To Negotiate or Not to Negotiate?

The usual counter to the claim that we should be trying to engage in negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, is that now, when Israel is suffering from terror attacks, is not the time. But if not now, when?

The longer the situation continues, the harder it becomes to talk, because mistrust builds up on both sides. If we don’t talk now, we risk losing the opportunity for the foreseeable future.

Negotiating is not equivalent to signing an agreement; dating is not equivalent to signing a marriage certificate. Yet the right equates the two, claiming that the very act of talking poses a security threat and entails significant territorial losses.  On the other hand, the left prefers to ignore an inconvenient truth: Talking is likely to give hope to both sides and help deflate tensions; it may cause a decrease in violence even before an agreement is signed. However, the agreement that is signed at the end  will entail major territorial compromises. The road to peace is not without its risks. Having a Palestinian state, and the end of Israeli occupation, will most likely make it much harder for Palestinian groups to recruit terrorists. However, there are those who will continue to hate us and to try to commit acts of violence against us even after a Palestinian state is founded; a hatred so deep will not disappear from everyone and all segments of society overnight.

The main security advantage of a Palestinian state is that it would help Israel to keep out those who hate it: By establishing defined borders, Israel can then secure those borders.  It can demand a very rigorous background check for any Palestinian demanding a visa.  It can choose not to let Palestinians into the country in times of high tension by refusing them visas, or it can choose not to grant visas to Palestinians at all, depending on the security situation and the state of its diplomatic relationship with Palestine. Right now, hundreds of Palestinians come to Israel to work everyday. Once there’s a Palestinian state, it’s that state’s responsibility to provide an economic infrastructure; Israel isn’t obligated to let in hundreds of citizens from a different country because their government fails to provide. The Palestine-Israel border could be carefully monitored to prevent illegal crossings; barriers could be set up, and video and aerial surveillance used.

Of course, secure borders would not prevent qassams, and relying solely on Iron Dome is not a good long-term solution. The hope is that, bereft of the political and economic agony and degradation that nurture it, Palestinian hatred would decrease,  making the qassam issue – and all security issues – irrelevant. But it is a hope, not a guarantee.

What is guaranteed however, is that the path that we’re on isn’t working. It’s guaranteed that not talking does not prevent terror attacks. So the question isn’t “Can peace talks guarantee security?”, but rather, “Why continue refusing to engage in talks, when we already know that our refusal does not guarantee security?”

About the Author
Shayna Abramson, a part-Brazilian native Manhattanite, studied History and Jewish Studies at Johns Hopkins University before moving to Jerusalem. She has also spent some time studying Torah at the Drisha Institute in Manhattan, and has a passion for soccer and poetry. She is currently pursuing an M.A. in Political Science from Hebrew University, and is a rabbinic fellow at Beit Midrash Har'el.