We might be in the Holy Land, home to the holiest site in Judaism, the healings of Jesus Christ and the ascensions of the Isra and the Miraj. However, even as the Israeli military campaign enters its sixth day, the prospects of a ceasefire appear remote, even in this land that has borne witness to thousands of miracles.
As of today, over 172 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, of which 77 percent are civilians, according to the United Nations. One Israeli citizen has been seriously injured. Over 4,000 Palestinians have already sought refuge in shelters. Three Israeli teenagers and one Palestinian teenager have had their lives senselessly taken away before they even began. And even as the violence continues unabated, an Israeli official said the attacks will continue until there are prospects for a "long-term quiet."
What's as dispiriting as the violence has been the response of the international community, which has been muted and predictable. The UN Security Council has called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. U.S. President Barack Obama offered to broker a ceasefire between the warring parties. While Arab countries and their leadership are caught between the anvil of domestic turmoil and the hammer of external intervention, there can be no vision of regional cooperation.
For a long-term peace to truly take hold, we need to make a clean break from the past in two important ways.
First, we need to recognize that there can be no peace without justice. And so before we do anything, we have to reaffirm our commitment to follow the letter of the law.
Article Four of the Geneva Convention guarantees protections to "those who at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of persons a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."
In addition, article 32 of the convention guarantees that protected persons shall not have anything done to them of such a character as to cause physical suffering or extermination.
As an occupying power Israel needs to be reminded of its obligations to the protected persons among the Palestinian people. Indeed, the international community needs to adopt a zero tolerance policy to people who harm civilian populations -- be they Hamas militants firing rockets into Israel, or Israeli airplanes targeting civilian pockets of Gaza.
In addition, we need to acknowledge that the current situation is being played out against the backdrop of an historical context -- a context that is steeped in illegalities that need to be addressed before the goal of a long-term peace can become a reality.
The International Court of Justice has ruled that the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is occupied territory. Furthermore, the building of settlement colonies and of the wall has been declared by the Court to be in direct breach of international law. In short, the name of Palestine cannot be effaced.
There's also the matter of proportionality, which is a fundamental principle of the law. How can one speak of proportionality when one reads of so many children being injured in the recent bombings, while seeing pictures of people on the other side swimming under the auspices of the sun and the protection of the Iron Dome?
In addition to the letter of the law set out by our courts, there's also a universal law we all instinctively follow as humans. Families in Gaza sometimes have less than a minute to respond to the warnings that are being touted by Israeli government officials. At a moment's notice, they often have to wake and escort children and elderly relatives out of a building that can be several stories high. How can one go to sleep in such a heightened state of anxiety, with airplane engines roaring in the sky, and dream Mr. Netanyahu's dream of long-term quiet?
In addition to following the letter of the law, the international community has to make another clean break with the past. We have to stop focusing on bilateral agreements -- and focus on bringing about regional peace.
When I recently saw an article by Yuval Diskin, former head of the Shin Bet security service in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, it gave me some hope. To deliver a lasting peace, we need to look beyond our national boundaries and focus on enabling regional solutions and sovereign intra-independence.
There are too many wounds and grievances on either side to make bilateral negotiations between Israel and Palestine a success. By calling for a pact between Israel and Hamas, the United Nations is only postponing the next inevitable round of violence to another day.
Instead, the international community should clear the path for agreements that would involve not just the two warring factions, but Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. The recent turmoil in Egypt, the regional economic situation, and shared energy and water challenges creates new opportunities for these key players to work together to find authentic regional voices for these uniquely regional challenges.
By leaving the Jordanians and the Palestinians out of the Camp David talks that brought about a peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in the seventies, President Jimmy Carter squandered a golden opportunity for peace.
Today, we have that opportunity for dialogue again. Let's ignore the words of extremists on either side who seek mutual destruction and who want to hasten the end of our times. Instead, let's finally begin listening to the voices, who have a strong track record of moderation in the region. Listening to the Jordanian government and all those in Israel committed to waging comprehensive peace to stabilize our agonized region is as good a start as any.
When the Jordan-Israel peace treaty was signed in 1994, the Israeli media asked me: "What do you think of all this?" I said -- and it has since come back to haunt me -- "With all due respect to the personalities involved, peace is not only about talking heads; unless this becomes a 'warm' peace, a people's peace, it cannot last."
However, for the sake of my children, and my children's children, I would like to remain optimistic. I would like to believe in the possibility of a long-term peace. For this to happen we need to avoid reacting to the extremist elements of our society. We need to start to listen to the more sensible voices like those of Leslie Gelb, former official at the US State and Defense Departments. Recently, he spoke of the situation in Iraq. However, his comments are equally applicable to the conflict in Gaza. Mr. Gelb said that a profound upheaval cannot be reversed by drones or fighter planes. For the problem is on the ground. It cannot be found in the sky.
In waging peace we surely move from the specter of mutually assured destruction to the hope of mutually assured survival.