A Prime Minister's Message to Gaza

A courageous Israeli leader would declare a unilateral cease-fire and launch an intra-Palestinian dialogue that could bring quiet to Gaza.

Dan Rabinowitz
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Palestinian members of the civil defence survey the rubble of a house which police said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip July 13, 2014.Credit: No Limit
Dan Rabinowitz

If Israel had a prime minister who was wise and courageous, that prime minister would get up in front of the global media and issue the following statement: “This is the seventh day of Operation Protective Edge, which was forced upon Israel when Hamas began firing rockets at our population centers.

"So far, Hamas has launched more than 1,000 rockets, about 10 of which reached their targets. People were wounded, most of them lightly; several residential buildings were destroyed and several cars were set alight. In response, Israel attacked more than 1,200 targets in the Gaza Strip. More than 150 people were killed in these attacks – most of them Hamas operatives, but also a small number of civilians, including a few women and children, which we regret. We have hit more than 60 rocket launchers so far, destroyed more than 100 headquarters and logistical centers, dozens of rocket storage sheds and many other terrorist infrastructures.”

Such a prime minister would continue as follows: “This morning, I ordered the army to cease attacking Gaza, unilaterally, from 12 noon today. We will continue operating the Iron Dome system and other systems to protect ourselves from Hamas’ rockets. We will also rely on the public, which will keep from harm by demonstrating levelheaded and responsible behavior, even if rockets penetrate the defense system here and there.

“I know that for many Israelis, such a unilateral decision involves an emotional price. The country’s citizens are accustomed to seeing the security forces strike with all their might at those who harm us, as we have done over the past seven days of fighting. Therefore, it will be difficult for some of them to accept a deliberate cessation of the attacks in Gaza, particularly when we clearly have the upper hand, and our ability to continue striking at Hamas is almost unlimited. But Israel’s citizens, who have shown such impressive resilience over the past few days, are wise and farseeing, and I am confident that they will understand why the logic and benefits of the cease-fire surpass the emotional price.

“I have decided to cease fire for two reasons. One has to do with worldwide public opinion: a cease-fire from our side, which not for a moment do I delude myself will be answered with a similar act from Hamas, will demonstrate Hamas’ murderous nature to the entire world, and its leaders’ tendency to use violence in every situation.

"What is in store for us over the next few days will be an exact copy of the first hours of this round: Hamas fires rockets and Israel acts with restraint. It is important that the world sees and understands this.

“The second and more important reason is the need to begin a historic intra-Palestinian dialogue that could provide the entire Palestinian people, and other Middle Eastern countries, with a lifeline. I would like to bring quiet to Gaza even before we win quiet within Israel, so as to allow Hamas’ leadership – which has been hiding in tunnels and bunkers all through these days – to come to the surface, look at the destruction around them, and enter into a dialogue with its public, both inside and outside Gaza. We saw such a dialogue in Lebanon in 2006, after we struck Hezbollah’s Dahieh quarter. This strike spurred the Lebanese people to hold the Shi’ite group to account, and this changed the military and political situation in all of Lebanon, including on its border with Israel.

“An intra-Palestinian dialogue that would begin now in Gaza would naturally deal with Hamas and the alternatives it has. Many Palestinians, who already realize that the violent path used by Hamas and other radical Islamic groups elsewhere in the Middle East and in Europe only keeps those who walk upon it from peace and prosperity, are making themselves heard.

“I know that many Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, are living in poverty. Gaza is a hard, crowded place that does not give its inhabitants hope for a better future, collectively or individually. I also know that for many young Palestinian people, Hamas and similar groups fire their imaginations, portraying themselves as the bringers of salvation and national pride. What Hamas’ leaders will see when they emerge from their bunkers will make clear to them that the path of violence leads only to bloodshed and devastation. They will realize that the path of radical and violent Islamism is a dangerous delusion that brings only suffering.

“An intra-Palestinian dialogue that is developed in Gaza can promote a peace agreement between the peoples. All segments of the Palestinian people must stand up to the zealots who have taken them hostage, and take back the leadership from a movement that has fallen victim to its own ideological madness, and that has brought disaster upon itself. It is true that in Gaza there is no formal democracy, and Hamas has built a totalitarian regime there. But the Arab nations have proven since 2011 that the voices of the silent majority can also have weight and that, under certain conditions, such voices can bring about political change.

“Such a move is important to the entire Palestinian people, within and outside Gaza. It is important to other countries in our region that are threatened now more than in the past by extremist movements. And it is important to many countries in Europe and outside it, which look with concern at how some of their young Muslim citizens are following after the empty promise that ‘Islam solves everything.’

“I cannot know in advance what the results will be of the intra-Palestinian debate that develops in the shadow of the unilateral calm that I have decided upon today. But I can say that if the Palestinian people takes its future into its own hands and makes clear to Hamas that the chaos it has brought is no longer acceptable, then Israel too will get on board to relieve the suffering of Gaza’s inhabitants. By working together with Egypt and other countries in the region, we can bring a post-Hamas future to the Gaza Strip, to the rest of the Palestinian people, to Israel and to the rest of the peoples of the region.”

Prof. Rabinowitz teaches in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University, and is the head of the Porter School for Environment Studies there.

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