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Encountering Peace: Are you worthy of my vote?
By GERSHON BASKIN
19/11/2012
What is necessary for Israel to do to bring down the Hamas regime? The answer is quite simple – make peace with the Palestinian people through their legal representative – the PLO and its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas.
 
When this war ends, and it will end, the people of Israel will have to look back, as they look forward to voting on January 22, and decide if having a war every four years or so is really what they want for their future. It is undeniably a great feeling of solidarity and patriotism to watch our great war machine provide us with security. The wonderful technology that Israel has developed that can shoot rockets out of the sky is a genuine miracle.

We rally around the flag and our troops, former generals parade through the television stations and speak about how moral we are and how evil is our enemy.

Television journalists, military correspondents and political commentators share their wisdom on how deep to go, how hard to hit, how many troops should be sent in, can it end without a ground attack, should we bring down the Hamas regime, how much does the Egyptian president hate us, how much do we hate him, and his friend the Turk? It is all part and parcel of a country under attack going to war.

But soon it will be over, and while the news producers will want to spend more time analyzing the war, our real focus should be on who will bring us a better future.

Unless we elect leaders who intend to utilize the last war to prevent the next one, we will be electing leaders who intend to use the last war to prepare for the next one – which will probably take place during their term of office. Yes, we always need to be prepared for war, and I trust that the Israeli army will continue learning its own lessons from this war, studying every sortie, every piece of equipment, every order given and draw up the plans for the next time around. From the government and our leaders I expect something else.

I want to know what they will do to prevent the next war, not how they plan to fight it. The only leaders worthy of my vote are those who will tell me exactly how they plan to do that.

In order to prevent the next war we have to do something to change the regime in Gaza. That’s right – we do need a regime change in Gaza because it is impossible to make peace with Hamas as it is today. Regime change is possible. But it is not possible for Israel (it is possible from a military point of view; we can bring down the Hamas regime, kill most of its leaders, arrest the others and destroy their physical presence, but to do this Israel will have to reoccupy Gaza for a very long period of time). It is the residents of Gaza and the Palestinian people that will have to change their regime for it to be meaningful and lasting and provide the foundations on which we can build peace.

What is necessary for Israel to do to bring down the Hamas regime? The answer is quite simple – make peace with the Palestinian people through their legal representative – the PLO and its chairman, Mahmoud Abbas.

This war will probably end before November 29. On that day of great significance to the State of Israel and the Jewish people, when in 1947 the United Nations voted to establish a Jewish state, Jews around the world and in our land danced hora in the squares – free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, we are free at last (as Martin Luther King, Jr. once said). The Palestinian people will be seeking their day of liberation in the same international forum on the anniversary of that famous day.

They received the legitimacy at the same time that Israel did – the partition resolution was for the creation of two states in this land. The Palestinian people rejected it then, but now they have accepted it and will attain recognition of their statehood. Instead of getting about 50 percent of the land, they are settling for only 22%, and by token of the same resolution recognizing the Palestinian state, full legitimacy and legality will be granted to the Jewish state (as it was called in the resolution in 1947) on 78% of the Land. That Israel does not support this resolution is a complete anathema to any Zionist logic. This resolution is the most Zionist resolution ever brought to the General Assembly of the United Nations.

I expect the leaders that I vote for to immediately call for negotiations with the PLO on the basis of the only realistic plan to make peace with the Palestinians.

They need to put the last round of proposals on the table, the ones that Olmert discussed with Abbas, and then close the gaps rapidly. They need to focus on how the realization of that agreement will include unambiguous and verifiable mechanism to ensure implementation and compliance with agreements. The must focus on providing clear and defined plans to fulfill the promise of real peace through enabling real state-to-state and people-to-people cooperation that will build a new relationship between all of the people living on this small land.

A leader with vision will understand that the West Bank and Gaza are both part of that future Palestinian state. The peace treaty will make it clear that Gaza will only be part of the state when there is a regime there that supports the terms of the agreement. The treaty will also include the plan and the map for the physical Palestinian sovereign route that will connect their two territories – a bridge, or dedicated road, a tunnel, a sunken road or any combination of these. An intelligent leader with vision would include in their work plan the beginning of the construction of that 40-kilometer connecting route. They would bring the construction of the route up to one kilometer away from Gaza so that the people of Gaza would see the possibilities before them.

With a peace treaty in hand, the real possibility for freedom and liberation and the hard evidence of the reality that could exist when that last kilometer is completed, I have little doubt that the people of Gaza would either change their regime or change Hamas.

My vote will go to those leaders who present me a future of promise, a future of peace and understanding with our neighbors and not those who promise me a better war.

The writer is the co-chairman of IPCRI, the Israel Palestine Center for Research and Information, a columnist for
The Jerusalem Post and the initiator and negotiator of the secret back channel for the release of Gilad Schalit.
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