By Alon Ben-Meir

As the Israel-Hamas war grinds on, the international call for a ceasefire or at a minimum another pause in the fighting for a few days to allow for the delivery of badly needed necessities and agree on the release of some of the hostages is absolutely essential at this juncture. It is glaringly evident that there is large and growing international sympathy towards the Palestinians, given the magnitude of destruction and loss of life. This humanitarian crisis of such incredible scale is overshadowing the unconscionable slaughter of 1,200 people in Israel and the kidnapping of 248 others, of which about 100 have been returned home.

Sadly though, although Israel has the right to self-defense, the campaign to eradicate Hamas is being seen increasingly as a war of revenge and retribution. It has caused tremendous destruction and human suffering. After only nine weeks, over 15,000 in Gaza have been killed, nearly three-fourths of them women and children, and there is a horrifying scarcity of food, medicine, water, and fuel, albeit this was marginally alleviated as a part of the negotiated agreement to pause the war for four days. Moreover, over 80 percent of Gaza’s entire population of 2.09 million are now internally displaced.

This calamity is unfolding in front of our eyes and must stop, even for a few more days, to help save the lives of many of the tens of thousands who are wounded, bury the dead, and avert widespread starvation. And even though a temporary cessation of hostilities benefits Hamas, it is still worth undertaking not only to alleviate the horrifying suffering of the entire population in Gaza but also to open a window for negotiating the release of as many hostages as possible, especially all women and children, in exchange for an extended pause in fighting.

Whereas Israel’s stated goal from the onset was and still justifiably is the destruction of Hamas, Israel has not offered as yet any clear exit strategy nor endgame. Once Hamas is ultimately defeated, which is still a tall order, Israel with the support of the US and Saudi Arabia in particular should offer a sound alternative that meets the Palestinians’ aspirations and renders Hamas irrelevant.

President Biden should demand that Prime Minister Netanyahu and his military brass develop, in coordination with the US, a clear exit strategy and an end-game consistent with Israel’s, the Palestinians’, Jordan’s, and the US’ national interests in the region.

The protests that have taken place across major cities in the US and worldwide are arguably some of the biggest that we’ve seen in a long time. These calls for a ceasefire or another pause in the fighting for humanitarian reasons are exerting pressure on Biden to change his near-unconditional support of Israel’s war efforts, which he can no longer ignore. This is particularly important because the US’s unwavering support of Israel makes the Biden administration complicit in the unfolding tragedy, which is intensely criticized from the ranks of leading Democrats as well.

What should be the end game? I believe there are three possible scenarios, two of which are impractical in the sense that they will not lead to a permanent solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Israeli control over Gaza

First, Netanyahu is claiming that he wants to maintain security over Gaza, but he’s not saying who will govern and administer the Strip. Does he want to reoccupy all of Gaza or just the northern half? The former option may explain why he wanted the Palestinians to head south. President Biden is very correct to suggest that the reoccupation of Gaza, be that in part or in full, will be nothing short of a disaster for Israel and will only guarantee the prolongation of the viciously growing Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moreover, it should be emphasized here that given Israel’s experience in the occupied West Bank, maintaining security was only marginally successful at best as evidenced by the continuing violence between Israeli forces and Palestinians, which has been increasingly escalating. Netanyahu is a fool to assume that he can maintain control over Gaza by establishing a security apparatus when the Hamas-affiliated militants in Gaza will subject the Israeli forces to terrorist attacks that will exact a heavy toll in blood and treasure. The violence in the West Bank will pale in comparison to what Hamas’ militants in Gaza, whom Israel simply cannot eliminate altogether, will still be capable of doing against Israeli forces without an end in sight; as President Biden recently stated, Israel’s goal of eliminating Hamas “is a legitimate objective” but “a difficult task.”

Resettling Palestinians in Egypt

The second option, which Netanyahu has been exploring with Egypt, would allow the settling of a few hundred thousand Palestinians in the Sinai; Egypt would assume administrative responsibility in Gaza while Israel maintains security. Egyptian President Sisi flatly rejected any future involvement with the Palestinians in Gaza, other than facilitating through the Rafah crossing the passage of people for justifiable reasons as well as the transfer of goods. The Egyptian government considers Hamas a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is outlawed in Egypt. For this reason, Egypt has also blockaded Gaza to prevent the infiltration of Hamas militants into the country.

Moreover, Egypt has troubles of its own. The economy is in a dire situation, and its concerns over security are mounting. Egypt simply does not want to add more to its domestic problems. Thus, they are not interested in any solution that will further burden them with the Palestinians. That said, President Sisi was clear that regardless of how this war ends, a framework for a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on two states, however complex that might prove to be, must be established, otherwise it will be only a question of time when this war will invite another.

Transitional period for Gaza with UN supervision

The third option would entail a diplomatic initiative that does not wait for Hamas’s defeat. This option may well be more viable as it would entail a transitional period whereby the United Nations would assume responsibility. Administratively, the UN should create a transitional authority composed of Arab civilian leaders, experts in various fields and known for their integrity, balanced views, and commitment to a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. These individuals will act like ministers, each in charge of various departments. In addition, UNWRA, which has been on the ground for decades providing aid and development services, including education, healthcare, microfinance, and job training, is in the best possible position to assume greater responsibility provided that it will be monitored under a modified and expanded mandate.

