August 2, 2014
RAMALLAH, West Bank — I HAD held off coming to Israel, hoping the situation in Gaza would clarify — not in terms of what’s happening, but how it might end in a stable way.
The following interview with Amos Oz, a co-founder of Israel's Peace Now movement and an icon of Israel's peace movement, was published in the English edition of the German Deutsche Welle
Oz: 'Lose-lose situation for Israel'
30 July, 2014
Israel's ground offensive against Gaza is excessive, Israeli writer Amos Oz tells DW. But he also criticizes Hamas' strategy, in which both Israeli and Palestinian victims boost the organization's standing in Gaza.
Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusual way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?
Deutsche Welle: Go ahead!
Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?
Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?
With these two questions I pass the interview to you.
by David Grossman (commentary) in Yedioth Ahronoth
Translation by Israel News Today
The situation in which the Israelis and Palestinians are imprisoned is turning more and more into a sort of hermetically sealed bubble. Within this bubble, over the years elaborate and persuasive justifications have developed for every deed performed by each one of the sides.
Israel can say, justifiably, that no country in the world would keep silent in the face of ceaseless attacks like Hamas’s and threats like the tunnels. Within this bubble, Hamas, as far as they are concerned, will justify their attacks on Israel on the grounds that their people are still subject to occupation, and that the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are rotting within the blockade that Israel has imposed on them.
Within the bubble of the situation, who can argue with Israeli citizens who expect their government to do everything so that not a single child in Nahal Oz or Sufa or Kerem Shalom will be harmed by a Hamas cell popping up from under the ground in the middle of the kibbutz? And how will we reply to the residents of a bombed-out Gaza who say that the tunnels and the missiles are the only weapon they have left against a power like Israel? Within the hermetic, cruel and anguished bubble, both sides are right, the way they see it. Both of them are obeying the prevailing law of the bubble, the law of violence and war, the law of vengeance and hatred.
But the big question now, while the war is ongoing, is not the question of the horrors taking place every day within the bubble, but the question of how the hell is it possible that we have been suffocating together in this bubble for over a century?
This question, in my eyes, is the most important lesson that we must learn from the latest bloody round. Because I cannot ask Hamas this question, and I do not pretend to understand their way of thinking, I ask the leaders of my country, today’s prime minister and his predecessors: How did you waste all the time that elapsed since the last confrontation without initiating any steps towards dialogue, grappling for a dialogue with Hamas, and attempting to alter the volatile reality between us? Why did Israel refrain in recent years from wholeheartedly entering negotiations with the moderate part of the Palestinian people that is more prepared for dialogue—as well as to create pressure on Hamas? For twelve years, why did you ignore the Arab League’s initiative, which was likely to enlist moderate Arab states who perhaps could have compelled Hamas to compromise? In other words: how is it that for decades, Israeli governments have been incapable of thinking outside the bubble?
Nevertheless, something about the current war between Israel and Gaza is different from those that preceded it. Beyond the invective of a few politicians that has been flourishing in the flames of war, and behind the great show of “unity”—partly authentic and mostly manipulative—something has been happening in this war, something that has succeeded, so it seems to me, in directing the attention of quite a few Israelis towards some “mechanism” at the foundation of the entire “situation”: its sterile, fatal repetitiveness.
Something about the cyclical circular nature of the acts of violence and revenge and counter-vengeance has opened the eyes of many, who until now refused to recognize it, to the picture of ourselves within “the situation.” Suddenly we can see the portrait of Israel with total clarity, a country with amazing powers of creation and invention and daring, which for over a century has been circling around the millstones of conflict, which perhaps could have been resolved years ago.
And if we concede for one moment the rationalizations and justifications with which we protect ourselves from the simple and human sense of compassion towards many Palestinians whose lives have been devoured in this war, perhaps we could see them too, those who are being ground up together with us, in unison, endlessly circling in blind circles and in the numbness of despair.
