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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Undermining Hamas Through Moderation


“The prospects for an agreement are real. The potential for a breakthrough is possible.”

With recent developments in Israel and Gaza, these words, which I heard spoken by former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk last fall amid renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, embody a now-foreign sense of hope for peace in this region. I was spellbound after hearing Indyk’s address and felt an uncharacteristic sense of optimism about the prospect of reaching a peaceful outcome to this conflict which has eluded so many in the past.

I could never have anticipated what has since unfolded.

Indyk resigned last month as the Obama Administration’s Special Middle East Envoy, following the recent decay of the peace negotiations. As the nine-month, U.S.-brokered deadline for reaching a final status agreement between Israel and the Palestinians dawned this past April, Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the vacuum left by a failure to reach a diplomatic agreement would be filled by unpredictable actors looking to fuel the conflict.

This message was tragically realized in late June, when following the two sides’ failure to extend the negotiations, three Israeli teenagers hitchhiking home through the West Bank were kidnapped and gruesomely murdered by members of a Hamas-affiliated family based in Hebron. The kidnapping set off a major operation in the West Bank by Israeli security forces to locate the missing teens and to systematically shut down Hamas’ infrastructure in the West Bank.

Sensing an opportunity, Hamas seized the crackdown on its members as an excuse to renew its practice of launching thousands of rockets from Gaza deep into Israel. As Hamas began this retaliation, calls within Israeli society for vengeance for the murdered teens led to the brutal killing of a Palestinian teenager by Israeli extremists.

Israel felt the need to respond to increased Hamas rocket fire with military force and initiated an aerial campaign last Monday, targeting Hamas militant locations in Gaza. The campaign has so far resulted in nearly 200 Palestinians killed and more than 1,000 additionally wounded.

On Tuesday, Egypt attempted to broker a cease-fire between the two sides, which fell through after a fresh round of rockets hit Israel two hours after the Israeli security cabinet accepted the agreement’s terms.

Israel has the right to defend itself against an actor dedicated to its destruction and the right to respond in a calculated manner that eliminates Hamas military targets while minimizing civilian casualties. But military force alone, while securing short-term deterrence, drives the majorities of people who want peace on both sides further apart and away from its long-term, diplomatic achievement.

After all, how can the Palestinian grandchild, whose grandmother is killed in an Israeli air strike, be expected to grow up to embrace peace with his Israeli neighbors? Likewise, how can an Israeli child, traumatized by constant sprints to bomb shelters, be expected to trust his Palestinian counterpart?

As Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Hilik Bar recently wrote, “A real, comprehensive and thorough solution [to Hamas] requires a combination of military and political ingredients, not just that of military force.” The only way Israel will be able to ultimately undermine Hamas will be when a moderate Palestinian leadership gains legitimacy among its people.

This legitimacy stems from an ability to demonstrate that moderation is the key to sovereign statehood. As Israel rightfully defends itself against Hamas’ terror, it must simultaneously make efforts to bolster moderation among Palestinians and to support calls for renewed diplomacy.

Only when a sovereign State of Palestine sits peacefully beside a Jewish and democratic State of Israel will Israeli children be able to sleep at night without the fear of rockets falling on their houses. Only with two independent states will Palestinian children enjoy security in Gaza and be able to travel to school without having to pass through Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.

At the end of his speech, Indyk recounted a metaphor that Israeli President Shimon Peres once told him.

“History is like a horse that gallops past your window,” Peres said. “The true act of a statesman is to jump from the window on to that galloping horse.”

In light of recent events and in a profound longing for hope, I would elaborate on this metaphor to add that the horse gallops in a circular pattern — there will be more than one opportunity to make this great leap.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas clearly missed the jump this time, but maybe as the chaos of falling rockets and bombs ends and as the ground stabilizes, these two leaders can try again as the horse returns full circle.

Elijah Jatovsky is a rising junior in the School of Foreign Service and served as co-president of J Street U Georgetown this past spring. He will study abroad in Amman, Jordan, this fall.

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  • C

    CharlieJul 28, 2014 at 6:16 am

    How can you gloss over the major facts of the invasion of West Bank to find the teenagers, particularly that 400 Palestinians were arrested, hundreds more detained, and 9 were killed? Hamas did not use the invasion “as an excuse,” it responded to the invasion. In light of the recent admission by the Israeli police spokesperson that Hamas leadership never ordered the killings of the teenagers, now we know the entire pretext of war was falsified. By constantly painting Hamas leadership as the aggressor and accusing it of crimes it did not commit, you are undermining fairness on an international scale.

  • T

    TomJul 21, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    Why do you ignore the unpunished killing, by the IDF, of two nonviolently protesting palestinian children in May as a catalyst for the breaking of the ceasefire?

  • F

    FredJul 17, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    Why not undermine the Israeli government through moderation? They’re the one about to carry through a ground invasion, not to mention they’re an occupying force already

  • N

    NedJul 17, 2014 at 2:21 pm