Wed 29 Nov 2023 7:06 am - Jerusalem Time

A noticeable increase in “voices of reason” in Israel calling for an end to the conflict

By Nazir Majli

Amid talk of expanding the truces in the Gaza Strip and increasing prisoner exchange deals between Israel and Hamas, what can be described as “voices of reason” began to grow noticeably louder in Tel Aviv, demanding an end to the warlike rhetoric, and the search for opportunities to end the conflict between the two peoples, and give the mediators room in Washington and the Arab capitals to transform the disaster that the region is experiencing into hope, as usually happens when leaders who are concerned for the interests of their people and the future of emerging generations shine.

These voices are raised by a group of former political and military leaders and opinion writers who are disturbed by extremist rhetoric that is based on revenge and vengeance, and insists on setting goals that its owners know are unattainable, such as “annihilating Hamas,” completely occupying the Gaza Strip, and deporting its people.

Among these leaders, on Tuesday, Ehud Barak, the former prime minister, who served as Minister of Defense in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and Chief of Staff of the Army, and who is considered the holder of the largest number of military decorations in the history of the Israeli army, emerged. He said that the members of his generation were among those who fought many wars. They knew the meaning of bloodshed, and they saw that there were limits to power. He added, in an article published in the newspaper “Haaretz”, on Tuesday: “In addition to that apparent steel logic, which makes good people think that our security is linked to Israel’s complete and permanent control over the Gaza Strip, this thinking will lead them to the need to control Lebanon, and after that, Syria.” And perhaps throughout the region. The conclusion is that a government headed by Benjamin Netanyahu will lead to significant damage to Israel's strategic position, and to a war that has no endpoint.

This is great harm. Netanyahu must end his role before the consequences of his weakness become irreparable. In the current circumstances, we need a broad national unity government without Netanyahu, Itamar Ben Gvir, and Bezalel Smotrich. Only this government, which will act responsibly and resolutely, free from extraneous and distorting considerations, can guide Israel towards ending the war victoriously.

Barak wrote: “After two months of war, we are approaching the decisive point. The Israeli army has clear achievements in the northern Gaza Strip, but Hamas is far from disintegrating in the south, and it maintains capabilities in the north as well. Completing the goal of destroying the military and authoritarian capabilities of Hamas is very necessary, but this will require many months and perhaps more. The practical clock and the political clock are not synchronized. International legitimacy for action is rapidly running out, and tension even vis-à-vis the United States is building up in closed rooms and could explode. Releasing the kidnapped people is not more important than destroying Hamas, but it is more urgent, and must be given the highest priority. Netanyahu's failure to lead the war lies in the exclusion of the realization that in the situation before us, victory cannot be achieved without a clear position on the next day. Netanyahu is still bound by an unholy alliance with Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich, the arsonists who are also trying to ignite the West Bank, and they provide him with protection from demands for his immediate removal. But basically, they are exploiting his dependence on them in order to impose the vision of resuming Israel’s full control and assuming responsibility for the Gaza Strip. This process most likely means drowning in the Gaza quagmire, conflict and losses for years, a crisis with the American administration, and jeopardizing relations with Egypt and Jordan, the Abrahamic Agreement, and the opportunity for normalization with Saudi Arabia.

Nahum Barnea, chief commentator in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, writes, “Instead of coming out every day with loud statements about liquidating Hamas, it is better to lower the tone. This not only confuses the mind of the Israeli public, but also of the Americans, Egyptians, and Qataris, whom we need to mediate in the deals of the kidnapped people. Credibility is a vital element in negotiations. (Hamas) wanted a ceasefire, so it works for it, but a ceasefire also works for the Israeli army. It allows it to address the flaws and shortcomings that were exposed in the first three weeks of the ground campaign. And, no less important, it allows us to explore issues that have been with us since October 7. Above all, in the matter of the next day. What reality in Gaza is Israel seeking after the situation stabilizes? Can the government, in its current structure, reach the necessary decisions on this issue? “It is very doubtful that it can.”

Under the title: “Enough with the warlike statements,” Dror Yemini wrote in “Yedioth Ahronoth,” saying: “Hamas must be eliminated, uprooted, annihilated. Those who will remain alive from among the men of (Hamas) must stand before the formula A talk on the Nuremberg trials; Because Hamas's ideology is a Nazi ideology in every sense of the word. However, in order to continue the fight, Israel needs international support. It needs the support of tens of millions of people who do not know the situation.

We also need the support of millions in the Arab and Islamic worlds who are not enthusiastic about the Muslim Brotherhood. We need the support of Congress. This is precisely why Israel must break the stalemate and change the rules of the game.

Instead of showy statements about “continuing the war with all force” and “ending the ceasefire,” there is a need to say exactly that Israel does not want the war to continue. Israel proposes a ceasefire. Provided, of course, that the Gaza Strip is demilitarized, all the kidnapped persons are returned, and Hamas activists leave the Gaza Strip. And also on one condition of all – say, stripping the sector, we already know what the response will be. This is exactly what will give Israel strategic superiority in international public opinion. And of course, more time to continue the fight.

Under the title: “There will be no victory, we will not destroy (Hamas), a political initiative is required,” Professor Tom Mahjar writes in the newspaper “Haaretz”: “Perhaps, in an apparently optimistic scenario, Israel will defeat (Hamas) within a few months and its authority will collapse. But in this new reality, the responsibility for continuing control over the Gaza Strip and its residents will fall on Israel. There is doubt whether this strong shock will bring security, and perhaps even perpetuate a permanent situation of fighting and losses, known to us from the Gaza Strip before the separation process and from southern Lebanon. Therefore, it is time to admit that we will not have victory, no matter how many brutal blows we inflict on the Strip and its poor residents. The painful truth is that Hamas, and in its wake Hezbollah, have dragged Israel into a war that began with their offensive initiative and our terrible failure. Military operations will not succeed in changing the political situation in which we find ourselves. So what to do? First, we must work to establish a ceasefire and make a comprehensive deal to release all the kidnapped people, and hold those responsible for the failure accountable as soon as possible. After that, we must commit to establishing a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in exchange for a long-term ceasefire, approximately 15 years, and work to implement this commitment. This offer will be supported by Arabs, the moderate Arab world and the Palestinian Authority. Hamas will have no choice but to join this initiative, as Hamas leaders previously proposed a similar plan. “The time has come for an Israeli political initiative that stems from the realization that the Palestinian people will not disappear, and the way to live here in safety is through recognition of their rights and legitimate demands for independence.”

Source: Alsharq Al -Awsat


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A noticeable increase in “voices of reason” in Israel calling for an end to the conflict