APN: Ceasefire, Pivot to Diplomacy -- Now!

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.