinian Authority, or the Government of Palestine, engage in very deep reforms and to conduct elections that would create a Palestinian government that has legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinian people. The right to participate in elections can be guarded by the Palestinians in their own election law eliminating those parties that support an armed struggle. The newly elected Government of the State of Palestine would govern over the West Bank and Gaza and eventually East Jerusalem as well. The international community, led by President Biden must make it one hundred percent clear to Israel that the occupation must come to an end and that a Palestinian state will be established on the basis of the June 4, 1967 borders with agreed on territorial swaps of 4-5% of the West Bank allowing about 75-80% of the settlers to remain where they are. Negotiations between the State of Israel and the State of Palestine will take place on the basis of state-to-state negotiations supported by regional agreements with Egypt, Jordan, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Morocco and others. We need to see a new regional architecture of security, stability, economic development, energy, water and more to which Israel and Palestine are central partners. The bi-lateral negotiation format of Oslo is not good enough anymore to ensure success in making the two-states solution real.

Furthermore, there must be an immediate international response and commitment for the reconstruction of Gaza and the boosting of the economy of Palestine. The best way to do this would be with a two-headed joint administration of the international effort led by the United States and China together. No country knows how to build infrastructure faster, more efficiently and more affordably than China and US-Chinese cooperation on this would be good for the entire global economy.

Is all of this the narrative of a dreamer? Perhaps – but it is much more than that. This is a realistic approach that can help to defeat Hamas as an idea. There will be a need for robust security mechanisms because the enemies of possible peace are all too many. There will need to be international monitors and verifiers of obligations undertaken in agreements because of the complete lack of trust between the parties and because of their failure in implementing every agreement they ever signed. Agreements need to be based on the complete absence of trust in order to construct agreements with much better chances of being implemented. Trust must be earned by implementing commitments within agreements, which are benchmarked and measured and then authorized by the third party (probably US-led) monitors and verifiers. We have no room for naïve and hopeful agreements. We have all paid too heavy a price for the failed peace process.

Lastly, for all of this to happen, the leaders of today and yesterday in Israel and Palestine have to pay the price for their failures. We, the people in Israel and Palestine need to make sure that the leaders we have today are not the leaders of tomorrow. It is time for a new generation of people in Israel and Palestine to stand up and present their vision, hopes, dreams and plans to create the future where we will stop killing each other over this land and instead help us all to learn to live together in peace in this land. There is no peace now. This will take many years. We will never forget what the other side did to us nor should we forget it. But we all must move on from the victimization mentality and the competition of suffering that we do too often so that we can begin to look forward and not only backwards. History and historic collective memory are important, but the future which we must create together is much more important.

About the Author
The writer is the Middle East Director of ICO - International Communities Organization - a UK based NGO working in Conflict zones with failed peace processes. Baskin is a political and social entrepreneur who has dedicated his life to peace between Israel and her neighbors. He is also a founding member of “Kol Ezraheiha - Kol Muwanteneiha” (All of the Citizens) political party in Israel.