A bad peace is better than a good war

A bad peace is better than a good war

By Gilly Harpaz, Haaretz

 

29.07.14
 
 
Israel lives in a permanent Catch-22: When there is violence there is nobody to talk to, and when there’s quiet there’s no reason to talk.
 
This past weekend Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ministers rejected the cease-fire initiative of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, but failed to counter it with a diplomatic proposal of their own. Apparently that's because they have none.
 
In such a situation, where Israel is willing at most to adopt the Egyptian initiative, which is not acceptable to Hamas – a continuation of the bloodshed is almost certain. And its intensity depends on whether Israel will continue to be dragged in until it actually occupies the Gaza Strip, or whether there will a temporary “humanitarian” cease-fire, after which the killing on both sides will resume.
 
Operation Protective Edge did not erupt in the wake of a rational decision resulting from prolonged discussions of the future of our relations with the Palestinians or with Hamas. It was meant to provide an operational solution to the circumstances in the wake of the kidnapping of the three yeshiva boys in the West Bank, Israel’s punishment of Hamas and the firing of missiles at the south of the country.
 
Since the start of the operation, Israel has been attempting to achieve tactical military gains, such as the demolition of the tunnels, without deciding on any strategic goal. And this is happening at a time when Hamas has clear, long-term diplomatic goals: a lifting of the blockade on the Strip, international legitimacy and maintenance of its political status. Although the Israeli cabinet is called the “diplomatic security cabinet,” in effect it is involved only in giving orders to the army.
 
Whether the present round of fighting ends with a cease-fire lasting another year or two, or whether Gaza will turn into Lebanon, with a prolonged low-intensity war – the relative quiet that will ensue will not lead to a serious public debate about promoting a long-term diplomatic solution with the Palestinians.
 
Just as we adapted ourselves in recent weeks to the winds of war, with the sad songs on the radio, the endless news broadcasts and the genuine or false sense of unity – in the same way, we will return to our routine relatively quickly. Within a short time we will put behind us the heart-wrenching pictures of the soldiers’ funerals, the sirens and the running to protected spaces. And we will once again deal with political corruption, the cost of housing and singer Ninet Tayeb’s pregnancy.
 
We live in a permanent Catch-22 situation: When there is violence there is nobody to talk to, and when there’s quiet there’s no reason to talk. And in another year, perhaps two, the quiet will once again be interrupted because in the absence of peace, there are occasional wars.
 
Moreover, although we will be told that we won, we already know that in wars there haven’t been any winners for a long time, and our defeat will be a dual one: both a precious loss of life on the part of soldiers and civilians, and a prolonged exacerbation of the conflict due to an intensification of the hatred, the frustration and the feeling among Palestinians that they have nothing more to lose.
 
The Palestinian ticking bomb can be neutralized only through a diplomatic solution, not a military one. Israel must try to promote Palestinian Authority control in Gaza, by means of the existing government that is supported by Fatah, and to exercise security coordination with it using the same format that exists today on the West Bank.
 
We should create a graduated mechanism that will accompany the opening of the ground and maritime crossings with coordinated activity that will also include a significant reduction of Hamas’ military capability. At the same time we should immediately begin negotiations with the Palestine Liberation Organization for a final status solution, with international involvement by the Americans or the Quartet, while recognizing the reconciliation government that Hamas supports despite the fact that it is not really a part of it. During the first stage we can discuss issues of security and borders, and after agreeing on them, we can begin debating the subject of Jerusalem and the refugees and other controversial issues.
 
The detailed solutions are known to everyone and have been proposed in the past in the context of the Geneva Initiative, the Arab League initiative and the Annapolis talks. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has proven by his persistent opposition to violence and his efforts to achieve a cease-fire that he is the best partner Israel will have. It’s true that nobody can promise us that it will be a perfect peace. But a bad peace is preferable to a good war.
 
The writer is the head of public relations for the Geneva Initiative.