Ron Kronish

It is time for this war to end and for the hostages to come home

Despite the mortar attack on Israeli soldiers yesterday on the border with the Gaza Strip, the continuation of this war in Gaza is a mistake. Israel needs to avoid falling into the trap set by Hamas by yesterday’s incident.

In recent days, there have been more and more voices in Israel calling for this war to end, so that the hostages can come home and so that stability can be restored. In this blog post, I wish to add my voice to those calling for the end to the war.

A few days ago, Shimon Schiffer, the veteran diplomatic correspondent for Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s most widely read daily newspaper, wrote:

The war in Gaza has reached its point of conclusion. There is no logical reason that justifies the dark clouds over our heads which have led us to becoming like lepers in the eyes of the international community. After more than 200 days of fighting, Netanyahu and Gantz are still trying to convince us that a military operation in Rafah will finish off Hamas. There is no chance of this. At this time, it is incumbent upon us to pay the price that is demanded of us in order to get back our beloved hostages. At any price. And thus, this war should be ended, a war unlike any we have seen in Israel since the establishment of the state. I find it difficult to say all the right words, so I will just say: Enough! (Yediot Aharonot, April 28, 2024, my translation.)

In the same newspaper, on the same day, the experienced correspondent Ronen Bergman, who also writes for the New York Times, wrote:

After the serial stubbornness which did not allow flexibility in the negotiations [for the return of the hostages held by Hamas in Gaza], davka now, when Israel could agree to a compromise for a deal, it is clear that it was possible to have reached an agreement to return the hostages earlier. Moreover, it has been proven over and over again that the continuation of the war only leads to the deaths of more hostages; nevertheless, the government is still trying to fool the Israel public by saying that only an operation in Rafah will create the conditions for the return of the hostages and only this will finish off Hamas. In reality, a military operation in Rafah would be spread over many months and it is not at all clear that its usefulness will be worth the prices. (Yediot Aharonot, April 28, 2024, my translation).

In addition, Dafna Liel, who is a leading political correspondent for Channel 12 in Israel, Israel’s most-watched TV channel for news, wrote last week:

Israel has already agreed to the end of the war in Gaza, but received nothing in return. The only existing deal is to officially end the war in exchange for the return of the hostages. If we don’t want the fighting to stop soon under international pressure for nothing, we should draw the conclusions as soon as possible. (N12, April 18, 2024)

Also, after supporting the war since its inception, former Prime Minister and current opposition leader of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset, Yair Lapid recently wrote:

It’s a difficult decision, but the time has come to make it. The government must take the decision to bring the hostages home, even if it means the end of the war in Gaza. Israel isn’t conducting a war there right now anyway, and the current state of treading water doesn’t work in our favor. We can return to Rafah at a later date. Now we must do everything we can to bring the hostages back home. (Haaretz, April 28, 2024)

In addition, results of a poll commissioned by Kan News, Israel’s public broadcasting station, a few days ago, revealed that a plurality of Israelis (47%), support a deal with Hamas releasing all hostages in return for a complete end of the war and the release of thousands of Palestinian terrorists from Israeli prisons. (32% of Israelis oppose a ceasefire and seek to continue the war by sending the IDF into Rafah.) Furthermore, almost 65% don’t believe Netanyahu when he says Israel is just a step away from victory and 53% say he isn’t doing everything to reach a hostage release deal.

From all of these statements, you might reach the conclusion that the war might actually come to an end soon since it is the logical thing to happen.

But others in Israel have contradictory ideas, particularly ministers in the government from the far-right political parties, especially Itamar Ben Gvir (Jewish Power) and Betzalel Smotrich (“Religious Zionism”). They have announced publicly that they will NOT support a deal to save the hostages. On the contrary, they are all in favor of continuing the war in Gaza until “total victory” and by extension, sacrificing the hostages. In fact, they are the ones preventing Prime Minister Netanyahu from making the deal, since they have threatened to leave the government if he does so. It appears that he is genuinely afraid of them, since without them, he would have to face elections, which he would probably lose, and then he would actually have to deal with his trial on major counts of corruption.

Will Bibi and his buddies actually push on to the battle of Rafah, against the wishes of a plurality of the citizens of Israel, and against the position of the United States and most of the Western world? And against the advice of some prominent former generals in Israel, who have been saying lately that it would be a very costly battle, and it is not clear that Israel is willing to lose so many soldiers for this, since it would most likely not be the end of the war. In fact, there is no end to the war in sight if there is no plan for “the day after”, unless you view ongoing military occupation of Gaza as a plan.

By the way, I should add that an end to the war in Gaza is also an end to the war with Hezbollah in the north, which is very important to the 100,000 Israeli citizens who are refugees in their own country. And then, with proper defenses in place all of Israel’s internal evacuees could finally return to their homes in the north and south.

Moreover, continuing the war would be very disastrous to Israel’s international standing, which is already very low, due to the humanitarian disaster that has been created there for more than 2 million Palestinians living in the densely populated Gaza Strip. An end to the war will allow the citizens of Gaza to return to their homes too, rather than to face starvation, death and disease, which will be the results of this ongoing war.

An end to the war is also essential for Israel’s economy. We are a small country, not geared to fight a forever war.

An end to the war will also involve the re-starting of a peace process, with which the Biden administration, and other countries, including Saudi Arabia, are intensely involved at the moment. To ignore this—and to dismiss all the good ideas which the American government is working on for our security and sustainability in the region—would be complete folly. On the contrary, Israel would be wise to work with the American government now to secure a better future for its citizens and for all people in the region.

For all these reasons, and many more, I hereby raise my voice to say clearly: It is time for this war to stop! It is time for a deal for the return of the hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners to happen now, not when it is too late. It is time to restore sanity and morality to Israel, to cease from pursuing this forever war, and to return to a peace process that will be beneficial to Israelis and Palestinians alike.

As we approach Israel Independence Day, let us be mindful of the approach to peace which our founders proclaimed:

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East. (from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, May 14, 1948)

About the Author
Rabbi Dr Ron Kronish is the Founding Director the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel (ICCI), which he directed for 25 years. Now retired, he is an independent educator, author, lecturer, writer, speaker, blogger and consultant. He is the editor of 5 books, including Coexistence and Reconciliation in Israel--Voices for Interreligious Dialogue (Paulist Press, 2015). His new book, The Other Peace Process: Interreligious Dialogue, a View from Jerusalem, was published by Hamilton Books, an imprint of Rowman and LIttelfield, in September 2017. He recently (September 2022) published a new book about peacebuilders in Israel and Palestine entitled Profiles in Peace: Voices of Peacebuilders in the midst of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, which is available on Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble and the Book Depository websites,