Time for Solutions

August 20, 2014

With the failure of Egyptian-led efforts to forge a durable cease-fire, rockets are flying from Gaza once more and Israel is again striking Gaza from the air.

The situation is untenable for all involved – from the residents of southern and central Israel to the people of Gaza – and it is unacceptable for international leaders to do nothing if the parties themselves prove incapable of stopping the carnage.

J Street believes that Israel has the right to respond to threats to its civilians from rockets, terror and tunnels with force proportionate to the threats it faces.

We also condemn without reservation Hamas, its ideology and its use of terror to achieve its aims.

Yet we state equally unequivocally that there is no military solution to this conflict. A never-ending chain of missiles and airstrikes produces only death and devastation and fails to offer a sustainable resolution to the conflict.

After six weeks of violence – with 2,000 dead, 10,000 injured, 100,000 homeless and incalculable devastation in Gaza – the missiles keep coming. Simply returning fire without a broader political strategy is a formula for deepening not ending the conflict.

We advocate a different approach.

As much as we applaud Egypt’s intentions in trying to broker a cease-fire, its efforts thus far have not been successful.

The breakdown of talks in Cairo means all involved – Israel, Palestinians, neighboring states and the US – must look anew for other avenues forward.

In our view, political leadership at this challenging moment requires more than responding to rockets with force – it requires proposing viable political solutions that can be accepted by Palestinian moderates, neighboring countries and the international community.

We urge the government of Israel to put forward a bold, comprehensive proposal for resolving the conflict and to propose a cease-fire while this is negotiated. In addition to seeking the agreement of Palestinian leaders, Israel should invest substantial effort in building support from Arab neighbors and the international community.

A workable Israeli proposal would offer:

  1. An outline of the parameters on which an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza will be established – including borders based on pre-1967 lines with swaps, a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem, mutual recognition and guarantees for the security of both states – and a commitment to a diplomatic process to achieve it within a set period of time;
  2. Recognition of the present Palestinian Authority under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas – as established following the reconciliation agreement among the various Palestinian parties in April – as the legitimate government of the entirety of Palestinian territory;
  3. International oversight, in cooperation with Israel and the Palestinian Authority, of security at the borders of Gaza, providing inspected but otherwise free movement of non-military goods and people in and out of Gaza – including by air and sea;
  4. An international mechanism and fund for the rehabilitation of Gaza and a commitment to ensure that the Palestinian Authority security apparatus is the only legitimate armed Palestinian force in Gaza.

If the Palestinian Authority and/or Hamas reject the proposal, we recommend that the Israeli government bring this proposal to the United Nations Security Council to demand an immediate cease-fire.

We call on the United States to vigorously assist Israel in taking these steps.

There is no guarantee that taking the diplomatic initiative will stop the rockets. However, it would increase international diplomatic support for Israel and its right to self-defense and increase the onus on Hamas in front of its people and the world for rejecting an internationally-backed solution to the problems facing the Palestinian people and the Gaza Strip in particular.