On Gaza ...
As a committed supporter of the Kairos Palestine and Kairos USA documents, as someone who has been deeply concerned about Israel/Palestine for many years, as someone who has spent time in the West Bank among Palestinian Christians and Muslims, I hope and pray that the current conflict will lead Hamas and Israel to realize that, as Tel Aviv resident Jessica Apple suggests below (from a NYT op-ed), there is no violent way to peace, for peace itself is the way.
Now Mr. Netanyahu has chosen to enter into a conflict that ensures that the vote in the upcoming elections will be about security — something he says he can provide. There is no great surprise in that. The surprise is that there is no opposition to Mr. Netanyahu’s policies — a signal that Israelis are resigned to living indefinitely with the threat of war.
Israel’s Labor Party — Yitzhak Rabin’s party — which has traditionally stood for peace, has, instead, been quiet on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Under the leadership of a journalist turned politician, Shelly Yachimovich, Labor has reshaped itself into a social democratic party focused on social justice, the cost of living and the middle class. Last year, demonstrations touched off by the rising cost of cottage cheese drew half a million Israelis to the streets to protest the high cost of living. Ms. Yachimovich seized social justice as an issue and became its political face.
But she skirted the Palestinian issue. She has not promised to stop settlement building and has never acknowledged the hypocrisy of calling for social justice within the Green Line, which marks the limits of Israel proper, while ignoring the lack of it in the Palestinian territories beyond. If you were to define today’s Labor, you might say it’s the party that represents Israelis’ right to fairly priced cheese. Some Labor figures still press for peace negotiations, of course, but their voices don’t get through.
And as Israel pummels the Gaza Strip, there is no Israeli political leader saying, as Rabin did, “Enough of blood and tears.” Ms. Yachimovich has, in fact, supported the government’s actions as just, without questioning whether they are wise.
How the situation in Gaza plays out is likely to determine the outcome of Israel’s election. I feel safe in saying that this January, Israelis will be casting a vote for peace or war. Will Israel bury the two-state solution once and for all, or can it somehow retain a hope of being a Jewish democratic state living in peace with its neighbors? Last night as I said good night to my older sons, I set their flip-flops in front of their beds. “If you hear a siren,” I said, “slide your feet into your shoes and run downstairs.” I would grab our 3-year-old, I said, and be right behind them. “Don’t wait for me. Just go.”
There aren’t too many years before today’s flip-flops become tomorrow’s army boots, and I do not want my sons to grow up to a never-ending conflict that Israel accepts as immutable. I do agree that Israel has the right to protect its citizens. But I condemn Israel’s current leaders for failing to recognize that the best defense is peace.