Statement on the latest violence in Israel and Gaza

November 16, 2012

Partners for Progressive Israel is deeply dismayed by the killing and destruction in Israel and the Gaza Strip over these last days, and we urge all sides to refrain from further escalation and reach a negotiated cease-fire with all due speed.  In the last day, Palestinian rockets from Gaza have claimed their first three Israeli lives in the latest round of violence, and the shelling has now reached the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem areas.  Over a dozen Palestinian civilians, including children, have been killed by Israeli bombing.  We mourn the loss of all innocent life.

As we learned four years ago, massive Israeli military action, divorced from diplomatic progress, does not deliver long-term results. Precious human lives are wasted for short-term gains, or no gains at all. And sometimes the use of force inadvertently creates worse scenarios, as we have witnessed repeatedly throughout the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

While Israel clearly has the right to, and must, defend itself from Hamas and the rockets fired from Gaza, Israel has an obligation to use this right and its overwhelming firepower prudently: to seek negotiation first to defuse tensions, to respect the lives of innocent Palestinians, and to recognize that, ultimately, the conflict can be fully resolved only through diplomacy.  Unfortunately, Israel’s current government has not always fulfilled these basic obligations to its citizens.

Hamas is an unsavory neighbor which shoulders a very large degree of responsibility for the current escalation and the ongoing conflict, due to its unwillingness to accept Israel’s fundamental legitimacy. Yet Israel has no choice but to find a way to live alongside the Hamas government for the foreseeable future.  Reports that Israel’s government did not pursue promising third-party efforts to mediate an extended truce with Hamas are therefore a cause for deep concern. 

To quote the group of Israelis living in Sderot and nearby communities who have created the organization, “Another Voice”:

“We call on the Israeli government to immediately launch negotiations with the Hamas government.  Rockets and bombs don’t protect us.  We have tried warfare long enough, and both sides have paid, and are still paying, a high price of suffering and loss.  The time has come to talk and seek long-term solutions that will allow citizens on both sides of the border to lead normal lives.”

Above all, at a time when Israel has potential partners in President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Palestinian leaders who are keeping alive the flagging hopes for peace by reaffirming their commitment to a two-state solution, rejecting violence and terrorism, and preparing their people for necessary concessions regarding the ‘right of return’, it is unconscionable for the current Israeli government to continue to rely on military action alone and to resist ending the occupation.

For the long term, a political solution is the only way out of violence and despair, and the only hope for the peace which so many Israelis and Palestinians yearn for and deserve.