This summer has been a mess. Our region is in turmoil. Reports of the atrocities of ISIS forces in Syria and Iraq are pouring in alongside photos of Gaza’s ruins further to the current round of violence between Israel and the Hamas. This isn’t a great neighborhood to be in. But this is where we Israelis are rooted. And the time has come for Israel to take charge of its own fate.
In Gaza, Hamas is caught between Abdel Fattah Al Sisi’s Muslim Brotherhood-hating Egypt and Israel: two powerful neighbors that are hostile towards it.
This, coupled with Gaza’s dire economic situation, and the threat of further deterioration, has Hamas with its back against the wall. What Israel may not have internalized is that when our neighbor is in a “lose-lose situation,” we stand to lose too.
The paradigm under which Israel and the United States have been working – to crush Hamas economically and wait for the citizens of Gaza to rebel and overthrow their leadership – has not reaped fruit for over a decade. Contrary to Israel’s assumptions, the poverty-stricken and emotionally broken citizens of Gaza who make up the vast majority struggling daily to feed their families, did not rise up against Hamas. This, despite the fact that the latter is a terrorist organization which cynically channeled cement ear-tagged for building Gaza’s schools and hospitals,to tunnels dug to destroy Israel. After Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense and now Protective Edge, it is safe to assume that Hamas is not leaving the neighborhood.
What Israel can and must do is to turn the current paradigm on its head. It must render Hamas politically impotent by forming a coalition with the moderate Arab world and by actively pursuing the involvement of international forces. The fragile indirect negotiations in Cairo need to be backed up by more than the conflicting parties and a biased mediator. This is the time to dust off the The Arab League Initiative; to bring in moderate Arab players with similar interests to us; and to catalyze upon our relations with Jordan, in addition to Egypt.
The international community, namely Germany, France and Britain, are said to have presented Israel with an initiative to rehabilitate the Gaza Strip, subject to an international supervision apparatus that will prevent the rearmament of Hamas and other terror groups in the Strip. These opportunities need to be ceased with both hands.
Most importantly – it is high-time to end the Israeli- Palestinian conflict with the Palestinian people’s legitimate elected leader, Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel’s policy to draw a separation between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – which has ultimately grounded the claim that peace is not possible because no one address unifies our Palestinian neighbor – needs to be revisited. Clearly, Palestinian unification can be an asset to Israel if its serves to constrain Hamas’s power and create more favorable conditions towards a two-state solution.
A month into Operation Protective Edge, the limits of hard power in general and of Israel’s vast military force in specific are apparent. Against the background of the anticipated UN-commissioned Schabas report – the mandate of which is almost too absurd to be considered seriously – Israel now needs to invest time and talent in the regional and international arenas, and in so doing to take the lead in determining what this neighborhood is going to look like.
The writer is a PhD candidate at the Tel Aviv University researching stigmatization of states in the international arena.