The end of the Israel-Hamas war will come. The ending depends on Israel and the Palestinians looking forward, not backward.

Given the October 7 slaughter, Israeli anger is understandable. Israel will destroy Hamas’s infrastructure and fighting capabilities, if not its hatred. Afterwards? Prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu approached the slippery slope last Monday when he said that Israel would maintain “the overall security responsibility” for Gaza indefinitely.

I get the emotional backdrop. In 2005, Israel withdrew from Gaza expecting Gazans to build a prosperous home. Instead, Hamas took over and continued vowing to kill Jews and destroy Israel.

On Wednesday, the Jerusalem Post cited an anonymous senior Israeli official: Israel doesn’t intend to “reoccupy” Gaza or control it for long. That’s better. But only a bit. 

Israeli political, military and intellectual leaders across the spectrum must converge to focus on a wiser approach to “the day after.” Israel will remain free to beef up its security. But involvement in Gaza will do little but continue the Middle East’s recurring and increasingly destructive version of the movie “Groundhog Day.”

The 2.5-State Solution offers a better choice. It requires international leadership and cooperation—no easy task—given the weakness of the corrupt and unpopular Palestinian Authority. Further, the PA does not want to step forward on the heels of an Israeli victory. 

The Arab states, spearheaded by Saudi Arabia and Qatar, and the West, led by the United States, must put up or shut up. This entails shared security for Israel and major economic assistance to Gaza, while coordinating with Israel the creation of a West Bank Palestinian state. 

Gaza should become a temporary trusteeship. Arab security forces should put boots on the ground alongside the PA to tamp down terrorists while financial aid flows to the people of Gaza.

The responsible international community must also isolate Iran’s efforts to promote the destruction of Israel through its proxies: Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah (Lebanon), the Yemeni Houthis, and Syrian armed forces and militias. 

I remain a staunch supporter of Israel. I have family there. I’ve visited three times and seen the country extensively. But history written in blood must lead to a post-war government in Jerusalem well versed in its lessons. 

Bibi’s grasp on power will soon conclude. A political center must rise. Pragmatism must outweigh further desire for vengeance. Shunning the far right’s ranting and violence, a new government must create a publicly acknowledged, viable path towards Palestinian statehood. The U.S. can then work towards the delayed agreement between Jerusalem and Riyadh. Hopefully, this will lead the international community to step up, acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy without equivocation and become part of the regional solution.

In five, 10 or 20 years, a flourishing Gaza, its people spurning terrorist aims to create “one Palestine from the river to the sea,” can integrate into the Palestinian state. In the short term, if Palestinians see real hope, another conflagration can be avoided. 

As David Remnick writes in this week’s (Nov. 13) New Yorker, “Any world in which Hamas and an increasingly reactionary Israeli leadership dictate the policy and the temper of the region is doomed to more injustice, confrontation, and death.”

Pursuing the 2.5-State Solution poses real challenges. But it beats yet another war—one in which nuclear weapons could produce a Zero-State Solution. 

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  1. RONALD EATON on November 10, 2023 at 3:52 pm

    You write that, “[The Israeli] government must create a publicly acknowledged, viable path towards Palestinian statehood.” Given the behavior of the Israeli state since the ’67 war and its conquest of Judea and Samaria, how is this to happen? Israel has permitted, approved, and enabled the growth of Jewish settlements in the area. The number is now somewhere around half a million. The government is now permitting—and apparently enabling— settler attacks on Palestinians in Judea and Samaria. The behavior of the settlers is beginning to look like vigilante ethnic cleansing. I remember when the first tiny hilltop settlements were created: the world was told that they were military outposts, not civilian. They soon became civilian encampments. What half-awake outsider or Palestinian civilian or leader would now believe any Israeli promises to permit a Palestinian state; moreover, minus the removal of Jewish settlements, where would it be created?
    After the ’67 war, Judea and Samaria could have become a model Palestinian community heading for some sort of statehood. The Israelis deliberately prevented that, to the point of fostering Hamas to keep the PA weak, corrupt, and unable to credibly negotiate for a two state solution.
    Can something be done? I believe so, but it would take a radical change of attitude on the part of people who care about Israel. Israel’s friends: Jews, Christian Zionists, and Western Gentiles who remember the Jewish contribution to our common civilization should unite to put pressure (if necessary, South African apartheid-style pressure) on Israel to change its ways. The settlements should be removed, root and branch; Palestinians should be allowed to freely move about in Judea and Samaria; Palestinians should be allowed to use all the roads and highways in Judea and Samaria; Palestinians should be able to build houses and structures without Israeli permission; and etc. The only exceptions to these rules should be for narrow and real military necessity to prevent attacks within pre ’67 Israel. These ideas, of course, are only the beginning; but a successful and thriving Judea and Samaria would be a great attraction to the people of Gaza.
    What I am suggesting will not, by itself, bring peace. But there will be no peace until Israel changes its behavior and treatment of the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria and Gaza.

    • David Perlstein on November 10, 2023 at 4:05 pm

      As it happens, Ron, that’s basically what I wrote. New Israeli thinking must be integrated into an international effort to provide security for Israel and the building blocks of a Palestinian state. Easy? No. A better option than the same-old same-old? For sure. So, rather than getting stuck looking backward—-like driving a car using the rear-view mirror—-let’s look forward to what can build a better future.

  2. David Newman on November 10, 2023 at 5:22 pm

    Ellen and I are winding up our Southeast Asian trip. During our time in Cambodia we met with landmine survivors, interviewed the photographer who took pictures of the prisoners of the Khmer Rouge after they were arrested and toured the infamous S-21 prison and killing fields in Phnom Penh. From those experiences and our conversations with our guides, drivers and other Cambodians, two insights emerged.

    One is the capacity of people driven by an absolutist ideology to do vast harm, in Cambodia’s case the death of two million people, one-fourth of the country’s population. The other is that recovering from intergenerational trauma takes a long time and deliberate effort.

    Cambodia today is different from when we visited in 2005; the people seem less traumatized and more ready to live normal lives. But the Khmer Rouge were ousted in 1979, and the civil war was finally ended in the 1990s. That’s nearly two generations, and healing Cambodia’s wounds didn’t involve conflicting territorial claims.

    Bringing peace to the Middle East is on another scale. There is trauma on both sides – the Naqba and the continued degradation of the circumstances of the Palestinians on one hand and the memories of the Holocaust, the history of antisemitism and multiple wars on the other. Your 2.5 state solution is the right path, but it will take more than diplomacy. It will take the political will to isolate and reject the absolutists on both sides. As long as either side is constrained by territorial claims based on readings on their ancient texts, peace will remain elusive.

    • David Perlstein on November 10, 2023 at 9:44 pm

      David, I agree that it will take political will. But something more: political balls.

  3. David Newman on November 10, 2023 at 9:48 pm

    Your mouth => God’s ear. Shabbat shalom.

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