Wars between powerful and sophisticated armies and weaker militias or terror
groups tend to begin in a similar way – surgical air strikes backed by excellent
intelligence, creating a very short-lived sense of omnipotence of the mighty.
They also tend to continue in similar ways – be it Israel in Lebanon or the
United States in Afghanistan – the weaker sides are motivated and able to
inflict harm on armies and civilian populations, turning the surgical attacks
into a very messy war.
Operation Pillar of Defense followed these
Ahmed Jabari well deserved his fate, orchestrating the missile
attacks on Israel’s southern population and turning Hamas into an organized
terror army in the name of God. The missile attacks on southern Israel and the
strengthening of Hamas, due to the stalemate in the peace process, gave our
government little choice but to act against it. Yet both sides in this conflict
have only tactical goals, and political ones, both lacking a strategic outlook
or plan to serve their peoples’ real interests.
Hamas, while a religious
movement popular among the poorer and traditional parts of the Palestinian
society, is a tragedy for Palestinians. It stands on ideology and practice
against everything that would ensure the Palestinian peoples’ place under the
sun. It is made up of fundamentalists without any respect whatsoever for human
rights and democracy, not to mention gender equality.
motivated to eliminate Israel and overtaken by their hatred, Hamas committed a
historical mistake by not using the 2005 Israeli total withdrawal to the 1967
lines and evacuation of all settlements from the Gaza Strip for peace and
Instead, Khaled Mashaal, Ismail Haniyeh, Ahmed Jabari
and others opted for terrorizing southern Israel on an ongoing basis, convincing
most Israelis to oppose a withdrawal from the West Bank, fearing a similar
reaction there. They severely damaged the Palestinian cause in the West,
weakening the perception of Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) as a Palestinian leader
and potential peace partner; and even worse, they offered the 1.2 million
Palestinians in Gaza only poverty and unemployment, turning Gaza into a
quasi-Iranian enclave in the core of our region.
While more Western and
stable, during the same period (since the withdrawal from Gaza) Israel committed
fundamental mistakes on the Palestinian issue, replacing a sound strategic
policy approach with a narrow, tactical, short-term view seen through the lens
of a gun barrel. The Palestinian conflict, of which Hamas is – to a large degree
– a product, is not about military superiority as we see it. It is a historical
struggle of two sides with legitimate claims to the same land which must be
shared between them, with many political, religious, cultural and economic
What Israel needs is a historical compromise rather than a
hysterical reaction: a two-state solution with true mutual recognition of two
national movements, a reasonable peace border, security arrangements and
economic cooperation. This demands, on both sides, real, courageous and
unpopular decisions. The Gaza campaign draws us further away from that necessary
historical and existential deal.
The cease-fire will halt violence,
probably for several months. The Palestinians in Gaza will be worse off than
before without international support except for the Islamist Arabs, in the
irresponsible hands of fanatic leadership, and enduring economic
Israel will perhaps enjoy a tactical achievement, some
short-lived calm for the South, and the prime minister will have gained in
election popularity; yet our public discourse will be limited to the military
deterrence of the biggest and best army in the region, against a mediocre
medium-size terror organization. Any necessary talk of historical compromise
will be sidelined to the irrelevant Left, while all others dance to Bibi’s tune
– something which did not escape the prime minister when he launched the
OUR ALL-IMPORTANT relationships with Egypt, Jordan and Turkey
will be damaged as well as our regional posture, in the wake of a new
Egypt-Turkey- Qatar-Hamas coalition, and yet after war there are always
alternatives and new opportunities. Our eyes have to be set on the West Bank,
not on Gaza. The West Bank cities have relatively developed economies, with a
number of succeeding private sector companies, a stock market, a vibrant civil
society, several universities, a more secular society as well as pragmatic
Our strategic choice should be to strengthen the West Bank
and the leading Fatah group. Instead, by defining Gaza and Hamas as the
strategic threat to a powerful Israel, we are also, through this operation,
strengthening Hamas in the eyes of the Palestinians and other Arabs whose
leaders have become pilgrims to Gaza City.
In the aftermath of the
military confrontation, we have to shift focus and priorities; from Gaza to the
West Bank, from Hamas to Fatah, from war to peacemaking.
Abu Mazen, who
is in not too splendid isolation – even in the Arab world – will turn at the end
of the month to the United Nations General Assembly to ask, and receive by an
enormous majority, a non-member state status based on all possible UN
resolutions, even the one regarding the creation of a Jewish and Arab state,
precisely 55 years after its original adoption.
Not much will come out of
it for the Palestinians – they will still be stateless and under occupation with
settlements and roadblocks. Palestinian public opinion will initially applaud,
but then will become disillusioned as the UN does not change realities in the
Middle East. Therefore Abu Mazen, like us, is barking up the wrong tree. What
can he do with the verbal support of about 135 states, from Micronesia to
Indonesia? He must move back from the east river to the Middle East, i.e. to
Israel, as it is only with us that he can forge the necessary historic
compromise of a two-state solution.
INDEED, IN the aftermath of the two
unilateral acts – Israel in Gaza and the Palestinians in New York – we must turn
to each other to truly resolve the problem.
And if we need help
internationally, as indeed we do, it’s not from the UN, but rather from the
In the beginning of December, Israel and the PA should work with the
administration of re-elected President Barack Obama on a roadmap for 2013
leading to real, strategic solutions for both sides.
can be based on the Peres-Abu Ala agreement from Rome 2002, which became the
basis of the American roadmap, and can be composed of the following elements:
Mutual recognition between the State of Israel and the (non-UN member) state of
Palestine, without defining the border at this point.
• An American
letter to the parties stating that it encourages immediate direct negotiations
between the two states, based on the Obama vision of 2011, i.e. with the border
based on the pre-1967 lines with mutually agreed land swaps.
strengthening of security and anti-terror cooperation while broadening
Palestinian security authority in Area B, aiming, with permanent status, to
dismantle all Palestinian militia and terror organizations.
sound economic cooperation between the two states, also enabling a democratic
institution-building process in Palestine and normalized relations between the
two states and between them and the region.
• A one-year (2013)
direct-negotiation period based on the Obama vision on all permanent-status
issues, followed by a three-year implementation period.
With the sounds
of cannons, fighter planes, missiles and sirens (even in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem)
people tend to lean on their Pavlovian national instincts and pride. This may be
good for the governments in Jerusalem and Gaza, but damaging for country and
It is therefore high time for us in Israel to understand that
military solutions to national conflicts are virtually impossible as national
wills can not be defeated. The solution to our legitimate national security
predicament, especially in the age of ballistic and terror warfare, is only of a
political nature and through historical compromise with the political movement
that represents the Palestinians – the PLO, headed by Abu Mazen.
alternative is a stronger Gaza, Hamas in the West Bank, more military operations
in shorter intervals, leading us ultimately to a bi-national state. In this way,
Operation Pillar of Defense, while in some ways understandable, will not in the
long run be a pillar of our national security.
The writer is president of
the Peres Center for Peace and served as Israel’s chief negotiator for the Oslo