The current devastating round of Gaza-Israel fighting shows no signs of ending, with both Israel and Hamas apparently viewing the conflict in increasingly zero-sum terms. While there have been fitful attempts at short-term humanitarian “pauses” in the fighting, it is clear that now, more than ever, Israelis and Palestinians alike urgently need outside help to find an off-ramp from the destruction, fear, and anger that has taken over their lives. Secretary of State Kerry and President Obama understand this, which is why they have been working to achieve a ceasefire. In doing so, they are acting as true friends of Israel and its citizens.
Americans for Peace Now (APN) today repeated its call for an immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel.
APN condemned the criticism coming from senior Israeli officials and Knesset members targeting Secretary of State
Kerry and President Obama for their efforts to find a way to end the fighting. Israelis and Palestinians
alike urgently need an off-ramp from the destruction, fear, and anger that has taken over their lives.
Secretary Kerry and President Obama deserve credit, not scorn, for acting as true friends of Israel by trying to find such an off-ramp. A mutually-agreed ceasefire will, by definition, have to deliver something to both sides. Even if some concerns about a ceasefire proposal have merit, publicly suggesting that the Obama Administration has “betrayed” Israel by seeking to craft a ceasefire proposal that takes this fact into account are contemptible, dishonest, and do not serve Israel’s best interests.
APN urges Secretary Kerry and President Obama, as true friends of Israel, to rise above the lazy and often politically-motivated chorus of attacks coming from both inside and outside of Israel. We urge them to continue to work with the parties and partners in the international community both to expedite an end to the immediate crisis and to pave a clear road back to a diplomatic process that can, once and for all, address the causes that are at the root not only of the current round of violence, but of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
APN strongly supports President Obama's approach toward a ceasefire agreement, as the President communicated to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu on July 27. According to the White House, in their telephone conversation, "the President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority. The President stressed the U.S. view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza."
For those who despair of a way forward after close to two months of escalating violence and tensions – in the West Bank, in East Jerusalem, in Gaza, and inside Israel – APN urges them to view the current crisis as an opportunity to achieve valuable clarity regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
- There is no stable status quo possible in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Absent a clear political horizon and credible effort to reach it, the situation on the ground will always get worse. It is now clear that periods of apparent “quiet” mask growing extremism and desperation on both sides, and have only paved the way for escalating paroxysms of violence. The repeated cycle – the “mowing the lawn” approach embraced in Israel, and the apparent “we will force them to deal with us” approach of Hamas – is a disastrous, self-defeating strategy for both sides.
- With this latest round of fighting, Palestinians are seeing, once again, that violence and terrorism will not defeat Israel and cannot improve their lives or deliver an end to occupation and statehood. What it can do is sow fear and anger, including among Israelis who are sympathetic to their cause, and provoke Israel into using its superior military might, to devastating effect.
- Israelis have seen, once again, that military power cannot bring about the capitulation of the Palestinian people or force them to abandon their aspirations for freedom and self-determination in a state of their own. Sophisticated missile defense can insulate Israel from some immediate dangers, but Israelis running to bomb shelters know that the suggestion that Israel can live in a state of perpetual conflict, secure under an “iron dome,” is a fantasy.
- Military flare-ups such as the current one are not the cause of Israeli-Palestinian tensions; they are a symptom of an underlying conflict. While some may seek to depict them as evidence that the conflict is a zero-sum game, the truth is that this is a political conflict that is still amenable to a political solution.
- The Israeli-Palestinian conflict can and must be solved in a peace agreement that addresses the core needs of both sides, including with respect to security, sovereignty, and national narratives. It is imperative today to end the fighting and pave a clear road back to a diplomatic process that can, once and for all, address the causes that are at the root not only of the current round of violence, but of the entire Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
- Failing serious re-engagement to achieve such a solution, both sides are today seeing what the future looks like for Israelis and Palestinians alike. It is a future defined by constant and escalating conflict. This conflict will increasingly be across not only Israeli-Palestine divides –in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem, but also within Israeli society, where growing tribalism, intolerance, and racism are degrading Israeli democracy, civility, and security.
- Failing a return to a political process and a good faith commitment to a two-state solution, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will continue to play out in ever-more ugly ways in the international arena. While much of the world is sympathetic to Israel’s right to self-defense, Israel’s refusal to deal with the core issues of the conflict – and the continued expansion and deepening of the occupation – will mean increasing vilification and isolation of Israel for its policies and actions. While much of the world is sympathetic to the Palestinians’ plight under occupation and their political aspirations for statehood, their cause will increasingly be tainted and discredited as it is exploited by those with extremist, anti-Semitic agendas. Along the way, innocents on both sides – Israeli and Palestinian alike – will bear the costs.
- The current crisis can lead easily to a hardening of views on all sides, and to the adopting of zero-sum positions. Such a hardening will be welcomed by extremists on both sides who have long opposed a political solution and a peace agreement to end the conflict. Both peoples, and their leaders, must resist this urge to give in to hopelessness, anger and hate. The current conflict underscores the futility and disastrousness of zero-sum agendas. It also highlights what has always been the only realistic, viable, solution to the core issues in this conflict: a negotiated two-state outcome. A realistic agreement can meet the fundamental requirements of each side in order to live as neighbors with peace, security, and sovereign borders – and is the only option that can prevent a perpetual and escalating cycle of mutually-imposed fear, misery, and bloodletting.
