BY ED FELIEN
Most Palestinians want peace.
Most Israelis want peace.
But Hamas and right-wing Israeli politicians know that their ticket to success is to sow the seeds of fear and loathing. If they can convince their people that there is a tiger at the gates that wants to devour them, then they can convince their audience that they are the only hope for salvation.
The Hamas Charter, authored by Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1988, says, “There is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are a waste of time and a farce. … The Islamic Resistance Movement maintains that the land of Palestine is Waqf land given as endowment for all generations of Muslims until the Day of Resurrection.”
Israeli claims to the land go back 2,500 years when, according to scripture, the Jews were released from captivity in Babylon by Cyrus the Great and given money to finance an expedition back to Israel. They were commanded by God to exterminate “anything that breathes.” “Completely destroy them – the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites – as the Lord your God has commanded you.” Deuteronomy 20 says: “Put to the sword all the men … As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else … you may take these as plunder for yourselves.” Some people believe these words came from God. Other people believe these are instructions from Cyrus the Great to clear the area for Persian colonization.
Both sides, then, Hamas and Israeli right-wing politicians, believe the land was given to them by God, and they have a right and a responsibility to destroy anyone who disagrees with them.
The horror of the Oct. 7 Hamas slaughter of innocents was meant to shock the world: “See, this is what it is like.”
Hamas knew Israel would retaliate. Israeli retaliation for Hamas terrorist acts has historically been just under ten to one. For every Israeli killed in a terrorist attack, between six and eight Palestinians have been killed. So far in the Gaza war, 1,400 Israelis have been killed (some, it now appears, by friendly fire from Israeli helicopters) and, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, 15,000 Palestinian have been killed.
“See, I told you, this is what it is like.”
And the world is horrified once again. Noam Chomsky says, “This is not war. It’s murder.” Hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world demonstrated against the Israeli bombing.
What does this mean for the future?
Does it mean Iran, which has financed the Hamas leadership retreat in Doha, Qatar, will get a permanent postponement of the Saudi/Israel peace agreement?
Does it mean the North African Muslim countries will be strong enough to pressure Egypt to accept Palestinian refugees?
Does it mean world pressure will be strong enough to shame the Arab/Islamic world to declare jihad against Israel?
What will happen?
How did it come to this?
Israeli intelligence knew Hamas’s plan a year in advance. They knew about the dress rehearsal months ago. They just didn’t believe Hamas was capable of pulling it off—the classic blunder of underestimating the enemy.
Netanyahu has been playing poker with Hamas, and he has always thought that he was the one shuffling and dealing the cards.
Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian on Oct. 20, “Prime minister for most of the last 15 years, Netanyahu has been an enabler of Hamas, building up the organisation, letting it rule Gaza unhindered – save for brief, periodic military operations against it – and allowing funds from its Gulf patrons to keep it flush. Netanyahu liked the idea of the Palestinians as a house divided – Fatah in the West Bank, Hamas in Gaza – because it allowed him to insist that there was no Palestinian partner he could do business with. That meant no peace process, no prospect of a Palestinian state, and no demand for Israeli territorial concessions.”
Although they will not openly criticize the U.S. support for a two-state solution, the Israeli government will ultimately point to “facts on the ground” (the containment of Gaza and the continued expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank) as impediments to a Palestinian state.
What’s the solution?
A three-state solution? Let Gaza become a sovereign country along with Israel and the West Bank?
A two-state solution, with boundaries according to the 1967 partition agreement? Israel would point to “facts on the ground” and drag out negotiations.
A one-state solution, where Israelis and Palestinians enjoy equal rights?
Of course, the one-state solution would be ideal, where the only argument would be about what to call it: Israel? Palestine? Canaan? Levant?
But one state seems an impossible dream given current realities.
Perhaps the three-state, two-state and one-state solutions should be seen as evolutionary stages taking three generations. The first stage would be to recognize the legitimate autonomy of Gaza and the West Bank and give them the legitimacy of a nation-states. Negotiations would begin on the recovery of Palestinian lands and property. There must be eventual agreement on the rights of Palestinian refugees to return. After 30 years, if things have been peaceful and Palestinians have recovered enough land, discussions could begin about connecting Gaza with the West Bank. Then, after another 30 years, if things are still peaceful, discussions could begin about establishing a single state.
Then we could all sing, “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” and “From the river to the sea, Israel will be free.”
And then we could all be free of the fear of someone hating you and wishing you were dead.