David H. Levitt

Want Peace? Time to Try Something Different

Even as the current Israel/Hamas war continues, discussion is ongoing about how Gaza will be governed at its conclusion, once Hamas has been removed from Gaza. In a sense, though, it will not matter what governance structure replaces Hamas if the same failed paradigm of expecting concession after concession from Israel but nothing from the Palestinians continues to prevail.

Say what you will about former President Voldemort (. . . er, Trump), but at least his Administration’s “Peace to Prosperity” plan was an attempt at trying something different. It urged a two-state solution and demanded accountability and concessions from both sides. Among other things, Israel had to agree to relinquish most of the West Bank while the Palestinians had to give up the “right of return.” It proposed an East Jerusalem Palestinian capital in Abu Dis. As one of the few Americans who has actually been to Abu Dis, I can attest first-hand to the existence of a Palestinian Parliament building, albeit in poor condition due to unfortunate disuse.

The proposal from He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named broke with the decades-long failed paradigm of putting pressure solely on Israel and demanding nothing from the Palestinians.

I am not a particularly big fan of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, but his November 22, 2023 column, “The Rescuers,” is important and a must-read. It highlights that, unlike the May 2021 Hamas/Israel conflict that resulted in Arab Israeli riots in the streets of such mixed Arab-Jewish cities as Haifa, the current conflict has been quiet on the Arab Israeli front; indeed, as his column highlights, most Arab Israelis are as appalled by Hamas’s October 7 barbarity as Jewish Israelis and support the efforts of the Israeli military in Gaza even as they (like most Jewish Israelis) regret and mourn the Gazan civilian casualties caused by Hamas’s use of its citizens as human shields. The “Rescuers” of his title are honorable Arab Israelis who risked their lives and well-being to save other Israelis, Jewish and non-Jewish.

He also highlights Member of Knesset and leader of the Islamist Ra’am party, Monsour Abbas (not to be confused with Palestinian Authority President-Apparently-For-Life Mahmoud Abbas), who said: “The massacre is against everything we believe in, our religion, our Islam, our nationality, our humanity,” and called for a new approach that recognized: “This ‘river to the sea’ talk is not helpful . . . They are making a mistake. If you want to help Palestinians, then talk about a two-state solution and peace and security for all the people.”

Monsour Abbas, then, broaches a different approach from most self-styled “pro-Palestinians”: criticize Hamas and other radical Islamist actions and rhetoric, and work honestly for a true peace by recognizing, as Abbas also has said, that Israel will remain a Jewish state. Work for the good of the Palestinian people (both inside and outside of Israel), instead of the destruction of the Jewish state as too many supposedly “pro-Palestinian” (but really merely anti-Israel) protesters do. If an Arab Israeli can recognize these things, why can’t protesters on American university campuses? Why can’t UN members and committees?

For 75 years, the world’s default position, including successive American administrations, has to put pressure on Israel to create a solution, even as Palestinian leadership has rejected offer after offer of a sovereign state, sabotaged all negotiations (as even Israeli left-wing peace advocates recognize). The UN General Assembly, its various committees (epitomized by the seriously misnamed Human Rights Council), and occasionally its Security Council (epitomized by the absurd Resolution 2334) has issued resolution after resolution against Israel, more than against the rest of the world combined.

And has that brought peace? Are we not in the same place again as we were after the 2014 Hamas/Israeli conflict, the 2021 Hamas/Israeli conflict, and indeed all of Israel’s existence?

Senator Bernie Sanders’s recent New York Times guest essay is sadly more of the same. Unlike many protesters, he at least appropriately refers to the Hamas October 7, 2023 attack as “barbaric,” and calls for the removal of Hamas. Yet what are his solutions, even as he refreshingly admits that he does “not have all of the answers to this never-ending tragedy”? Read it through and you’ll find that every single one of his proposals is for actions only by Israel. Of course, Hamas must be removed, he agrees, but nary a mention of just how Israel – or the world – can go about accomplishing that. And one can scour his essay and never find a proposal for what the Palestinians must do. Must not they renounce terrorism? Must not they recognize, as Monsour Abbas has, Israel as a Jewish state? Even as Israel is supposed to take all of the actions suggested by Senator Sanders, what is required of the Palestinians?

As Hillel Neuer of United Nations Watch recently tweeted: “If Israel didn’t care about civilians, this war would have been over on October 8th.” The continual attacks on Israel, Israel, Israel are not only wrong on the merits, but after 75 years of the same thing, they fail to bring peace. In the end, regardless of whether the government of Israel is right-wing, left-wing, or centrist, and regardless of the substantial efforts of US Presidents of both parties, the only reason that a two-state solution has not been in place for decades remains Palestinian hate and rejectionism. And more than that, the constant coddling of the world of that hate and rejectionism.

Palestinians have no reason to compromise if no such compromise is ever demanded. Supporting them in the International Court of Justice, the International Criminal Court, the UN Human Rights Commission (and, for goodness sake, in UNESCO which pretends that Jewish holy sites have no connection to Jewish history), actually enables continued bad behavior, which eventually enables horrible events like October 7.

A new paradigm is needed – one which creates consequences for Palestinian rejectionism, and creates incentives for new leadership, like Monsour Abbas and the ordinary Arab Israelis highlighted in “The Rescuers,” who care more about the success and future of their own people more than they hate Jews. Such leadership must be nourished, and negative leadership such as that of both Hamas and Fatah, the venality of UNRWA, must be attacked for what it is – abuse of the Palestinian people by their own leaders.

After 75 years of failure, isn’t it time to try something different?

About the Author
David H. Levitt practices intellectual property and commercial litigation law in Chicago, and is a pro-Israel activist.
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