In the summer of 2014, during the Tzuk Eitan war in Gaza I was one of the founders of the Women Wage Peace movement. As a new generation of young soldiers were sent by the Israeli government to fight their first war, we decided to make every possible effort to prevent the next war. Our movement was formed to promote the message that the security of the State of Israel and the future of our children depend on the political resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Almost a decade later it’s clear that we have failed to accomplish this goal. Yet the new war that Israel has been dragged into in Gaza reaffirms what should have been obvious to the country’s longest serving prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu: without a political horizon for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, military operations in Gaza, or in the West Bank are pointless.
Therefore, the time has arrived for all citizens of Israel to say, “no more” and to demand a renewal of the contract with their government based on four preliminary terms.
First, the Israeli government that failed to protect its citizens from brutal acts of terror must understand that it does not have the public trust and support that are required for the long war ahead of us, unless it does everything in its power for the immediate release of all the hostages that have been abducted to Gaza and primarily children, women, and the elderly. Israelis must demand from their leaders some humility in terms of war talks and an official willingness to release Palestinian prisoners and temporarily suspend the ground operation in Gaza and airstrikes to allow international forces to meet the hostages and provide vital medical care to those in need.
Second, a clear outline of a political plan for the day after is required now. It’s about time to acknowledge that the use of military force will not be sufficient to guarantee Israel’s future. In sketching a political horizon for Israel its government should focus on strengthening the Palestinian Authority that represents the secular and more pragmatic faction within the Palestinian movement. The PA is the only body with which the State of Israel can reach a sustainable political agreement to promote the two-state solution. Netanyahu knows this basic truth too well and this is why he did everything in his power in the past 15 years to undermine the Palestinian Authority’s ability to govern in the West Bank and Gaza. Instead of building bridges for reconciliation he nurtured the religious fundamentalists of Hamas and humiliated Abu Mazen.
The third condition for a new contract between Israelis and their leaders concerns the removal of the religious fanatics from the emergency government. The former army generals Gantz and Eizenkot who joined Netanyahu’s right-wing government when the Gaza war started did not insist on the exclusion of the representatives of the extremist settlers from the circle of decision-making. This is a serious mistake that must be corrected. The agenda of Jewish fanatics such as Smotrich or Ben Gvir centered on promoting the biblical vision of greater Israel and sabotaging all efforts for compromise and reconciliation with the Palestinians, facilitated the empowerment of religious fanatics on the other side, who prove once again in their horrific way that they too will never agree to any compromise.
Finally, it’s time to call for the immediate resignation of Benjamin Netanyahu and to promote a dramatic change in Israel’s political culture. Bibi must go. His desperate grip on the prime minister’s throne is hurting the fighting spirit of too many Israelis, thereby further endangering Israel. Our task right now is to shoot and protest. There is no other way. In the longer term we must redefine the role of elected officials. What was once a position centered on the concept of public servants, has become a comfortable job arrangement for people whose main qualification is the ability to express unreserved loyalty to the ruling party leader.
The spirit of civil volunteerism, heroism and sacrifice among Israeli civilians Jews and Arabs since the war broke out are a significant bright spot against the backdrop of a failing government. This is why a new contract between the people and their leaders is essential. Without such a contract there will not be enough dedicated men and women to carry on the struggle to secure Israel’s future.