A Palestinian looks out from the remains of his house in Beit Hanun, a town in the northern Gaza Strip..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Dozens of Israeli protesters gathered in front of the Prime Minister’s Residence in Jerusalem Monday evening to demand that the government lift the Gaza blockade and initiate dialogue to ensure a peaceful two-state solution.
Participants of the demonstration, organized by Other Voice – an organization representing southern communities besieged by Hamas rockets – said that dialogue, even with Hamas, is the only means of ending the conflict.
“We need a political solution by talking to Hamas and reaching a long-lasting agreement to lift the siege,” said Dafne Banai, of Tel Aviv.
“Unless the siege is lifted and the prison of Gaza is opened, there will be another round [of rockets] and another, and I feel that the next one will be much faster than we expect, because their anger and frustration is much greater now.”
Roni Keidar, of Netiv Ha’asara near Gaza, said her home was bombed three times during Operation Protective Edge, adding that war has proven to be an ineffective means of reaching peace.
“We’re saying that violence is not getting us anywhere, and the only way is to start a serious dialogue with whoever wants to talk peace – whoever really means two peoples living side by side with dignity and respect, and not one instead of the other,” she said.
Asked how the government can negotiate with a sworn enemy whose charter calls for the destruction of Israel and death of Jews, Keider contended that indirect negotiations are already taking place with the terrorist organization.
Moreover, she said that she believes that Hamas does not truly believe that Israel is “going anywhere.”
“I’m ready to say quite definitely that Hamas doesn’t believe for one second that they can destroy Israel,” she said.
“It’s very easy to say words like this, but in actual fact I don’t buy it. We know how to find out who shoots and organizes violence, so we’re also clever enough to find those who will talk. They are there.”
Keider claimed to have numerous “moderate” Gazan contacts who fully recognize Israel, and only ask the same in return.
“I’m connected to many people in Gaza, and they say, ‘We know you are here, and will always be here’; but they want us to remember that they are there, too, and aren’t going anywhere,” she said.
With respect to the danger of lifting the Gaza blockade, Keider contended that keeping it in place did little to prevent war and the smuggling of rockets.
“Aren’t we having more attacks now?” she asked. “And what do people do when they have nothing to lose – when they are locked out? This is what they do.”
While Keider conceded there are risks to lifting the blockade, she said keeping it in place has proven to be futile and has only engendered more hostility.
“There are risks, but there are risks now as well, and I think that the blockade gives Hamas ground to strengthen their cause and do what they like,” she said. “They got a ton of weapons before. When people are desperate, they find a way. But if they’re given an outlet to life, they’ll have something more to live fore than destroying Israel.”
Dan Shika, of One Voice – an organization that is separate from Other Voice but, like it, also supports a twostate solution – echoed the demonstration’s theme of peace through dialogue, but said it is unrealistic to negotiate with Hamas.
“We support negotiations with a moderate and legitimate side, and I don’t think anyone would say Hamas is a moderate side,” he said. “We need to tell people in Gaza to raise their voices.”
To that end, Shika said One Voice works in coordination with One Voice Palestine, which he described as a peaceful “silent majority” of Palestinians, with offices in Ramallah and Gaza.
“We represent the Israeli side and they represent the Palestinian side, so we use our words to change Israeli hearts, and they use their words to change Palestinian hearts. We have the same goal,” he said.
Elonit Green, also of One Voice, emphasized that before hearts are changed, Israel must first end its siege.
“We think that we need to end the siege because this is what’s preventing us from moving forward,” said Green. “And the way is through negotiations for both sides.”