J Street statement on Israel-Hamas ceasefire

December 18, 2008

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami issued the following statement today regarding the conclusion of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas:

“At the start of the Gaza ceasefire in June of 2008, J Street published a full-page ad in the New York Times applauding Israel’s efforts to seek real security through diplomacy and questioning the lack of public support for the ceasefire from American friends of Israel.

“As the six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas draws to a close, J Street agrees with Israel’s security leadership, including—according to reports—Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi that a continuation of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas serves Israel’s best interests.  Extending the truce would be the best way to avoid an escalation that would undermine not only Israeli security but also U.S. interests in the region.

“The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, while not perfect, has been a welcome improvement over the previous situation—including rocket fire at Israeli communities near the border and ongoing military clashes and civilian casualties.  Despite the usual election season chest-thumping from the right, an extensive IDF military operation in Gaza would be likely to not only trigger a cycle of violence that ultimately strengthens extremists, but could also dangerously destabilize the region at a precarious moment (with elections due in Lebanon, Iran and Iraq, alongside an intensifying of the internal Palestinian political stand-off).  There would also be no obvious exit strategy for Israel following an extensive military operation.

“We support the Israeli Defense Forces when it acts, as it must, to defend Israeli communities surrounding Gaza from the threat of rocket attacks, and we condemn those rocket attacks unequivocally. We question, however, the purpose of the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza.  It is both morally wrong and militarily ineffective.  The blockade does little to prevent rockets and other weapons from making their way to Gaza, while imposing what amounts to collective punishment on the entire civilian population.

“We urge Israel to consider lifting the blockade as part of an arrangement to secure a longer-term ceasefire.  By pushing Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe, the blockade has been a public relations gift for Israel’s enemies, further playing into the hands of the more hard-line military faction within Hamas and creating conditions that empower Salafi jihadist groups— a new and dangerous development on Israel’s doorstep. None of this leaves Israel more secure.”