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Gershon Baskin
Political and social entrepreneur activist in Israel and Palestine

This has to end

This war must end now! The hostages must come home. Israel needs to put on the table an offer that Hamas won’t refuse. Both sides have lost this war. There is no winner. Both sides have been damaged and traumatized probably beyond repair for decades to come. It didn’t start on October 7; it’s been going on for over 100 years and now it must stop. On October 7 and all of the days following, we have erased moral red-lines and both sides have done things that no human being can tolerate. There has never been a military solution to this conflict. We have been competing for too long over who can kill more and hurt more. We have caused each other too much pain and it is time to stop.

How can any Palestinian live with the knowledge of the atrocities committed in their name against Israelis – their neighbors? Butchering, burning alive, killing children in front of their parents, killing parents in front of their children, massacring hundreds of young people at a music festival, taking hundreds of hostage including babies, people in their 80s, young women, rape and sexual abuse. How can any decent Palestinian live with all of that?

How can any Israeli live with the knowledge that Israel has killed 32,000 people in Gaza, most of them non-combatants? How can we Israelis face ourselves with the knowledge that Israel has destroyed an overwhelming number of homes, streets, hospitals, clinics, universities, schools? How can we wake up every morning with the knowledge that millions of Palestinians in Gaza, our neighbors, have no roof over their heads, no food to eat, no future? How do we carry on knowing that there are tens of thousands of new orphans in Gaza, their parents killed by our bombs and our soldiers?

Yes, the war was justified. Israel had to respond to the brutal attack on October 7. Israel failed to protect its border and with bewildering ease, Hamas breached the border and butchered, pillaged, raped, and abducted. That could not happen without a significant military response. Israel had to respond because failure to respond would pose an existential threat to Israel in this region with enemies seeking to erase Israel from the map. Israel had to demonstrate that while it screwed up unbelievably badly on October 7, it has the firepower, the strength and the determination to demonstrate its overwhelming power – sending a message to all of those who seek Israel’s destruction: Don’t mess with us! That message could have been delivered in one month. Dealing with Hamas and removing it from power, removing the Hamas threat against Israel is a common interest with the majority of Palestinians, and most of Israel’s neighbors, near and far. Israel should have used its brains rather than its brawn in mapping the way to eliminate that threat.

Getting the hostages home is a prerequisite to ending this war. There is very little chance that continued military pressure will bring the hostages home safely. So far, the military pressure has mainly gotten them killed. If Israel had allies in the region, which it did prior to October 7, the concerted work of the neighbors together, with the assistance of the United States could have come up with a possible solution for bringing the hostages home. Yes, there would be a price tag that Israel would have had to pay, and will pay to bring them home, if Israel truly wants to bring the hostages home who are still alive and the bodies of those who are not. A regional effort to bring the hostages home may still be the best path towards an agreement – but that is predicated on ending the war. The Egyptians have already stated in private conversations that given the atrocities committed by Israel in Gaza, Egypt cannot serve as Israel’s lawyer in talks with Hamas. The third party mediators are helpful, but probably not enough to get the hostages home.

Many years ago, when I served as an advisor to an intelligence team set up by Prime Minister Rabin to advise him on the peace process, I was meeting on a regular basis with President Arafat’s advisor on Hamas (let’s call him Abed). Abed was the son of an important Sheikh in Gaza and had the full trust of Arafat and his senior security team. Abed would often say to me, “You Israelis have to let Hamas be our problem. When Israel hits them, they only grow in strength. We know how to deal with them and the best way to do that is to make the peace process successful. Hamas’s biggest enemy is peace with Israel.” What Abed said in the mid-1990s is true today as well. President Abbas said the same thing to me over the period of years. But since 2009, Netanyahu did not heed that advice because he knew that enabling the Palestinian Authority to successfully deal with Hamas meant advancing Palestinian independence under the leadership of the Palestinian president. The same president who won elections in 2005 after Arafat’s death on a platform of anti-militarization of the intifada, and a determination to eliminate terrorism. I have heard Abbas say with my own ears, in public, that the security coordination with Israel “is holy!” But Netanyahu was determined to prevent the emergence of the two-states solution and therefore; he progressively weakened Abbas and the Palestinian Authority and systematically strengthen and had Hamas funded in Gaza. This was the strategy that brought us to October 7 and it is because of this failed strategy that Netanyahu must go. He can no longer be the leader of this nation. He has committed crimes against the State of Israel and its people.

