Ron Kronish

Not by might and not by power: Is there another way?

Photo of olive branch for cover of Profiles in Peace by Ron Kronish. Courtesy of Sari Kronish
Photo of olive branch for cover of Profiles in Peace by Ron Kronish. Courtesy of Sari Kronish

לֹ֤א בְחַ֙יִל֙ וְלֹ֣א בְכֹ֔חַ כִּ֣י אִם־בְּרוּחִ֔י אָמַ֖ר יְהֹוָ֥ה צְבָאֽוֹת׃

Not by might, nor by power, but by My spirit —said GOD of Hosts.

Zecharia 4:6

This past shabbat we read this verse from the prophet Zechariah on Shabbat Hanukkah. It seems to me that it is no accident that this important verse is read on Hanukkah, a time when we celebrate both a military victory by the Maccabees, as well as a miracle, which we commemorate by lighting candles for eight nights and thus trying to bring some light into our very dark world.

This verse spoke directly to me last week when I heard it chanted beautifully by one of my daughters at our synagogue in Jerusalem. Why?

We are in a very dark place in Israel these days. The mood is very glum. If feels like we are living though one huge trauma, with the massacres of October 7th very much on our minds and in our hearts all the time. It seems like the whole country is in one big depression, which inhibits lots of people– including and especially those now leading our government– from thinking clearly and rationally.

After the horrible events of October 7th, which is called “The Black Shabbat” in Israel, our government announced two very bombastic goals to the war that it declared on Hamas: 1) to “defeat Hamas” and 2) to get all our captives back. As of now it does not look like this government will achieve either of these goals.

As far as the military operation goes, it looks like that we are already getting stuck in the mud of Gaza. It is already reminding me of the mud of Lebanon in which the IDF spent 18 horrible years (1982-2000). Ten young men were killed yesterday. More and more Israeli soldiers are being killed every day, some even by “friendly fire” in very crowed conditions. And the IDF is killing thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza, including thousands of women and children, as it also eliminates thousands of Hamas militants.

There is no clear military victory in the offing, at least not very soon, if ever, according to most reports that I read. Instead, the IDF and the government are promising us a very long war (which would serve Bibi’s personal interests!), even though they know that the USA and the international community will not permit us to go on forever.

In the meantime, the state of Israel will certainly have lost the war for public opinion. We have already done that. By all accounts, Israel is becoming more and more isolated in the world. Why?

We have created 2 million internal Palestinian refugees with no place to go! They are facing an impossible humanitarian situation, as was reported by six leaders of major humanitarian aid organizations on the front page of today’s International New York Times. And, as is widely known by now, Bibi and his government plan somehow to control what will be left of Gaza with a renewed military occupation and “civil administration”. Actually, despite Bibi’s repeated populist political declarations, there is no real plan as to what to do after the war, which is the height of irresponsibility. Only the Americans seem to have some good diplomatic ideas, but our extreme right-wing government is ignoring them.

Moreover, our government will have committed a totally immoral act by not rescuing the hostages when we could have probably done so by more exchanges of hostages for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons. There was a window a few weeks ago which got some of them out. But much more could have been done through diplomacy. The people of Israel will certainly not forgive this government for this failure.

Therefore, it is becoming clear that this horrible government of Israel will not achieve either of its overly ambitious goals for this war: defeating Hamas and returning all of the hostages.

We have a huge leadership problem in Israel since we have the most cynical, corrupt and confused Prime Minister in the history of Israel. He is already running for re-election by all his statements and photo-ops in the midst of this war. Moreover, he is the Machiavellian politician who brought us the most right-wing coalition, with a Kahanist Ku Klux Klan political party (who are doing tremendous damage in the West Bank and inside Israel every day).

Furthermore, even though he has yet to admit it, he is directly responsible (along with many leaders and officers in the IDF) for the situation that brought us to the debacle of October 7th and to this war against Hamas. When the fighting stops (if Bibi ever lets it stop) there will be a tremendous uproar in this country that will bring down this dangerous man and his cronies and will hopefully lead to a saner centrist government.

So far, another major front has not erupted in the north with Lebanon, although many Israeli political leaders, media pundits and IDF leaders are urging for it. There has been low level fighting, which has led to many communities to be evacuated, but no all-out war. Why? Because, so far American diplomacy has prevented this. Yes, diplomacy can work sometimes, and is preferable to a war in which thousands of missiles from Hezbollah in Lebanon would reign down on Israeli civilians all over the country.

This raises the question: Is there another way, other than war after war? Will all these wars bring us more “security”? Or will they create thousands angrier, displaced, unhappy, starving terrorists who want to take revenge against us?

There must be another way. After all, when wars are over, there is often some diplomacy that can lead to other realities. After the debacle of the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, fifty years ago, there were negotiations that led to the peace with Egypt in 1979, a peace which has lasted to this day.

What is needed is not just more might and more power, but the power of the spirit, the power of creative diplomacy, out-of-the-box thinking, moral reasoning and persuasion, the ability to envision a better future for both peoples in this region, the Palestinian Arab people and the Jewish Israeli people.

In the not-too-distant future, this immoral irresponsible government in Israel will collapse. The people of Israel are furious with its failures and will not allow it to continue, once the fighting stops. Hopefully, then new leaders will arise with reasonable approaches to how to resolve our conflict and figure out ways and means for us to live in this part of the world without perpetual wars .

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,
Related Topics
Related Posts