Wednesday, December 31, 2008

End the Siege, End the Rocket Fire

This unnecessary war, which has claimed so many lives already, and which has kept two populations in terror (but only one in constant suffering) can be ended quickly. The cease-fire conditions are clear: ending the rocket fire from Gaza, ending the siege on Gaza, new elections in the West Bank and Gaza, which will be recognized by Israel. Beyond that, serious negotiations could be commenced for the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Israel should not make the cessation of weapons smuggling a condition for a cease fire, or for indirect relations with Hamas. I am sorry to see that Meretz USA, which came out with a fine statement otherwise, has called for "the verifiable termination of weapons smuggling into the Gaza Strip" as a condition for a cease-fire. I have no problem with that, provides that it calls for an arms embargo on Israel as well. Jews smuggled weapons to Palestine before there was a Jewish state, and the idea that Gaza and the West Bank should be left at the mercy of Israel, or NATO, or whatever, is immoral as well as stupid – immoral, because it says that one side has a right to self-defence and the other does not, stupid, because it reinforces the Israeli narrative that the Palestinians are the aggressors, which plays into feelings of Palestinian resentment, and which encourages extremists. Had Hamas not smuggled – and used – weapons, would Meretz USA be calling today for an end to the siege on Gaza? (For the Meretz USA statement, see Richard Silverstein's Tikun Olam blog here).

Beyond that, the Palestinians have to get their act together, and stop their own internal fighting. That means democratically-conducted elections whose results are accepted not only by Israel, but by the world. If Hamas runs Palestine, fine – but a condition for their joining the community of nations will be behaving like one – ditto for Israel. Hamas has already laid out the conditions – reasonable conditions, I might add – for its living in peace with Israel: withdrawal to 67 boundaries and a just solution to the refugees. Hamas doesn't recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. Big deal. Israel doesn't recognize Hamas, or a Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, either. Lots of states don't recognize other states. For years Egypt and Jordan didn't recognize Israel. Did that mean that Israel did not conduct indirect negotations with them?

The world's policy of isolating Hamas has failed. If the world believes in a two-state solution, it will have to get used to the possibility that Hamas will be running the Palestinian state – not permanently, of course, because the Palestinians, like Israelis, will periodically throw the bums out.

But another solution -- a "one state" or "federal" solution, may provide a better answer to the fundamentalists on both sides. There would be no fear of the Palestinian state being dominated by Hamas because the Palestinians wouldn't have their own state, but they would share it with the Israelis. With the Israelis overwhelmingly secular (and with the Palestinians "traditionalists" who could go either way), a one-state solution, with a constitution that would take into account the various factions, may be the better way to go.

Of course, it is not the way that either Israel or Palestine will go. The day may not be too long when Hamas wins control of the West Bank. Israel seems bent on doing everything it can to ensure that possibility. It will then be able to go to the world and say, "What do you want from us; we have terrorists on both our sides."

It won't be pleasant living in Gaza or the West Bank. But it won't be pleasant living in Israel, either.


Anonymous said...

Dear Jerry,

Thank you for being just so...sane here and in facing down so sanely the insane comments you sometimes receive. We need sanity right now more than ever, something in critically short supply. Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

"Hamas has already laid out the conditions – reasonable conditions, I might add – for its living in peace with Israel: withdrawal to 67 boundaries and a just solution to the refugees."

Can you provide me with a reference for this? Is this common knowledge?

Jerry Haber said...

Anonymous, it should be common knowledge, and if it isn't, it takes two seconds on Google to find sources. Here is an article from Haaretz that reports of Haniyeh's letter to Bush in 2006

and here

Israel's rejection can be found here of the long-term truce.

Of course, the main problem is how one interprets and implements the right of the Palestinians to retun to their homes. But my point was simply that Hamas has repeatedly said that it will be willing to live alongside Israel provided that the occupation is ended, and the refugees are given the option to return to their homes. On this there is no difference between Hamas and Fatah.

Where they differ is that Fatah is willing to recognize Israel's legimitacy; Hamas is not -- only a long-term truce. Since Israel's Jewish fundamentalists also don't recognize the legitimacy of Palestinian claims to Eretz Yisrael, I understand Hamas and, frankly, don't understand Israel's concerns -- or have any sympathy for its existential angst on this point.

Jerry Haber said...

Dear Kathy,

Thank you for your thank you.


Anonymous said...

I am the Anonymous from the last comment. Thanks for the references.
I have some more questions. Would greatly help if you can help me understand this issue better.

1) Are we sure that, wrt to the refugee questions, all that Hamas wants is only the 'option' of return? Is Hamas willing to consider financial compensation instead of right of return?

I can kind of appreciate the Israeli concern that any offer for peace which necessarily insists on the right of return is just a veiled way of saying - 'we dont really want peace since we know that Israel cannot afford to accept the right of return'.

2) If there is no difference between Fatah and Hamas on the right of return issue - then, why is Israel happy to engage with Fatah but not Hamas?
Surely, it cannot just be the fact that Fatah recognizes Israel's right to exist. Like you said, it doesnt matter whether there is a recognition of this right or not. The most important issue is peace. Surely Olmert, Livni and Barak can appreciate this - being the pragmatists that they are supposed to be?


p.s. I am just trying to understand this conflict more thoroughly than it is presented by the press. I do not intend to be disrespectful or mocking with these questions.

Jerry Haber said...

Neither Hamas nor Fatah have accepted monetary compensation in place of the right of return. We know more about the Palestinian Authority's position -- Hamas has never negotiated with Israel, nor Israel with it.

I wouldnt say that Israel is happy to engage with Fatah. Israel under Sharon did not negotiate with the Palestinian Authority, ruled by the Fatah. Secondly, when the PLO sounded like a secular version of Hamas, Israel didn't engage with them, but bombed the hell out of them in Beirut and assassinated their leaders. The PLO made a strategic decision to accept the two-state solution in 1988 and they were still hounded by Israel until the Oslo agreement.

I could say more, but you could find out about this for yourself using google and wikipedia.