The Palestinian leadership must also go. It has been in power for far too long without giving the Palestinian people the opportunity to elect new leaders. The Palestinian leadership in Gaza and in the West Bank has failed its primary responsibility and duty to improve the lives of their people and to provide them with security, freedom and dignity. Their failure to develop partnership with the Israeli people, despite the failed Israeli leadership after so many years deems them unworthy of serving any more. The Palestinian Authority is not trusted or respected by the Palestinian people. The Hamas leadership should be placed on trial by the Palestinian people for crimes against Palestine and its people. Hamas bears direct responsibility for the outcome of its brutal attack against Israel on October 7. They miscalculated the outcome of that attack and have brought another colossal Nakba on the people of Palestine.

The leadership of both Israel and Palestine must go. It is the direct responsibility of the Israeli and Palestinian people to make them leave. But the international community must also play its part. We are no longer in the situation where the Israelis and Palestinians have to want peace more than the rest of the world. This conflict has gone beyond the borders of Israel and Palestine. This conflict threatens regional security and the stability of several of the countries in this region. The conflict threatens global shipping and impacts on the global economy. The conflict has the potential to lead to an even much wider war.

This conflict has crossed the moral red-lines that have to apply to us all. The international community needs to step up and be proactive towards Israel and Palestine, with the leverage and force and hard decisions that are unavoidable. Those who provide weapons and bombs to Israel must notify Israel that the shipments will now stop. It is time for Israel to end this war. If Israel is attacked without provocation by Iran or Iran’s proxies, then that decision can be changed. But until that happens, Israel will need to calculate its weapons economy and understand that it cannot afford to use more in Gaza. The international community, or the relevant parts of it, need to impose on Hamas a deal that will force Hamas to release all of the Israeli hostages. That means that Qatar needs to notify the Hamas leadership in Doha that the welcome mat to them will soon be removed if they don’t comply. It means that Egypt, with the assistance of the US and others needs to ensure that all of the smuggling routes, above ground and underground, between Sinai and Gaza are sealed forever. The OECD countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Ireland, Belgium, Japan, Australia, Canada and others must immediately recognize the State of Palestine. The veto on Palestinian statehood held by Israel must be removed from Israel. The ultimate weapon against Hamas and its ideology is making Palestine real to the Palestinian people and making the two states solution a fait accompli to Israelis and Palestinian alike.

Gaza must be rebuilt and the whole world including Israel must contribute generously, if we want to bring an end to this conflict. The reconstruction of Gaza must be undertaken by a responsible and legitimate Palestinian leadership. There cannot be elections in Palestine for the foreseeable future so the international community must also convince President Abbas that he must step aside, remaining president for life if he likes, with ceremonial duties, while he finds and appoints a prime minister who will be accepted in the West Bank and Gaza and will have full governmental authorities. That prime minister will appoint a government made up of professionals who are respected and accepted by Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza to undertake the work of reconstruction. That new Palestinian government will also take over responsibilities of security and should invite a multi-national Arab led force to come to Gaza for a limited period of time with a clear mandate to provide security and to demolish the remaining military infrastructure of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Israel must speedily exit Gaza forever.

Both Israel and Palestine should be required by the International Community to undertake the mission of examining their own education curricula and text books based on agreed upon criteria (such criteria exist from UNESCO and other international educational institutions). Educational reform and combatting incitement must be the first foundation stone upon which peace will be built. What any society teaches its children is the clearest indication of what that society truly values. Dealing with education and incitement cannot be an afterthought, it must be the first step on a new path towards peace.

The first order of the day is to end this war. Enough!

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.