Policy and Dissent
Moral arguments concerning Israel and Palestine may be of incidental interest (i.e., did Israel commit war crimes in Gaza? Who is to blame for civilian casualties, those doing the shooting, or those putting the civilian bodies in front of the bullets?), but they do not have a place in the larger dialogue about solutions for the region…
The real question that we should be asking right now, and one that I have started trying to answer, is how the US can forge and guard such a ceasefire. I hope that now, in this new conversation, one of the “Ordinary Gentlemen” will take up the yoke of writing such a proposal, or critiquing mine.
Max wants to talk policy, not morality (though I can hardly see how it is possible to separate the two) and so I will oblige him. It is important to note that I am an American and Max is Israeli, and I tend to try to avoid giving policy advice to other nations. But I will address how I believe both the United States and Israel should act in terms of a broad policy approach to this mess. Max goes into some great detail in his policy suggestions for the immediate ceasefire, which included a gradual series of re-opened crossings if rocket fire out of Gaza ceases. Thus, a cessation of attacks out of Gaza equates to freer movement of goods and services in and out of Gaza, Israel, and Egypt. However:
If, at any time, Hamas or one of its secondaries should resume violence against Israel, the process rolls back one step. (Rafah closes, but Erez remains open; Erez closes, but Karni remains open; Karni remains open, but Israel strikes militarily.) “Resumed violence” in this case does not mean a single rocket, or two or five, but rather indicates one week of continuous or extremely frequent fire — or one month in which Hamas fired on average one rocket every two days, or more.
The specific definition of “resumed violence” here may be the bit that counts most, as there is almost no likelihood of a total cessation of rocket attacks out of Gaza at this time or in the foreseeable future. In fact, in terms of the immediate ceasefire, I think Max has a pretty good idea. Nonetheless, I don’t think this plan touches on much more than the immediate, and even then, should Hamas remain in defiance–a fairly likely outcome–Israel is still left with an ineffectual blockade at best, and another outright occupation at worst.
Essentially, I can’t determine how any strategy in Gaza, any policy toward opening or closing those borders, can have any chance of long-term success without an equally intense focus on policy in the West Bank, and namely policy in regards to settlers. So I would add to Max’s list, a roll-out of unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank in gradual steps, evacuating settlements in waves starting with the furthermost Eastern settlements and moving back, and ending with a complete withdrawal of security forces from the West Bank.
I think Israel needs to determine where to re-draw borders, at least around Jerusalem, without consensus from the international community or the United States. Too many actors in this process will only lead to logjam. The Arabs will almost certainly be unhappy, at least publicly, with any decision, but will more than likely grow to accept whatever new borders are drawn. Pre-1967 borders are impossible, but they should be as near to the original as possible. At the same time, Israel should negotiate a return of the Golan Heights for a Syrian peace deal, utilizing the Turks as mediators.
The United States should take this move on Israel’s part as an opportunity to work to financially prop up the new Palestinian State that would, de facto, come into existence. US policy should cast aside completely the effort to impose democracy on the new Palestine. That mess has been made already, and it would make better sense to prop up an authoritarian Fatah than to insist on elections or other democratic policies that would surely only strengthen Hamas. The US should work closely with Jordan and Egypt in this effort, as well as with the Turks.
Waiting for an end to terrorism or violence from Hamas is counter-intuitive. Israel’s only hope to regain a meaningful security is to end its occupation of the West Bank. Once two states have been created, it is much more likely that the hostilities will gradually come to a close, much as they have between Israel and other States in the region, who talk tough but never dare to do anything beyond subsidization of proxy militias such as Hezbollah and Hamas.
What happens next is beyond me, but I think rigorous diplomacy with no holds barred is the only option. All parties at the table.