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 390 (photo credit: Amir Cohen / Reuters)
Trails of smoke from Gazan rockets 390
(photo credit: 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 end.
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 peoples.
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.
The 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.
I 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.
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, infrastructure projects, building schools, etc. Enough hate language and culture. It is time to focus inwards, to what your people need and deserve.
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, education, etc.
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.