The temporary truce and the release of some Israeli hostages is a ray of light amidst days of unending darkness. Seeing hostages returned to their families brings tears of pain and joy to my eyes. I pray that all the hostages will be returned as soon as possible. The way of Islam, well articulated by Dr. Mansour Abbas, head of Israel’s Ra’am political party, condemns the kidnapping and harming of children, women, and the elderly – indeed all citizens. All Muslims must denounce the abductions and make every effort to bring about the prompt release of the hostages.
International mediation of the deal proves that Israel and Hamas depend on the involvement of countries that are in contact with both sides. Qatar, Egypt, the US and the EU must continue to mediate on the hostage issue, and also strongly encourage a series of agreements that will facilitate an end to the terrible bloodshed that has been taking place in the Holy Land over the past six weeks.
Gaza’s civilian population is experiencing a catastrophe of historical dimensions. I know that parts of the Israeli public will never agree on the circumstances and the responsibility of each side for the ongoing crisis. I understand the pervasive view that because Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005 and withdrew its citizens and soldiers, any act of violence perpetrated against Israel is unjustified.
I also understand those who claim that, rather than harming the Hamas regime, the siege placed by Israel on the Gaza strip has had the opposite effect of strengthening it. Those affected by the multi-year siege were primarily the simple residents of Gaza. The claim that allowing laborers to enter Israel for purposes of work allegedly changed the economic reality there has no basis. The number of laborers entering Israel to work was tiny relative to the abject poverty of residents of the Gaza Strip. Twenty thousand laborers from a total of 2.3 million residents cannot change the equation of the conflict. The most it can do is momentarily alleviate the deep poverty of some.
For this reason, international involvement is critical in this moment. The countries of the world have a role to play, not only in preventing the escalation and expansion of the war to additional fronts but also in helping reshape the face of the region for the future. Before the tragedy of October 7, Israel and Saudi Arabia were on the cusp of signing a normalization agreement, mediated by the US, which is now on hold. Mutual interests are still relevant, perhaps even more so than previously, but now the focus needs to be the permanent settlement of future relations between Israel and the Palestinian leadership. This conflict will not be resolved by regional agreements that don’t take this into account.
Israeli and Palestinian leadership, with international support, must lead a brave process of negotiations for peace. This needs to include Israel’s recognition of the Palestinian right to an independent state while at the same time working out a creative and comprehensive settlement of all issues, including identifying who will govern Gaza after the war. A primary condition will be guaranteeing the lives of all the innocent residents who live in and around Gaza. Both nations deserve a leadership with vision, values, integrity, and courage – a leadership that can offer hope to all sides. That is why international support to make this happen is so imperative right now and is the only possible option for extricating us from additional years of unending bloodshed.
The people of Israel, Gaza, and the West Bank are fed up with the conflict. In the last six weeks, tens of thousands of families have joined the never-ending and widening circle of bereavement and pain. Enough. We must not continue on a path leading to more and more bloodshed. As an Israeli citizen, I want our leaders to talk not only about the war but what will happen the day after; how they see the future; what vision they are offering us apart from violence, blood, and despair.
There is a solution but it requires courage. It requires that the rational-thinking majority speak up and overwhelm those extremists who will do everything to prevent an agreement. The price that each side will have to pay is indeed enormous but no price equals death. The images of the Israeli and Gazan children who paid with their lives as a result of this conflict must motivate us to make every effort to reach an agreement, for the sake of us all.