They Say, We Say: "Reconciliation" is code for letting terrorists into the government

They Say We Say We know that pro-Israel does not mean blindly supporting policies that are irrational, reckless, and counter-productive. Pro-Israel means supporting policies that are consistent with Israel's interests and promote its survival as a Jewish, democratic state.

You've heard the arguments of the religious and political right-wing, and so have we. They've had their say. Now, we'll have ours.

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What about Hamas and Gaza?

They Say:

Palestinian "reconciliation" is just code for letting terrorists into the government. Israel can never deal with a Palestinian government that includes terrorists and any agreement Israel might make with such a government would only be exploited and violated.

We Say:

There are some fundamental truths about peacemaking that have to be recognized. First, you make peace with your enemies, not with your friends. Second, you make peace not to be nice, but because it is in your self-interest. Third, real peace must reflect a balance of interests, not an imbalance of power. And fourth, security arrangements, not trust, will be the foundation of any peace treaty.

It is absolutely true that some Palestinians hate Israel and hate Jews. Some may never give up their dream of reclaiming all of "historic Palestine." But this isn't an argument against negotiations or against an Israeli-Palestinian peace treaty, including with Hamas. The fact is, Israel doesn't need Palestinians to embrace it. What Israel needs is an agreement establishing recognized international borders that preserve it as a Jewish state and a democracy. After that, some Palestinians may still dream of Israel's destruction, but they'll have to give up acting on these views - or be thwarted by Israel, which will have the unchallengeable legitimacy of a sovereign state acting in self-defense. Likewise, some Israelis may never relinquish the dream of Greater Israel - but with a peace agreement in place, they will have to relinquish efforts to achieve it.

Palestinian reconciliation - fixing the cleavage between Hamas and Fatah, and between the West Bank and Gaza - is vital to achieving peace. A Palestinian government that represents all Palestinians, and with security and governance capacity in both the West Bank and Gaza, is vital to any future peace agreement. A peace agreement negotiated in the context of Palestinian unity will have much greater legitimacy and be much harder for Hamas or any party to renege on, at least without appearing hypocritical in the eyes of its people. A peace agreement that involves all parties, leaves neither people feeling humiliated, and leaves both peoples significantly better off, will likewise be stronger, with peoples on both sides having an interest in rejecting anyone who tries to undermine the new status quo.

Finally, the sine qua non of any Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement is that it must include comprehensive security arrangements to ensure that no matter what might happen among the Palestinians or in the region, Israel's security is protected. This is just common sense. Israeli security planning takes into account the possibility of a breakdown of the Jordan and Egypt peace treaties, and, so, too, must it take into account potential worst-case scenarios after an Israeli-Palestinian agreement.

It is time for smarter U.S., international, and Israeli policy regarding Hamas. It is time to recognize that existing approaches have failed to dislodge Hamas and, indeed, have been counterproductive. It is time to end the blockade and press the Palestinians to achieve national reconciliation. Relations with any Palestinian government - including a unity government - should be based on the positions and actions of that government, not on the basis of whether Hamas is included in it.