I do not know what the Palestinians really think in these times and what the people of Gaza think. But I feel that Israel is growing up. With sorrow and pain and gritting its teeth, Israel is growing up, or better—is being forced to grow up. Despite the bombastic proclamations and inflammatory declarations by politicians and commentators filled with hot air, as well as beyond the violent assault by right wing bullies on anyone with a different opinion—beyond all of this, the mainstream of the Israeli public is wising up.
The left wing today is more aware of the power of hatred for Israel—the kind that does not stem from the occupation—and the volcano of Islamic fundamentalism that threatens Israel and the fragility of any agreement signed here. More members of the left wing today realize that the right wing’s fears are not just paranoia, and that they address a substantial and fateful dimension that exists in the reality of our lives. I hope that the right wing today also recognizes—even if it does so enraged and frustrated—the limits of force; and the fact that even a strong country like ours cannot act strictly according to its will, and that in the age in which we live there are no more unequivocal victories, only “pictures of victory” with no real substance. Pictures of victory, whose negatives you can clearly see beyond them, which means that in war there are only losers. This too: that there is no military solution to the true distress of the people facing us. And until Gaza’s sense of suffocation is solved, we in Israel will not breathe easy with our own two lungs.
We Israelis have known this for decades, and for decades we have refused to understand. But maybe this time we understood a little more, or for a moment we saw the reality of our lives from a slightly different angle. It is a painful realization, and certainly menacing as well, but this realization can be the start of a change in perception. It is likely to formulate for the Israelis how essential and urgent it is to make peace with the Palestinians, as a basis for peace with the other Arab states. It can present peace—so ridiculed today—as the best possibility, and the most secure as well, of all the possibilities facing Israel.
Will such a realization also crystalize on the other side, with Hamas? I have no way of knowing that. But a majority of the Palestinian people, represented by Mahmoud Abbas, in fact has already made the decision to forsake the path of terrorism and choose negotiations. Can the Israeli government now, after the blood-riven war we have undergone, after losing so many young loved ones, not at least try this possibility? Will it keep ignoring Mahmoud Abbas as an essential component in resolving the conflict? Will it keep relinquishing the possibility that an agreement with the Palestinians in the West Bank will also lead gradually to improved relations with the 1.8 million inhabitants of Gaza?
And we in Israel, immediately after the war, will have to begin a process of creating a new partnership among ourselves, a partnership that will change the map of narrow sectarian interests that rules us today; a partnership of everyone who realizes the danger of death if we keep circling the millstone. With everyone that realizes that the border lines today no longer separate between Jews and Arabs, but between those who aspire to live in peace and those who are spiritually and ideologically nourished by continuing the violence. I believe that Israel still has a critical mass of people, from the right and the left, secular and religious, Jews and Arabs, who are capable of uniting, soberly and with no illusions, around three or four points of agreement regarding a solution to the conflict with our neighbors; there are many who still “remember the future” (an odd combination of words, and I believe it to be accurate, in this context) —the future they seek and wish for Israel, and for Palestine, too. There are still—and who knows for how much longer—people who realize that if we again sink into apathy, we will leave the arena open for those who will drag all of us, with determination and enthusiasm, into the next war, and along the way they will ignite every possible focal point of conflict in Israeli society.
If we do not do this, all of us, Israelis and Palestinians, collaborators with despair, will keep circling—with our eyes covered, and our heads down from too much dulled senses and idiocy—the millstones of the conflict, which are mashing and eroding our lives and our hopes and our humanity.
Don't miss these important articles from American President Barack Obama and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas from Haaretz's Israel Conference on Peace, today:
Palestine's vision of
peace is clear
By Mahmoud Abbas
We believe that no just and lasting peace can be achieved without respecting the rights of everyone, including both Palestinians and Israelis.
Twenty-six years have passed since the Palestine Liberation Organization officially endorsed the two-state solution. In a painful and historic decision, Palestine recognized the State of Israel based on pre-1967 territory, conceding over 78 percent of Palestinian land. Rather than seize this opportunity for peace, the current Israeli government has chosen to use the peace process as a smoke screen for more colonization and oppression. We still wish to believe that our Israeli neighbors do not expect the Palestinian people to live under a system of apartheid. The desire of a peace- and freedom-loving nation for independence can’t be eliminated by force.