In conjunction with the creation of a UN administrative authority, it will be necessary to establish a peacekeeping force to be in charge of security. This force ought to be comprised exclusively of the Arab states that are at peace with Israel, namely the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Bahrain, and Morocco, as well as Egypt.

It should be made clear that although post-Hamas the West Bank and Gaza should be governed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), this should not and in fact cannot happen for at least a year to 18 months following the establishment of a UN administrative authority in Gaza. During this period, the Palestinians in both the West Bank and Gaza would prepare themselves politically for a new election. The current PA is corrupt to the bone; President Abbas is rejected and despised by the majority of Palestinians and must go. Only a new, fresh, and uncorrupt elected leadership that enjoys the confidence of the people can succeed.

On the Israeli side, no one should hold their breath waiting for Netanyahu and his gang of zealous coalition partners to agree on anything that even resembles an independent Palestinian state. Once the war ends, Netanyahu will face an inquiry about the unprecedented disaster that took place under his watch and he will have to resign or be ousted. Here too, a new government will have to be established in Israel which must commit itself from the onset to a two-state solution.

Once the above two prerequisites are in place, the UN administrative authority will then relinquish its role and responsibility to the PA.

The Arab states should condition their commitment to provide a peacekeeping force upon Israel’s acceptance of a two-state solution. That is, once such a peacekeeping force is created, the peacebuilding process ought to commence in earnest toward that end. Any interim solution must be used only as a stepping stone toward a final resolution, otherwise, it would serve as nothing less than a respite from waiting for another disaster to unfold.

The role of the US and Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia and the US can play a major, in fact indispensable, role in this regard:

The US has and continues to be the ultimate guarantor of Israel’s national security, and President Biden has done more than any of his predecessors in this regard and demonstrated that in the most unambiguous way by his unflagging support of Israel. He must make it very clear (and is in a position to do so) to Netanyahu or his successor that the US’ unwavering support bears considerable political cost to America both domestically as well as internationally. Many countries around the world view the US as complicit in the unfolding horror in Gaza. President Biden must put in place a framework for a two-state solution consistent with the above proposal, which he has been advocating for many decades.

The negotiating peace process will certainly take more than a year to complete. 2024 is an election year in the US, but regardless of who the next president might be, Biden will have to stick to the plans because another Israeli-Palestinian conflagration will inescapably involve the US. It’s time for President Biden, who believes in a two-state solution, to put his foot down, no longer give Israel carte blanche to do as it pleases, and condition further support, financial and military, to genuine efforts to negotiate in good faith and reach a peace agreement.

Absent of UN action, the US should convene an international conference that includes representatives of the EU, the leading Arab states, the US, Israel, and the Palestinian Authority. The conference should issue a joint statement reinforcing the need for a two-state solution and the initiation of a process of reconciliation.

Saudi Arabia can complement the US initiative with its own most significant role by seizing on the breakdown in the Israeli-Palestinian relations and offering an unprecedented breakthrough to bring an end to the conflict. The Saudis should make it clear that once the war ends, they will be ready to normalize relations with Israel on the condition that a new Israeli government agree to a two-state solution and negotiate continuously until an agreement is reached. This war must end, leaving Hamas dramatically weakened and in disarray with limited arms. Nevertheless, Hamas’ ultimate defeat will not be on the battlefield, it will be by creating an alternative to Hamas’ governance from which the Palestinians will greatly benefit. That contrast ought to be made clearly and immediately to demonstrate to the Palestinians that Hamas was not only the enemy of Israel but the enemy of ordinary Palestinians. Yes, all Palestinians in Gaza want to live in peace and prosper but they were deprived of living a normal life because of Hamas’ violent resistance to Israel, squandering every resource to fight Israel while leaving the people despairing and hopeless.

Israel should not prolong this tragic war by even one unnecessary day. Indeed, if this war lasts another two or three months, it is almost certain that 20,000 to 30,000 Palestinians, mostly innocent civilians, and scores of Israeli soldiers will be killed. The continuation of the terrifying death and destruction in Gaza along with Israeli losses will only deepen the hate, enmity, and distrust between Israel and the Palestinians and make a solution to the conflict ever more intractable.

Every Israeli should ask him/herself the painful question: do we want to memorialize the death of 1,200 innocent Israelis butchered by Hamas by killing, however inadvertently, 20,000 or more Palestinians? Is that how the Israeli victims should be commemorated? This is something that every Israeli needs to think about.

Yes, Israel can and will win every battle against Hamas, but it will lose the war unless a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians begins once the war comes to an end, under the auspices of the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt with the support of other Arab states, which must lead to a two-state solution..

