At a very challenging meeting of the Policy Committee of the Peace NGO Forum (a coalition of 60 Israeli mainstream peace and human rights organizations) on Sunday night in Tel Aviv, I opened my words with a comment about “how complex and painful the situation is.”
Two of the people there explained why they didn’t feel comfortable going to the demonstration in Tel Aviv on Saturday night, while I was among those who felt it was important to participate, and did so. It was also agreed that we have to speak out at this time, and not just stand aside silently because the guns are firing. None of us are calling for a humanitarian cease-fire, but rather an end to the fighting accompanied by a return to negotiations — with President Abbas, not Hamas, to arrive at an overall solution, which will include a demilitarized Palestinian state — that includes Gaza — alongside the State of Israel.
There can be no peace with Hamas, but Hamas also cannot be defeated, unless we decide to reoccupy Gaza and throw all of Hamas in jail the
way Sisi did in Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood. That is not going to happen, because of all the potential repercussions, one of which is the spiraling loss of young Israeli soldiers’ lives. However, Hamas can be sidelined, by a political agreement between Israel and the PLO leadership led by President Abbas, backed by the Arab League and the West. That is the goal.
Hamas is not just a terrorist organization, but a Palestinian nationalist Islamic movement, with aspirations concerning how a free Palestinian society should be structured. They want a Palestinian society based on Sharia law. There is no doubt in my mind that the majority of the Palestinians do not want to live in such a society. The way to help us ensure security for the Israeli people, and a decent life for the Palestinians, is to arrive at a political agreement with the majority of the Palestinians, represented by President Abbas, the PLO and Fatah. It’s doable, if there is a political will.
Below is the statement that we issued at the Peace NGO Forum — I did the initial draft — and many others were involved in the final wording. We are now working on a formulation of a proposal to be presented to opposition leader Labor Party Chair MK Isaac Herzog, at his request, for an alternative policy to the one being pursued by Prime Minister Netanyahu.
Call for a Cease-Fire and the Resumption of Negotiations
July 28, 2014
The Policy Committee of the Israeli Peace NGO Forum supports the call for an immediate cease-fire based upon the Egyptian proposal, to be followed by renewed negotiations for a two-state solution between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the representative of the Palestinian people.
The rising number of deaths, around 50 Israeli soldiers and civilians already, and over 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza, men, women and children, requires immediate action to halt the mutual violence.
There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, Israelis reserve the right to self-defense and deserve to live in security and peace, without the threat of rockets fired at them and enemy tunnels dug into their midst. Equally, Palestinians are entitled to lead a dignified and independent life in a united Palestinian state alongside the State of Israel. That future Palestinian state, consisting of Gaza and the West Bank including East Jerusalem, with mutually agreed upon border amendments based on the 1967 lines, will be demilitarized, in line with mutually accepted security arrangements.
The present crisis, tragic as it is in human lives and suffering, calls for increased resolve by all moderate forces in the region, supported by the international community, to stand together in a joint effort to finally bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to an end through a mutually agreed political settlement rather than a return to the cycle of devastating and pointless use of force.
The Arab Peace Initiative, launched by the Arab League in Beirut in 2002, which offers end of conflict, peace, security, and, normal relations with Israel by the entire Arab and Muslim world in exchange for the establishment of a Palestinian state, can play a crucial role in achieving peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.
In addition, an international fund to rebuild Gaza to ensure a constructive life for its people should be launched.
We also express our deep concern about the internal threats to democracy that have emerged in the current crisis. There is no place in our society for calls to “kill Arabs” and “kill leftists”. Also, expressions of joy over the death of Israelis or Palestinians, particularly children, in either community, should be totally unacceptable. The right to freedom of expression and differences of opinion lie at the bedrock of Israeli democracy, and must be preserved.