Sha’aban al-Sayed, whose son Hisham is being held by Hamas, said that his son crossed a few times into the Gaza Strip and was always returned, until this last time.
Avera Mengistu is also apparently being held by Hamas.
Al-Sayed, however, did not join the Shaul, Goldin and Mengistu families in their tenacious public appeal to the Israeli government to have their sons returned home. Al-Sayed is much more tolerant, balanced and fair – and maybe even a bit naïve – in his trust of the government. In response to the justified reactions to Haneen Zoabi’s belligerent and provocative words at the Knesset plenum a couple weeks ago, I would like to make a proposition for Arab Knesset members: a public campaign to bring back the prisoners and missing persons from Gaza.
This will be a competition of sorts between the Arab MKs and the right-wing government they so abhor and enjoy attacking fiercely. The end goal is to bring about the return of the bodies of Shaul and Goldin, as well as the “prisoners” who crossed over the border on their own.
These same MKs say that dialogue is the best path to take and that we have a reasonable partner with whom we can negotiate. Since you claim that the Israeli government’s aggressive policy against the Palestinian people is what is preventing us from achieving peace, this is the perfect opportunity for you to prove once and for all that there’s another way.
So put your money where your mouth is and prove to us that your alternative is at least effective and beneficial, and not just annoying and whiny. How about you speak with Hamas, which according to your description is part and parcel of the proud Palestinian people. It’s time you showed us with your actions, instead of just making violent harangues.
Why don’t you call up Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, who is moonlighting as an imam and waiting to see whether Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman will keep his promise and have him eliminated? Or you could call Khaled Mashaal in Qatar, or Saleh Aruri who directed Hamas’s terrorist cell in Turkey, or Muhammad Deif who’s probably dawdling in a tunnel underneath Gaza, and ask them to release the two Israelis, the Ethiopian and the Beduin, for humanitarian and humane reasons and let them leave Gaza and come back to Israel.
You can tell the Hamas leaders that in essence we’re not really talking about the bodies of two IDF soldiers, or about two armed men, but about two civilians who were confused and unwell (as al-Sayed described his son) and who didn’t understand the danger of walking across the fence, and who certainly were not there to collect information or harm anyone.
Explain to them that such a move would show Israelis that their neighbors on the other side of the border are serious and that despite our religious, national and cultural dispute, it will not cross the red line. Explain to them that this will prove to the Israeli public that you are no less moral and humane than the Israelis, who view you as a cruel and racist enemy.
Persuade them that this would be a gracious gesture that would have an immediate benefit in the political and public spheres. Explain to them that after such a step, it would be much easier to push the Israelis to improve the standard of living in Gaza.
They’d agree to more goods being brought in from Turkey and Israel on a daily basis.
They’d allow you to build a power plant that could provide electricity for all of the Gaza Strip’s residents, who now suffer from lengthy power outages. You could even build a desalination plant, which might come in handy in two or three years when Gaza runs out of potable water due to over-extraction and the salinization of the coastal aquifer, which is a result of the digging of tunnels using sea water carried out by your neighbor to the south, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, in an effort to combat the tunnel phenomenon.
MK Zoabi, you could recruit MK Ayman Odeh – the leader of your party – who prefers to approach his people with a Palestinian delegation instead of through the Israeli parliament of which he is a member.
Or have a talk with Basel Ghattas, appeal to the compassionate side of Dr. Ahmed Tibi (after you get over the anger you feel toward him following his harsh and critical words). Speak with all of these people and explain to them that this is a test.
Ask them if the Arab MKs are functioning as an effective bridge for the Israeli Left, one that could lead to a solution between considerate neighbors in the Middle East.
Work as a team and explain to them that this would be the most effective form of protest against the Netanyahu administration, which currently considers Hamas the ugly representative of the Arabs and a violent branch of the Muslim Brotherhood that Israel would never even consider the possibility of offering self-rule and stability to so as not to encourage an Islamic political uprising, Arab Spring, or attempt to create a Muslim revolution in the Middle East.
Prove to us that Hamas isn’t really just a lite version of Islamic State that is cruel to the vulnerable segments of the Israeli and Arab societies, such as the two Israeli prisoners currently being held prisoner. Preempt the Israeli government and embarrass Netanyahu, the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), the media which ignores your causes, and the right-wing and skeptical public. Show us and yourselves that you are capable of taking action, not just of complaining and criticizing. If it’s helpful, I can forward you phone numbers and extensions.
Azmi Bishara, a Hezbollah supporter who used to be an MK from Balad, can help you, and I’m sure the Shin Bet can supply you with all the phone numbers you need of the Hamas gentlemen down in Gaza.
If you want, you could even take this challenge one step further. According to al-Sayed, his son crossed over into Gaza a few times. He doesn’t know how he accomplished this – it’s a mystery – but he didn’t go through a tunnel, he didn’t swim over nor fly over. He didn’t even get there on a violent “peace” flotilla filled with terrorists from Turkey.
MK Zoabi, maybe you should follow calls by heated Likud and senior Israeli politicians and go yourself to Gaza. Cross over the border and demand to speak with the leaders there. See how respectfully they’ll treat an Israeli MK like yourself, an opinionated and independent woman living in freedom and equality.
Explain to them that it would be a political and diplomatic victory over Israel if you were to return through Kerem Shalom crossing point with the two prisoners. The IDF would be forced to open the gates and welcome you respectfully with the two living Israeli prisoners. They might even conduct a small ceremony, and the media would have a field day. Netanyahu would be forced to publicly thank you and admit that he failed where you succeeded.
You could even organize a rescue flotilla in protest of the blockade on Gaza, and when you get there you could explain that you only came to chaperone the two boys home. Hisham will be able to speak in Arabic about the miraculous rescue and Avera will speak in Hebrew – it will be revolutionary.
This is the competition: Zoabi and Tibi versus Yvette and Bibi.
Who will bring back the boys and who will show us once again what the true nature of our neighbors to the south is like? I challenge you to beat us. This is why the national Zionist movement has beaten the Arab national movement at every turn. Our people are busy getting things done, not just blowing hot air. We’ve rolled up our sleeves and are busy initiating projects and dreaming.
Don’t just break the silence, put an end to the paralysis that has afflicted the Arab politicians and show us what you’re really made of.
The author is the diplomatic correspondent for Channel 2 News.
Translated by Hannah Hochner