This demographic composition was markedly different from that of the typical Saturday night “pro-democracy” protest in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, characterized by a predominance of Jewish Zionist protestors, Hebrew speaking only, and an abundance of Israeli flags. While fewer participated in the ‘March of Death’ than in the weekly anti-government protests, the former, contra the latter, actually saw Arab-Jewish unity and meaningful Palestinian Arab participation. Indeed, the ‘Death March’ brought the anti-occupation bloc of the Israeli protest movement together with other concerned Palestinian Arab citizens to present a united Arab-Jewish front against injustice. The injustice of Israeli police allowing for homicides in the Arab community, comprised of approximately two million citizens or a fifth of the Israeli population, is emblematic of Israeli discrimination against Arabs for their non-Judaism, whether in the Palestinian territories or Israel proper. Just as Kahanist national security minister Itamar Ben-Gvir and his forces abandoned Palestinian Arabs during the recent settler pogrom against the West Bank town of Huwara — Israeli troops watched as settlers burned the town — so too Ben-Gvir has abandoned Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel. For the Jewish supremacist Otzma Yehudit and their ilk, Arab blood is not equal to Jewish blood.

Israeli police have not adequately enforced law and order in Arab communities, nor pursued the perpetrators of injustice within them throughout the country, exempting murderers (of Arabs only) from punishment. While the official government claim is that police have been distracted by the judicial coup, busy maintaining the calm during weekly protests, the Arabs and Jews whom I marched alongside this summer argue that for Israel, Arab lives simply do not matter. More evidence of this came in June 2023, when the Israeli government under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a new ministerial committee to address rampant violence in the Arab community. Laughably, and tragically, the new committee members are mostly far-right, anti-Arab allies of Netanyahu and only one minister is an Arab citizen of Israel. Among these allies is Bezalel Smotrich, the Kahanist minister in charge of the occupied West Bank, who earlier this month froze government funding for Arab communities. Doubling as finance minister in the current government, Smotrich refused to allocate funds to Arab municipalities and their educational programs in East Jerusalem. Unsurprisingly, the same minister who called for Huwara to be “wiped out” also denies 300 million shekels to Arab communities, claiming the money will be used for “terrorism.”

One of the loudest anti-Kahanist voices in the country insisting that ‘Arab Lives Matter’ is Standing Together, the most significant Arab-Jewish grassroots movement in Israel-Palestine. Standing Together co-directors, Arab citizen Rula Daood and Jewish citizen Alon Lee-Green, stood together in solidarity at the rally on August 8th. Shortly thereafter, the organization announced its campaign for city council in Haifa, Tel Aviv-Jaffa, and Jerusalem under the banner of Kol Ohaveha, which translates to the “voice of her lovers,” i.e. lovers of justice and Arab-Jewish partnership. I visited the Standing Together HQ in Tel Aviv-Jaffa, where I met Alon and invited him and his team to Washington D.C. The Standing Together message of a shared Arab-Jewish future should be heard by Jews in the United States and Israel-Palestine alike — and Partners for Progressive Israel eagerly awaits the arrival of Alon and his team to D.C. this fall.

To forge a shared Arab-Jewish future will require Israeli Jewish society to increase their historical awareness, acknowledge their historical wrongdoings, and make amends for them. Zochrot, the leading Jewish organization in Israel-Palestine for the promotion of Nakba awareness, contends that 1948 Nakba/1967 Naksa recognition, reparations, and repatriation are necessary for Arab-Jewish togetherness. The organization crucially frames the issue as ongoing. In other words, the Nakba has never ended, but rather persists in the form of Israeli occupation forced evacuation, home demolition, construction of settlements, arbitrary detention, killing, and other forms of violence. On August 9th, I joined Zochrot at the House of Solidarity in Tel Aviv-Jaffa for a meeting on these issues with the Moroccan Jewish co-founder of the Israeli Black Panthers, Reuven Abergel. At this event, where my Morocco and Israel-Palestine summer experiences merged, Jews for Palestinian justice congregated to help advance a shared future.

Another such event that I attended during my trip was a meeting of the Balad Party in the Old City of Jaffa. Balad: National Democratic Assembly, an Arab political party in Israel led by Palestinian historian Sami Abu Shehadeh, hosted him in conversation with Iranian-Israeli Jewish journalist Orly Noy and the director of Adalah, Hassan Jabareen. Adalah is the Haifa-based Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel and Balad, formerly part of the Arab Joint List, is the leading Knesset party for Palestinian liberation. However, as was made clear by the Balad leader at this event, the liberation of his people need not come at the expense of my people. In fact, Abu Shehadeh, with the endorsement of Noy (a rare Jewish voter for Balad) and Jabareen, presented a vision for mutual Arab-Jewish liberation on the path towards a shared future from the River to the Sea.



Alon Ben-Meir is an American expert on Middle East politics and affairs, specializing in peace negotiations between Israel and the Arab states. This article is republished in Israel Horizons with his permission.


  1. Stephen Russell December 21, 2023 at 5:32 pm - Reply

    Reuse tunnels for Temp housing alone for IDF & Gazans

  2. Glenn Ruga December 22, 2023 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    Excellent article and may peace prevail in Palestine with the cooperation of Jews and Palestinians united for a future without war and occupation. Ceasefire now!

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