Containment of Hostilities Is The Urgent Need
As pundits trade charges against each other, innocent defenseless children in Gaza are being maimed and killed while almost 3,000 Hamas rockets fired and stored from civilian areas continue to rain terror indiscriminately across the border into Israeli cities and towns. The pundit community in a desire to leverage fault resembles spectators at a fire scene arguing about who lit the match, while people die and homes crumble and burn. Assessing legal and moral culpability, while vitally important, is not nearly as urgent as stopping the conflict now and preventing any more losses of innocent lives, which have been overwhelmingly Palestinian, with over 826 deaths, as well as those of 37 Israelis.
Nor is the most urgent issue right now, who has a right to do what, but rather how to stop the expanding vortex of violence that is taking lives and horrifically terrorizing two peoples. Immediately. Like an ever-increasing wild-fire it can blowback in all directions, causing unforeseen harms that will overtake any supposed gain either side of this terrible violent conflict seeks to gain. Israel, a small vulnerable nation, whose defenders sincerely posit, is fighting for its long-term survival, should nonetheless sign on to an emerging ceasefire brokered by the United States, even if it gives Hamas a short-term technical advantage. In televised interviews today, Israeli officials do not seem overly receptive to this suggestion.
Their hesitancy while understandable, is misguided. This also bears in mind Hamas' despicable practice of hiding increasingly potent weaponry amongst vulnerable civilians, its omnipresent anti-Semitism, its unyielding opposition to peace, its rigid fanaticism and its stark desire in black and white to annihilate the Jewish state, forever. Having studied Hamas for some time and even personally interviewing its members I am no stranger to the evils that this organization seeks to wreak on both innocent Israelis, the peace process as well as its own constituency.
Israel With American Help Is Best Suited To Cease Hostilities
However, Israel is in a better position to stand down for three reasons. First, its Iron Dome defense system, at least in this immediate conflict has been highly effective. Second, the United States, with its strategic relationships with both Egypt, as well as with Qatar and Turkey, nations sympathetic to Hamas, is in a position to put pressure on Hamas as well. Third, it has an unmistakable moral duty to do so in light of the rising death toll of innocent civilians. Multilateral talks are underway today that would forge a one week cessation with more talks to follow. If Hamas does not follow through, Israel in its defense would not likely stand down indefinitely, but any ceasefire, even a short one, will save lives and provide a window of opportunity.
Two State Solution
Simply put, even a flawed cease-fire, is better than this. For those of us who in good will want to advance a two state solution, Israeli and Palestinian, this conflict not only kills innocents and terrorizes both sides, it crumbles, at least in the short-term any chance of advancing the peace process. A ceasefire will allow not only humanitarian aid, but also the airing of substantive complaints from many Palestinians about improving the dire conditions of their daily lives as well. Israel too can air its legitimate concerns about the vast multidimensional threats that come from Hamas' Iranian armed presence that routinely pierces its borders.
A long-term peace is in the interests of both Israel's supporters and Palestinians. Once the shooting stops, is when the long hard, yet crucial task, of building a just peace that recognizes the right of a secure Israel to exist in peace with its neighbors, and the right of Palestinians to have their own nation side by side with Israel. Simply put, there is no other choice, except utter destruction.
Peace Seekers and Self Serving Pundits Are Distinct
Pundits should ask themselves whether they truly are for peace for all innocents, or simply more concerned with dehumanizing the other side, advancing a one-sided narrative or seizing some short-term tactical political advantage. Worse yet are those who fan the flames of anti-Arab bigotry, as well as those unrelenting anti-Semites who use every conflict as a justification to launch their own local mini-Kristalnacht against Jewish communities around the world.
After I appeared on national television speaking against Islamophobia, I received over 100 letters and emails with some hoping that I'd be fired or even blown up in front my children. I also received an email from a beloved old law school dean of mine and a mixed Jewish-Palestinian couple telling me to keep doing what I'm doing, and it is for those like-minded kind people I am writing. We must isolate, defang, and expose those who hatefully preach against peace and destruction of the other.
For those sane yet non-rancorous folks like myself, unapologetically directed toward a just peace, the answer, while hard is also stark. When I went to Israel and Ramallah, I often had a hard time telling Israeli and Palestinian children apart, and I think God does too, as he loves them both so very, very much.
Among the many privileges I've had over the years has been the opportunity to speak with two fathers like myself, one Palestinian Muslim and one Israeli Jew, who lost children in this never-ending brutal conflict. As a father I can not even begin to comprehend what that loss is, as my life would be destroyed. Despite their unyielding pain, their clear conclusion was that pursuing peace was the only meaningful solution and I don't pretend to be any more enlightened than they are. These losses are not just personal, these are communal. Who knows whether a future cure for cancer or the next technological marvel died in the soul of a child on a Gaza beach or that of a father struck down by a rocket in Israel
For all of us who in our deep unabiding faith believe both to be God's children, there simply put is only one path -- strengthening our relationships with those from both communities who desperately want peace and work diligently with them to pursue it. That is what we must do now, and the proposed ceasefire is the desperately need first step.