For those advocating a Two-State solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a major problem to finding a way forward has been the monster in the room. That monster is Hamas.
At the end of every painstaking set of negotiations no Palestinian leader, neither Arafat nor Abbas could bring themselves to sign an agreement. They were scared of their constituents, and the reason for their fear was the violent supporters of Hamas and its fellow bully, Islamic Jihad. There is an expression in this neck of the woods that the moment Abbas signs a peace agreement with Israel he’s a dead man. Removing that threat introduces hope of a way forward.
Despite officially designating Hamas as a terrorist organization, the international community has wasted too much time trying to foster a unity between Fatah and Hamas, hoping such a move would kosher this murderous group. They urged reconciliation between the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority and Hamas on the mistaken assumption that by uniting both parties this would improve the prospects of a peace process with Israel. The recent outburst of incessant and insane Hamas rocket fire from Gaza against civilian areas in Israel has proven, beyond anyone’s doubt, how wrong-headed this assumption was.
No peace is possible while Hamas is in the room. It’s time to reassess the strategy.
Nobody can be in any further doubt that Hamas is the main obstacle to peace. The threat of Hamas prevents any possible progress to a Two-State solution, or any solution. Removing Hamas would give confidence to any pragmatic Palestinian leader genuinely concerned for the future of his people to live in peace and prosperity.
Uniquely, there is a moment, a golden opportunity, to achieve that goal if the international community would back the necessary steps to achieve peace. The path will be dangerous and treacherous but, perhaps for the first time in decades, there is real hope for people of courage and commitment.
So what are the steps necessary to reach the goal of peace and reconciliation for Israel and the Palestinians?
Today, we have an unrepentant and violent Hamas determined, sooner or later, to cripple and destroy Israel. We have Israel, smarting from a month of rocket bombardment, itching to eradicate this terror threat. We have an international community that, as stated earlier, has officially called Hamas a terrorist organization. We have Egypt that hates Hamas as much as Israel does. And we have a Palestinian Authority too scared to reach a final settlement with Israel that would benefit their people because of Hamas. The combination of all these factors point the way forward.
You need a military solution to achieve a diplomatic solution.
Amazingly, after living under the constant trauma of one thousand three hundred rockets, the Israeli people are telling their government, “We can take it. Finish the job. Get rid of Hamas!” The international community should declare terrorist Hamas outside the law, allow Israel to do what it takes to remove the influence of Hamas from the Gaza Strip by destroying its arsenal of deadly weapons, removing its operatives, and imprisoning its leaders. Once this has been achieved, Israel should agree to step aside and allow the international community, with the aid of NATO, to permit the Palestinian Authority to assert new law and order in a demilitarized Gaza Strip.
Israel and Egypt will agree to lift the blockade of Gaza and allow the free flow of goods and financing into the area.
When order has been restored, the Palestinian Authority should hold elections in all the territory under their control with the stipulation that Hamas is outside the law and banned from participating. Following these elections fresh talks can begin with Israel for a permanent solution to a Two-State solution.
Based on what Israel and the Palestinians have just gone through, and with the added stimulus of hope outlined in this plan, it is highly likely that both sides will have the resolve to put their differences aside and conclude a deal. Israel has repeatedly shown willingness to compromise. It is expected that, having regained the Gaza Strip, a newly elected, internationally sanctioned, Palestinian Authority will be sufficiently amenable to recognize, and live in peace alongside, the Jewish State of Israel.
The people of Israel are ready to do the dangerous and dirty work required to drain the terror swamp of Gaza and create the conditions for peace. It is up to the international community to find the same courage and commitment to back this plan and introduce a new diplomatic solution to a conflict that has gone on for far too long.
Barry Shaw is the author of ‘Israel Reclaiming the Narrative.’ www.israelnarrative.com He is also the special consultant on delegitimization issues to the Strategic Dialogue Center at Netanya Academic College, Israel.