For more than three weeks now, fierce violence has raged between Israel and Hamas, taking an enormous toll in human life and suffering. Who among us is not deeply shocked and saddened by the losses suffered in this round of violence?
One's heart goes out to the families of all those who have died or been injured, in particular the children whose lives have been cut short by this deadly conflict. The devastation and homelessness in Gaza must be addressed immediately or the suffering there will only continue to lay the seeds for further and deeper violence.
Yet the fighting continues with neither side apparently willing to call a halt.
The United States, the international community and all people of goodwill should joint together now and tell both sides that it is time for the fighting to end through a sustainable cease-fire agreement.
Israel has the right to defend itself proportionately against the threat of relentless rockets and to destroy tunnels leading into Israel. But it's now time for Israel to look for a way out of this war. Ultimately, there is no military victory to be achieved here because we are dealing with a fundamentally political conflict. Calls for Israel to "reoccupy Gaza" are deeply irresponsible and will only lead to thousands more dead.
We need to back efforts by President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry as well as the engagement of other countries such as Egypt to bring about an immediate cease-fire. Any such cease-fire must account for Israel's security concerns, specifically from rockets and tunnels, as well as Palestinian humanitarian needs, and should be structured to lead to negotiations to establish arrangements related to security, political issues and humanitarian assistance. The Palestinian Authority should be given a larger role in the cease-fire and in the negotiations around security, political arrangements and humanitarian assistance.
Every effort should be made to establish arrangements that minimize the chances that another round of violence erupts again in two years. A real solution for Gaza must address Israel's legitimate security concerns from both rockets and tunnels, while also establishing a structure that brings the West Bank and Gaza together politically and allows Palestinian differences to be settled politically. It must address the serious humanitarian issues that face the civilian population in Gaza including greater freedom of movement for people and goods for non-military purposes.
Ideally, the cease-fire negotiations could also be used to advance prospects for a Palestinian unity government committed to early elections and demilitarization in Gaza. Allowing the previously-signed reconciliation agreement between Palestinian factions to move forward as part of the cease-fire deal might pave the way for a Palestinian government with a broad mandate and committed to a long-term cease-fire.
Secretary of State John Kerry has been working for such an agreement but his efforts have been hampered by the leak of a confidential document passed to the Israeli government for comment last weekend. The attacks on and mischaracterizations of the Secretary's efforts to resolve this crisis have only strengthened those in Israel who wish to re-conquer all of Gaza regardless of the human cost.
The deeper truth, which everyone by now should realize, is that the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians and the violence it spawns cannot be addressed without looking at the more fundamental issues that are at stake.
This conflict didn't start when the latest rockets began flying three weeks ago or with the terrible kidnapping and murder of three teenagers or Israel's response to that incident. The roots of this conflict remain the tragic fight between two peoples over one land and the unresolved status of territory won by Israel in the 1967 war that has been occupied since and on which the Palestinian people will one day build their state. Failure to address and resolve these underlying issues through a two-state solution condemns both peoples to a never-ending spiral of violence that will only deepen as technology improves and hatred festers.
There remains no alternative to a comprehensive diplomatic resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that results in two states for two peoples. A never-ending and deepening cycle of violence will do nothing to advance that cause. Only a two-state solution that resolves the underlying conflict will ensure Israel's safety, security and legitimacy as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people and provide the Palestinian people with freedom, dignity and self-determination.