Opinion

Diplomatic Alternatives First

Israeli soldiers stand guard on the Gaza border fence, July 26, 2019.
\ Eliyahu Hershkovitz

This is written in reply to “You are the next bereaved parents” (Haaretz, July 28, in Hebrew), the heartbreaking article by Avi Yaakobi, whose son Gilad was killed in Operation Protective Edge in Gaza in 2014.

After that terrible operation, in which Gilad was killed, the Women Wage Peace movement was founded. As mothers, sisters, wives, grandmothers and concerned citizens we knew that repeated rounds of fighting are not a solution. We knew that we have an obligation to demand that the decision makers promote a diplomatic agreement that would bring us closer to the quiet and security that we deserve, and that is in the interest of all of us, all parts of the nation. The movement now numbers over 43,000 women and men from all over the country, from a variety of communities and with different political opinions, and it is working tirelessly to promote a diplomatic agreement.

About two years ago, when the state comptroller’s report on Operation Protective Edge was published, we read it and were horrified. The report said, among other things, that “the out-of-hand rejection of alternatives in the diplomatic realm, without their being presented to the cabinet, prevented the cabinet members from considering these alternatives and discussing their chances and their risks.” In other words, we embarked on this battle, this confrontation that was in the making before our eyes for five years, without first considering whether it was possible to do something else. How can we ignore such conclusions?

Since then, the war of attrition in the south hasn’t stopped. How could it be that the fragile periods of normalcy between the rounds of combat are not exploited for the seeking of long-term solutions? How could it be that this issue does not lead the agenda of the parties running in the election? How could it be that the cabinet ministers are not sitting day and night to find solutions?

We did not accept the situation and started to investigate in depth to understand what can be done. We were assisted by dozens of experts who are active in the areas of security and diplomacy, and we realized that for many years there have been no strategic discussions, and that no orderly staff work is being done to find and advance diplomatic solutions. We realized that to force the decision makers to act with the necessary responsibility on such life-and-death matters, we had to initiate a legislative move that would require elected officials to do their job responsibly and comprehensively. We must demand a norm of responsibility for human life and ensure that it is observed. For that purpose we must exploit all the civil power in our hands.

Thus, Women Wage Peace is now promoting a draft bill: “Diplomatic Alternatives First.” The bill is designed to require decision makers to allocate time, attention and manpower to examine and develop diplomatic alternatives, in ordinary times and in times of emergency. There is an unwritten contract between the state and its citizens: We will enlist and report to fight when called to do so, but only on condition that we know the decision makers are leaving no stone unturned to ascertain that these wars really are necessary. The study we conducted taught us that this contract has been violated for years.

The purpose of the “Diplomatic Alternatives First” bill is to restore our sense of the justice of our path and to ensure that the state is keeping its part of the contract between it and its citizens. Together, with broad civilian support, we will try to get the law passed in the next Knesset.

For five years we have been in the Knesset’s corridors and in the streets because we believe in our civic duty to act. Now, prior to the election, we will embark on the “Journey of Hope of Women Wage Peace” to move the diplomatic issue to a high place on the agenda.

In the last week of August we will travel the country from north to south, because we are not giving up on peace and security. Nor are we giving up on the south, on our voice or on the “Diplomatic Alternatives First” law. And we are not giving up hope.

Dr. Yael Admi and attorney Tami Yakira are members of Women Wage Peace.