Jonathan Schwartz

Tunnel Vision

Deep underground,
Dark, dank,
Crouched, cramped,
Water dripping,

Senses dimmed,
Starved of food and news,
Hostages hibernate,
Health and hope flickering,
In the gloomy light of a naked bulb,

Time stretches silently along,
the mute maze of tunnels,
Muffled sounds from the world far above:
Muezzin calls to prayers,
Punctuate the monotonous day-night,
Vibrating explosives pound and shake,

Interred in the bowels of the earth,
Gestating in a grave situation,
The time-tunnel forks:
A birth-canal to release and rejuvenation; or
A dead-end.

The events of October 7, 2023, shattered both Israel and Palestine.
We are still too close to the initial trauma to take stock. But over 65 days on, we must try and make some sense of our situation.

In Israel: Too many murdered people; Too many tortured, raped and mutilated; Too many hostages abducted to Gaza; Too many soldiers in danger; Too many funerals; Too many injured; Too many internal refugees displaced from their homes in the North, or the South; Economic and social upheaval.
In Gaza: Many civilian casualties; Much of Northern Gaza destroyed; Many families forced to abandon homes and seek relative safety in temporary tent towns; Food and water shortages; Civic, economic, and health chaos.

Just as the unfortunate Israeli hostages in Gaza face a binary final outcome, so do the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Hamas in its founding charter clearly lays down its intent to obliterate Israel and its Jewish inhabitants: “The day that enemies usurp part of Muslim land, Jihad becomes the individual duty of every Muslim. In face of the Jews’ usurpation of Palestine, it is compulsory that the banner of Jihad be raised.”

On October 7, Hamas showed Israel and the world what it means by “Jihad”.
Hamas launched a well-organized surprise attack and conquered parts of southern Israel.

Their elite terror squads massacred unarmed civilians: young people attending a music festival for peace; men, women and children of all ages who lived in the small towns and farming communities bordering on Gaza and that came under Hamas occupation.

The deaths of these innocent civilians, over 1,200 people killed in a few hours and many more injured, were not the “collateral” damage of war. It was the primary aim of the attack. The Hamas attacks on army bases around the strip were “collateral” to the main purpose of their attack and were executed to “buy time” for the killing brigades to complete their work of murdering civilians, raping and maiming women, burning people and houses, decapitating and desecrating bodies, looting and pillaging of property and most importantly for the Hamas end-game – taking over 240 hostages back to Gaza. Hostages range in age from 9 months old to people in their 80s.

Israel has launched an aggressive counterattack against Hamas with the stated aim of destroying Hamas’s military power and of returning the hostages. Over 65 days and tons of munitions later, Israel has had limited success. Some hostages were released in a negotiated exchange, mainly in return for a brief halt in the fighting. Hamas’s military strength has been degraded. However, Hamas still retains over 130 hostages, still has control over southern Gaza, and still has much of its military infrastructure intact.

Where do we go from here?

I don’t mean to ask the tactical question of what fortifications we bomb next. I mean, what is our strategic endgame? Do we, the Israeli and Palestinian people, continue down the tunnel path to a “one-state” solution?

On the Palestinian side, Hamas and its allies call for a “one-state” solution, with the Jewish problem to be solved along the lines promoted by the Nazis. Genocide. The chant, “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free”, is a call for a “one-state” solution free of “the Jews”.
On the Israeli side, Smotrich, Ben Gvir, and their ilk, also call for a “one-state” solution. Only this time it is the Jews who get to stay. Palestinians can either accept second-class status without equal rights in the Jewish State, emigrate, or if they choose to resist: “will be wiped out”.

Israelis will not accept the Palestinian view of a “one State” solution. Palestinians (and many Zionist Israelis) will not accept the Smotrich-Ben Gvir view of a “one-state” solution, which will either be undemocratic with a governing master Jewish race or if democratic, will demographically cease to be a “Jewish” state.

The tunnel forks. One branch leads to a “one-state” solution. This is a strategic dead-end. The other fork leads to a “two-state” solution.

But how does one promote the idea of a “two-state” solution for the region, if one side, the Palestinians, intends to use its state as a basis for attacking and wiping out the other side?

We have no real choice. Despite the October 7 atrocities, a unitary state is not an option. However long the path and however many twists and turns are ahead of us, strategically we must collectively take the branch leading to a “two-state” solution.

A “two-state” solution cannot be imposed on the Palestinian people. They must want it. A Palestinian “Peace Now” movement is a prerequisite for its formation. Palestine needs to be freed from Hamas before this even becomes a remote possibility. Dismantling Hamas’s military capabilities may be an important start, but it is not the end. Hamas ideology needs to be uprooted. Palestinians need to adopt a less toxic form of Islam, just as Israelis need to disavow the Smotrich-Ben Gvir messianic perversion of Judaism. Schools in Israel and in Palestine will need to teach co-existence to a new generation of children.

Can the seismic events of October 7 and their aftermath shock both Israelis and Palestinians out of our collective march to a unitary State dead-end?

I have no answer to the above question. But I can make two observations:

Most of the Palestinian minority who are citizens of the State of Israel have condemned the Hamas October attack and support Israel’s right to defend itself. Contrary to Ben Gvir’s predictions, no third column arose to aid Hamas from within Israel. A significant number of Palestinians, those who know Israelis the best, have come to terms with Israel’s right to exist;


Some 78 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, Israel’s strongest supporter in Europe, is Germany. The grandchildren of the implementers of the “Final Solution”, the descendants of the survivors of the destruction of Dresden, now support the right of Jews to live peacefully in Israel.

If the German nation could undergo “de-Nazification”, maybe the Palestinians can undergo “de-Hamasification”? Maybe, just maybe, the survivors of the destruction of Gaza City will realize that if they continue to demand “all” they will be left with “nothing”.

It is time to forego entrenched beliefs and take a different fork, the one that leads to a “two-state” solution. Even if it is a long, long road ahead before reaching the desired destination.

It is a time for “out of the tunnel” vision.

About the Author
Jonathan Schwartz works as an independent commercial lawyer, with a focus on high-tech and medical devices. Born and raised in Johannesburg, South Africa, he made Aliyah at the age of 19, and moved to Zur Yigal after spending time in Jerusalem, Kibbutz Tzora and Raanana. He is married with 4 children.
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