Encountering Peace: Message to Hamas, Israel leaders
If Hamas would stop smuggling weapons and focus on building rather than destroying we could speak about a port in Gaza, and reopening the passage to the West Bank.
Trails of smoke from Gazan rockets fired at Israel Photo: Amir Cohen / Reuters
There is a petition that went online on Sunday, put out by an organization
called “Other Voice.” They wrote: “To: Israeli government, Hamas and Palestinian
leaders, USA government, European leaders. We, Israeli civilians living along
the border with Gaza, civilians in Gaza and citizens from all around the world
call to end the violence! Every few weeks violence across the Gaza/Israel border
surges. Israel air raids in Gaza kill and injure innocent civilians, and rockets
fired from Gaza into civilian populations in Israel, cause trauma, chaos and
physical harm. We have lived through this long enough, and will no longer
sit by quietly. We are people on both sides of the border who deserve the
right to live normal lives. That’s it! We call upon the Israeli and Hamas
governments to end this violence once and for all. Find the ways to sit down and
talk, end the attacks on Israelis and Palestinians, and end the siege on Gaza,
and stop playing with our lives.”
Every time over the past years that
there is a flare-up along the Israel-Gaza border I get called by officials on
both sides, and I also initiate my own calls to officials on both sides
appealing for reason and a return to calm. I don’t want anyone to be killed on
either side and I want the feeling of terror that millions of people on both
sides of the border feel, too frequently in the past month, to come to an
I would like to share with you a small sample of the messages I have
been delivering to some Hamas leaders (unnamed).
Sunday of this week: It
is the worst political move possible to turn the security situation regarding
Israel and Gaza into an elections issue. That is what is happening. I know there
are four people killed in Gaza. The Israeli response is that your side started
with the tunnel bomb and four soldiers were seriously wounded. They say that if
Hamas is the government it must be responsible for making sure that no one puts
bombs along the border or shoots rockets into Israel.
You get quiet for
quiet. You know very well, these rockets do nothing to help the Palestinian
people – they only do more damage to your people and get people killed. Doesn’t
Hamas want to work to improve the lives of your people? Where are smart people
in Hamas? Why don’t they raise their voice? Do you really think that Israel will
continue to tolerate these rocket attacks? The harsh Israeli response will be
Cast Lead II, and even worse. There are much better alternatives for both
We are not talking about making peace with Israel; that is too
much for Hamas to accept, but we could have a real hudna. That takes political
leadership. Do you have it on your side?
October 28, 2012:
I had a
conversation with an important official on the Israeli side. It is so clear to
me that the total lack of trust and communication between the sides is a major
contributing factor to the breakdown of cease-fire understandings.
Israeli action yesterday with tanks and troops along the border was not an
attack against Gaza but only meant to clear the area along the fence so that
bombs cannot be placed there by fighters from your side. There was no aggressive
intent from Israel’s point of view.
The Israeli side says that if Hamas
does not want an aggressive intent from Israel they should make sure that no
bombs are placed along the fence to attack Israeli soldiers who patrol the
Israeli side of the fence and have no intention to attack beyond that.
know that Hamas has a completely different view of the events and saw the
Israeli action along the fence as Israeli aggression. This goes back to what we
proposed once in the past – Hamas should decide and announce that the border
area, the buffer zone, is a closed military zone under the sole authority of the
Hamas security. This is a sovereign act of the sovereign government in Gaza and
aimed at ensuring the security of Gaza.
If Hamas security ensures that
there will not be attacks against Israel from the border, along the fence or in
any area controlled by the Hamas security, the border will remain quiet and we
will not risk the possibility of explosions and escalation.
We need the
mechanism in place so that when and if Israel or Hamas is doing something along
the border fence area, it is not interpreted by the other side as an act of
aggression (unless it is an act of aggression). This is the lowest level of
coordination that should be put in place to save human lives.
May 2, 2012
Don’t you think that it is time for the energy of your movement to be placed in
something positive? Shouldn’t your leaders be investing in your people, in
education, in development, culture, industry? Don’t you want to give your
children the kind of life that you never had? Israel does not seek to destroy
Hamas or the Palestinian people. Israel does not want another war in Gaza and
does not want to kill any people there, or in the West Bank.
We need for
people like yourself to stand up and begin speaking a new kind of language to
your people. It is time to put the war behind us, to end trying to kill each
other, to end the armed struggle finally. Hamas could invest its resources in
education and development and not in weapons and rockets.
You know that
there is no chance to destroy Israel and every time there is a new round of
violence it is your people which pay the heaviest price.
I know that
quiet will be answered with quiet. A cease-fire which is a real one, not just a
resting period between rounds of violence, will enable the economic development
of Gaza, the opening of Gaza to the West Bank and to the world.
would stop smuggling weapons and focus on building rather than destroying we
could speak about a port in Gaza, and reopening the passage to the West Bank,
infrastructure projects, building schools, etc. Enough hate language and
culture. It is time to focus inwards, to what your people need and
I know that there are serious leaders in Israel who would
respond positively to positive changes in Hamas. This is not just a naïve dream.
This is all possible.
This can happen sooner than you believe. There is
no need for big speeches and ceremonies. It is enough to begin to change
directions and for the Hamas leaders to speak about development, economy,
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.