A Plea to Israelis and Palestinians: When Will the Cycle End?
I have been writing about your conflict for more than three decades. Invariably, I find myself delving into the same themes time and again. The nature of the conflict remains the same. You co-exist, and short of self-inflicted catastrophe, you are destined to co-exist until the end of time. You must now choose to live in harmony and peace, or in self-consuming enmity and hate.
No Israeli or Palestinian child should ever die for a cause that defies reality and reason. Taking teens hostage and horrifically killing them in cold blood, or abducting a child and grisly burning him alive, defies your religious beliefs and the basic tenets of your humanity.
Like beasts, the militant madmen among you creep in the shadows for their prey, to satisfy their lust for revenge and retribution. They disgrace you as a people and a nation, while poisoning the next generations with hostility and disdain, robbing them of their future and destroying the little hope left to live in harmony and peace.
A majority of you Israelis and Palestinians are crying out for peace, yearning still for that elusive day when you can retire to bed without fear and face tomorrow excited about what lies ahead. Every day that exacts blood and torments so many is a day when your graves are dug ever deeper, burying innocent children and any hope for a better future.
The gap between you grows ever wider, feeding the vicious cycle of death and destruction. Instead of reaching out compassionately, you obliterate the last traces of empathy toward one another, knowing that there is no place to go but together.
You, the so-called leaders, are the culprits behind this miserable state of being. Immersed in blind ideology or misguided religious dogmas and possessed by a messianic mission, you incite your people and fan the flames of acrimony and violence.
Shame on you Naftali Bennett, you are a zealous madman. You want to annex much of the West Bank and openly preach the invasion of Gaza. You proclaim that war with Hamas is inevitable and “It’s preferable that we’re [the Israelis] the ones who initiate it.”
You are a menace to the people of Israel whom you presumably wish to protect. It is alright that hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians die as long as you continue to amass fortunes and enjoy the opulence that life can offer.
And what about you, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ misguided leader, you are a fanatic fool who refuses to see the light. You extolled the kidnapping of the three Israeli youth, you call for another Intifada and encourage “the escalation of the resistance,” only to watch thousands of Palestinians die as sacrificial lambs to satisfy your twisted ego and hollow religious convictions.
And Israel’s Deputy Defense Minister Danny Danon, you have long since lost your moral bearings; unabashedly you advocate collective punishment of the Palestinians, proudly announcing: “If terrorists find refuge among Palestinians, then Palestinians will pay the price.”
Khaled Meshal, Hamas’ brazen political leader, you encourage more abduction of Israelis and with venom you “congratulate” the abductors as if this is the recipe to be “[free] from the prisons of the occupation.” You invite more misery on so many innocent Palestinians, who simply want to live a normal life devoid of constant anguish and pain.
Prime Minister Netanyahu, you cannot hide behind your tempered reaction to the abduction of the three Israeli teenagers and your expressions of sympathy to the family of the young Palestinian boy who was beaten and set on fire. You are now reaping the fruits of your relentless expansionism and blind ideological bent.
You have created this untenable situation between you and the Palestinians and largely contributed to the impasse and the hopelessness of ever reaching a peace agreement.
This is your plight, Israelis and Palestinians alike; you are led by inept, self-centered leaders with no vision and no courage. Have you ever paused and asked the simple question: where do we go from here? None of you – Bennett, Haniyeh, Netanyahu, Meshal, and Abbas – know what will be the fate of Israel and Palestine in five or ten years should you continue to pursue your bankrupt policy.
You, Israelis and Palestinian leaders and people, must come to terms with the harsh reality you refuse to face. You are stuck; there is no escape and no future without the other.
You radical Palestinians who seek the destruction of Israel will do so at your peril. Israel is here to stay and will never die alone. And you Israeli zealots who conspire to thwart the Palestinians’ aspiration for a state of their own will irreparably erode Israel as a Jewish state. Israel will become a garrison state, isolated and loathed by the community of nations.
Paradoxically, Netanyahu and Abbas, you can still change the current perilous path. If you truly desire to achieve peace based on a two-state solution, then prove it by rising to the call of the hour and reverse the tragedies of recent days into a triumph over the evil of extremism.
This is the time when you must stand tall together and proclaim your unshakable commitment to realize peace now, in our time. You have the moral responsibility to make the sacrifice of innocent Israeli and Palestinian children whose lives were cut short the catalyst for peace and not the cause of more violence and death.
Netanyahu, you can no longer use the potential fall of your coalition government as an excuse for making gratuitous concessions to the Palestinians. Do not listen to the hawks and invade Gaza time and again.
Once the calm is restored, you must muster the courage, dissolve your government, and form a new coalition dedicated to the path of peace.
In spite of your past mistakes, you still possess the leadership qualities needed now to prevent the looming disaster. This could be your long career’s finest hour, or the hour of infamy and shame for failing to rise above the fray.
Abbas, you too must make the hard choice. Whereas your unity government is preferred for peace negotiations, you must demand that Hamas adhere to the rules of engagement and no longer permit Hamas to have it both ways.
You must insist that Hamas’s leaders forsake violence once and for all, or dump them to wallow in their own morass. They will pay dearly for betraying their fellow Palestinians in Gaza, who are despairing for a taste of freedom and a glimmer of hope.
You, Israelis and Palestinians of conscience, must now raise your voices and be heard loud and clear: enough is enough, no more bloodshed, no more waste of precious lives, no more tears and heartbroken mothers and fathers.
The time has come for you to strive for peace as the continuation of conflict will never yield a winner but mutual death and destruction. There is no glory, no heroism, no dignity and no martyrdom in death, when peace is within your grasp.
Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. [email protected]