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Shunit Harpaz Headshot

Courage Needed

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Israel is tangled in a war for the second time in just two years. This could indicate one of two things; either Israel's enemies are gaining more power than ever before, or it's an election year again. Both hypotheses are correct, hence a conflict is unavoidable.
Now, a courageous candidate running for election would break this vicious circle by taking a stand and saying: peace is not won in the battlefield; it's reached around the negotiation table.

Israel, the sole democracy in the Middle East, is trying to recuperate its deterrence. The strengthening of Hezbollah in the north and Hammas in the south has been eroding this once-legendary deterrence. Israel's efforts to maintain military dominance while sending peace signals to its neighbors have turned out to be a double-ended sword. Its continuous restraint for years, the Oslo agreement and abandonment of settlements are seen as signs of weakness by Hammas and Hezbollah, rather than a sign of goodwill towards a peace process.

Israeli PM Candidates on election year are not stretching their courage skills, but rather looking to satisfy the mass public. Their advisers push them to show aggressiveness as a means to get their ranking up at the polls. The popular notion would not allow them to overlook the missile attacks, saying that every country has the right to defend itself. But to break the spell, one must change the approach - more retaliation is not the answer. It has been tried time and again, never with any sustainable success. The time has come for a change. A courageous change.

In order to lead courageously, a leader would need courageous people to trust his unconventional ideas. Unfortunately, the citizens of Israel are just longing for some quiet. Not peace. Just plain quiet. A break from being bombed. Two years ago it was the Hezbollah who launched missiles on the Northern part of Israel in a show of power. Now it's Hammas who fires rockets on many cities in Southern Israel, constantly improving their rockets' reach and accuracy. For eight long years Sderot, a city in Southern Israel, has been the target of missile attacks from Gaza. Children have been sleeping in shelters, afraid to go back to their beds, fearing the next missile siren. Elderly people mourn their dreams of the Promised Land. Despair and disbelief spread among Israelis who think peace is nowhere to be seen on the horizon.

The hopes for "Peace of the Brave" in the Middle East are buried six feet under, along with former Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. There was a time in Israel of 1992 when Rabin became Prime Minister and Israelis woke up to a bright new day with the aspiration and hope for peace. Those hopes vanished with his assassination. From that point on, any effort to reach a peace agreement in the region went downhill. Rabin's absence left Israel in a void. A leadership void. Many politicians called themselves leaders, trying to compare themselves to Rabin, making sure his picture is in their background at every photo-op. Alas, it's not enough!

Rabin had the courage that current candidates for Prime Minister lack. Sure, all three candidates served in elite special-ops units, risking their lives to protect Israel. But leading the people of Israel in a new direction takes a different kind of courage than life-risking Commando operations. The courage to take a course that may appear unpopular at first: Talking with Israel's bitter enemies towards a ceasefire and taking steps towards lasting peace. The impression that one can end Hammas' motivation to shoot rockets at Israel through the sheer destruction of infrastructure by Air Force attacks is absurd. Hammas is only getting more sympathy from Arab countries and the West. Pictures of helpless victims on televisions worldwide only make things harder to unwind. By definition, Israel will lose if it tries to force the Hammas to ceasefire by using more fire.

A courageous leader would spark the enthusiasm towards peace. The Israelis are in a down spiral, but with the right leadership they could bounce back hungry for peace as ever before. The Palestinians should be forced to decide if they want to join moderate Arab countries like Egypt and Jordan who signed peace treaties with Israel. A coalition of courage should be established by moderate Arab leaders together with the support of President-elect Obama and European leaders. This coalition would be setting the rules of engagement, building a bridge over troubled water, setting the goals and course of action to restore normality. This is how you win a war. The war for peace.