Palestine’s vision of peace is clear, and grounded firmly in principles of international law. This is because we believe that no just and lasting peace can be achieved without respecting the rights of everyone, including both Palestinians and Israelis. In accordance with these principles, the sovereignty of the states of Palestine and Israel, as bound by the 1967 international border, must be respected; and the rights of Palestinian refugees must be honored in accordance with United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194.
Peace is the only
path to true security for Israel and the Palestinians
By Barack Obama
"As I said last year in Jerusalem, peace is necessary, just, and possible. I believed it then. I believe it now. Peace is necessary because it’s the only way to ensure a secure and democratic future for the Jewish state of Israel...Peace is also, undeniably, just."
As Air Force One prepared to touch down in the Holy Land last year, I looked out my window and was once again struck by the fact that Israel’s security can be measured in a matter of minutes and miles. I’ve seen what security means to those who live near the Blue Line, to children in Sderot who just want to grow up without fear, to families who’ve lost their homes and everything they have to Hezbollah’s and Hamas’s rockets.
And as a father myself, I cannot imagine the pain endured by the parents of Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrach, who were tragically kidnapped and murdered in June. I am also heartbroken by the senseless abduction and murder of Mohammed Hussein Abu Khdeir, whose life was stolen from him and his family. At this dangerous moment, all parties must protect the innocent and act with reasonableness and restraint, not vengeance and retribution.
Israel's occupation of the West Bank is indefensible
by Max Fisher
There is a pleasant fiction in the United States and parts of Israel that the Israel-Palestine conflict exists in a sort of suspended animation, on pause and simply awaiting diplomatic resolution. But the truth is that the conflict, which over the decades has included several wars, countless terrorist attacks, and two Palestinian uprisings, never really goes away for most of the 12 million people in Israel and the Palestinian territories. And periodically it will escalate so rapidly, with such relatively slight provocation, and to such a level of severity, that the rest of us can't ignore what every Palestinian and many Israelis already know: the conflict may be quieter today than in the past, but it is still active, still destroying lives and communities, still scarring these two societies, every day.
There’s a lot of talk these days – from pundits, lobbyists, members of Congress, and others – to the effect that according to U.S. law, the Obama Administration must cut off all aid to the Palestinian Authority now that a new government is in power, a government that was produced out of a PLO-Hamas reconciliation agreement.
Regrettably, most of this talk appears to be informed more by anger, opinion, or wishful thinking than a careful analysis of the actual laws in question. And as always, while every person is entitled to his or her own opinion, there is only one set of facts. So now it's time to set the record straight.
Walla.co.il (online service) by Shaul Arieli -- The author is a member of the Economic Cooperation
Foundation [as well as a retired IDF colonel and a board member of the Council for Peace and Security].
Translation via Israel News Today, May 27, 2014.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s remarks about the need for unilateral measures in the aftermath of the collapse of the talks with the Palestinians could have been referring to two possible courses of action. The first, which is rooted in his concern that Israel might “turn into a bi-national state,” would be to continue down the road that Ariel Sharon took. Namely, it would entail complementing the disengagement plan from the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria with additional actions that during Ehud Olmert’s term in office were given the slightly whitewashed name of the “convergence plan.” The second possible course of action would be for Netanyahu to openly endorse the three-phased messianic plan to annex the West Bank that was presented by Naftali Bennett, the first stage of which is to annex the settlement blocs to Israel.
Following the recent increase in “Price Tag” hate-crimes in Israel, including the desecration of Christian and Muslim houses of worship, we called on American friends of Israel to join APN in urging the Israeli authorities to seriously confront this ugly phenomenon.
On Sunday, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abraham Foxman published a powerful article in Israel’s Haaretz, headlined “Israel cannot wait any longer to crush price tag attacks.”