Israelis and Palestinians: prospects for coexistence. In dialogue with Prof. Arie Kacowicz (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

The Global Eye in dialogue with Arie M. Kacowicz, the Chaim Weizmann Chair in International Relations and Professor of International Relations at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. He is the author and editor of ten books, mostly dealing with peace in international relations.

The war in the Middle East seems to show prospects of widening. What will happen, in your opinion?

It is hard to know whether the Israel-Hamas war will expand into a broader conflagration. The most dangerous perspective refers to a full-fledged war between Israel and Hezbollah, which might lead to terrible destruction and consequences for both Israel and Lebanon. Hezbollah is not just a terrorist organization, which has its own army within Lebanon, it is also a preponderant political party in Lebanon, where the vast majority of the Lebanese people does not want a war. Iran also prefers to fight its war by proxy with Israel through its tentacles: the Houtis, Shia militias in Syria and Iraq. It is clear that the United States and most of the Arab countries do not want the war to expand, but the risk of escalation exists and persists, as the war continues.

You expressed harsh words against the accusation of genocide against Israel. Beyond the rhetoric of what is happening in The Hague, what are the real responsibilities of the government in Jerusalem?

The massacre perpetrated by Hamas against 22 population centers in sovereign Israel (killing 1200 Israeli Jews and Palestinians, and foreign nationals) on October 7th, 2023, indeed fits the definition of ‘genocide’ (and it follows Hamas’ fundamental charter of 1988 and the recent declarations of Mashal yesterday). The actions of the IDF in the Gaza Strip, by contrast, are an act of self-defense and a just war. The problem of course, is the vast number of Palestinian victims (women and children) killed as a result of Israeli actions against Hamas, taking into consideration that 50% of the population in the Gaza Strip are children. For Hamas, the larger the number of victims the better in his propaganda war against Israel. Hence, Jerusalem has the responsibility, moral and legal obligation, to minimize the number of victims, which is very difficult to achieve due to the deliberate use of human shields by Hamas in a cynical way. The vast majority of the Palestinian population in the Gaza strip has become displaced following Israeli attempts to differentiate between the civilian population and Hamas terrorists, and is focused in the Rafiah area, which has not been targeted by the IDF, also due to the vicinity with Egypt. Israel has also an obligation to allow humanitarian assistance to the Gazan population, and to avoid famine. It is in Israel’s interest, as well as moral obligation, to stick to the rules of war. By the way, all the irresponsible (if not stupid) Israeli politicians who utter genocidal declarations, equating Hamas with the Palestinian people, are seriously damaging Israel’s security and reputation.

October 7, with the terrible attack by Hamas, represented a clear watershed in the history of the Jewish state. Incidents of anti-Semitism are increasing around the world. What realistic solutions do you see for coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians?

In my opinion, as a peace scholar and a professor of international relations for 31 years (although I have never been a peace activist) my conclusion is that the only way out of this enormous tragedy that engulfed both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples is to follow the vision of President Biden (in November 2023) regarding the creation of a fully demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip alongside the State of Israel, which is basically fulfilling the logic of partition as enthroned in the UN Partition Plan and resolution 181 (November 29, 1947) regarding “two states for two people”. The only way to defeat Hamas is not just through military means, but rather political-diplomatic ways. The major enemy of Hamas is not just the State of Israel, but the possibility of a political solution that will resolve by peaceful means the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the Arab-Israeli conflict in general. Although Israelis we have experienced the most horrible massacre in the history of the State of Israel (since 1948), and since the Holocaust in World War II, we are witnessing a moment of “ripeness” (a mutually hurting stalemate for both Israelis and Palestinians), similar to what happened in October 1973 regarding the aftermath of the Yom Kippur War. We know that the current leadership in Israel (Netanyahu) and in the Palestinian Authority (Abbas) will not rise to the occasion, but we know now that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be managed, it has to be resolved. And the only way out will be in the drawing of a political horizon, a road map, starting with a deal to release all the remaining hostages kidnapped by Hamas (that is the utmost moral obligation of Israel towards its citizens), the release of Palestinian political prisoners, the voluntary exile of the remaining Hamas leadership outside of Gaza, the establishment of a transitional international authority in Gaza in cooperation with the Palestinian Authority and Israel, the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip and its reconstruction after the war, the strengthening of the Palestinian Authority, and peace negotiations that should lead to peace between Israel and Saudi Arabia, as well as to the establishment of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel (and not instead of it, as Hamas insists). This can be facilitated by the convening of an International Peace Conference, and the good will and commitment of most of the members of the international community, including the P5 of the Security Council, the Quartet Members (USA, Russia, EU, UN) + China, the regional quartet members (Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, and Jordan), and other countries and organizations in moving the parties into a political solution. The alternative to this political way will be Israel mired in the Gaza quagmire like the USA in Iraq and Afghanistan, or Israel in Lebanon between 1982 and 2000. That will be a catastrophe for both Israelis and Palestinians, and that is the reason why Israelis should go to the polls and replace the current dysfunctional government. Netanyahu is trapped in a petty domestic political calculation of political survival, surrendering the security interests and future of Israel to his personal interests. This is very sad if not tragic, since Netanyahu in the past (June 2009) recognized the logic of a demilitarized Palestinian state alongside Israel. Just to conclude, this morning “Haaretz” published a surprising poll, where about 51% of the Israelis (in a poll that included 500 citizens) agreed that the way out should include a release of hostages, peace with Saudi Arabia, and a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza. This is a very encouraging poll.

(reproduction authorized citing the source)

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