We are two weeks out since the horrific Hamas terror attacks in Israel, and we continue to mourn over 1,400 Israelis killed, and pray for those injured and for the safety of those held hostage in Gaza.
In response to these attacks, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared war on Hamas, with constant airstrikes and preparations for a possible ground invasion. The stated intent of this war is to eliminate Hamas.
Already in this war, thousands of Palestinians, many of them innocent civilians, have been killed or injured. Israeli authorities have also cut off access to food, water, and electricity in Gaza, creating a humanitarian crisis. Israeli authorities have warned Gazans to flee to the south, though many lack the means or ability to do so, and Hamas has reportedly encouraged civilians in the north to ignore these warnings.
We stand with President Biden who, on his recent trip to Israel, stated that Israel has the right and responsibility to defend its citizens and disarm Hamas while adhering to international law and the rules of war.
Further, while we unhesitatingly agree that Israel has the right and responsibility to defend itself, we believe it must do so while protecting Palestinian non-combatants.
Israel should immediately work to create safe humanitarian corridors and safe zones, allow humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, and provide explicit guarantees that Palestinians evacuating will be allowed and able to return to their homes.
We condemn the taking of hostages and call for all parties to make their return a top priority. Aid trucks are currently being held at the Rafa crossing with Egypt, and Israel has previously indicated that aid is contingent on Hamas releasing hostages.
Israel must not join Hamas’s unconscionable game of using both the hostages and the entire Gaza population as pawns. Necessities of life for Gazans must be separated from war aims on both sides. While we have no expectations of Hamas adhering to international norms, Israel must do so in order to retain its place among democratic and law-abiding nations.
Unfortunately, there are no “good” options for how this war continues. We agree that Hamas must be eliminated, but it will take more than a military operation, in which many lives will be lost, to do so. Hamas is more than an organization, it is an ideology. But ideologies die only when they are rendered irrelevant.
The only way out, and the only way to ensure a safe Jewish state, is through a political, not military solution. This includes resuming two-state negotiations with an active US role, providing aid for reconstruction efforts following this war, and recognition in Israel and the international community of the need for Palestinian self-determination and sovereignty in a Palestinian state.
We have seen endless rounds of violence in the name of “security” which have only had the opposite effect. For Israel and its allies to engage in the current destructive operation, whose duration might exceed weeks or even months, and in which we will see not only an immense loss of life on all sides, but also unbearable trauma and grief, we must be guaranteed the resumption of efforts for a peaceful, political solution.
We know that, when leaders are actively engaged in negotiations, Israeli and Palestinian societies overwhelmingly support these efforts. And we know that, while this is not an easy proposition, there are no easy propositions right now, and definitely not any that are devoid of calamitous trade-offs.
Giving up on such efforts would be the antithesis of Partners mission, as we have long worked to see Israelis and Palestinians living in peace, safety, and with self-determination for both peoples.
This is one of the darkest periods in Israeli and Jewish history and so we must, more now than ever, encourage all relevant intermediaries to stay focused on a just solution following this period and ongoing efforts for an end to the bloodshed.