The Gaza war, as of late Monday afternoon Israel time:
This week, Alpher discusses whether the latest ceasefire will last; whether Israel's war aims changed in the course of the fighting; if ignoring the strategic potential of the Hamas attack tunnels an Israeli intelligence failure; why is there such extraordinary solidarity among the normally divisive Israeli public during this war; regarding a ceasefire, what happened with the Egyptian agenda and a Turkish-Qatari agenda, and in between what appears to be a failed US mediation attempt; if all this means that Hamas has not, or not yet, registered a sufficiently significant accomplishment in this war to "declare victory;" whether Hamas is part of the regional and global militant Islamist movement currently led by ISIS/Islamic State and the likes of Boko Haram as Netanyahu argues, or if is it a faction of the Palestinian national liberation movement and in the long term, what this seeming Hamas membership in two such distinct Middle East groupings means for Israel.
by APN's summer intern Hannah Ehlers
Early in my Jewish education, I was taught that, as Jews and as human beings living in an imperfect world, we are obligated to stand up and speak out in the face of injustice. However small or large the perceived wrong, and despite our shaking legs and cracking voices or a powerful and vocal opposition trying to silence us, it is our duty as Jews to confront injustice. As a Reform Jew, I was taught to question and to think critically about the world, my faith, and my personal views and perceptions. And yet, when it came to Israel, there existed in the Jewish community a sort of unwritten rule, an unspoken promise not to question Israel or its policies. I would later discover that this attitude reflected the larger American and international Jewish community and many communal institutions. Although my Hebrew school classmates and I were encouraged to struggle and wrestle with God and Jewish theology, and to have a complicated relationship with American society, we subconsciously subscribed to the attitude, based on fear, that any criticism of Israel was a threat to the Jewish people.
Americans for Peace Now (APN) is horrified by the spiraling death-toll of the war between Israel and Hamas. Having urged a ceasefire for the past two weeks, APN welcomes the Obama administration’s efforts to achieve an immediate ceasefire, and urges it to resume diplomatic efforts toward a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
APN strongly supports Israel’s right for self-defense and its government’s obligation to provide security for its
citizens. As a Zionist, Jewish organization and as the sister-organization of the Israeli grassroots movement
Shalom Achshav (Peace Now), we fully share the security concerns of the people of Israel and the yearning of
Israelis for peace.
We mourn the death of Israeli civilians and of Israeli soldiers in the current hostilities. We also mourn the alarmingly spiraling deaths of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip – over 500 so far.
This week Alpher discusses War in Gaza: as of Monday afternoon July 21 Israel time: Was it necessary for the IDF's Golani brigade to go into Gaza's eastern district of Shejaiya and fight a battle that caused such heavy losses on both sides and if there is a broader meaning to all this death and destruction in and around Gaza; accusations that the IDF is perpetrating war crimes in Gaza; why Hamas' ceasefire conditions are outlandish; how will this end and some early strategic lessons learned.
Arnon Avni, an Israeli cartoonist who lives in Nirim, a tiny kibbutz right on the border with the Gaza Strip, and a longtime Peace Now activist, on July 18 2014 spoke to APN about living in a war zone and about what keeps him committed to the cause of Israeli-Palestinian peace.
Christopher Gunness, the Jerusalem-based spokesperson of UNRWA, the United Nations agency that serves Palestinian refugees, joined us on July 18 20014, less than 24 hours after Israel's ground campaign in the Gaza Strip started, to review the humanitarian situation in Gaza and the reconstruction challenge that faces the residents of the Gaza Strip and UNRWA.
On Wednesday, July 16, Americans for Peace Now along with the American Task Force on Palestine (ATFP) hosted an event that focused on the way in which the Israeli-Palestinian conflict plays out on US college campuses.
Among the more than 50 attendees at the Washington Center for Internships and Academic Seminars were Israeli and Palestinian participants of New Story Leadership (NSL). NSL brings young Israeli and Palestinian leaders to Washington, DC for a summer of dialogue and leadership workshops during which they also learn about Washington through internships.
APN Urges Immediate Ceasefire, Harnessed to a Diplomatic Process that Leads to Peace:
Having urged a ceasefire for the past week, APN, like millions of Israelis, Palestinians and others worldwide was excited at the news of a ceasefire agreement Monday night. We immediately welcomed this news after senior Israeli officials were quoted on the Israeli media as welcoming the Egyptian-proposed ceasefire agreement. Hours later, the Israeli cabinet officially endorsed the ceasefire.
We were deeply disappointed when Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip rejected the ceasefire and intensified their rocket fire throughout the day Tuesday, arguing that Egypt announced the ceasefire without consulting with their leadership.
In response, after halting fire for several long hours, Israel resumed air raids on the Gaza Strip.
We hope that that Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip will accept the ceasefire, stop their rocket attacks on Israel and thus prevent further escalation.
While we yearn for a ceasefire, we remind all parties involved that that a ceasefire cannot be an end in itself. For a ceasefire to not turn into just another intermission between rounds of violence, it must be harnessed to a diplomatic process that addresses the underlying causes of conflict.