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An open letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Friday, 8 June 2018

It is time for every Israeli to also realize that as long as the Palestinians live under blockade, deprived of basic necessities, living in anguish and fear with little prospect of better days ahead, Israel will not know a day of real peace.

It is time to treat Hamas not as a terrorist organization but as a governing body in control of two million Palestinians. You repeatedly said that Israel does not negotiate with terrorists, but you have been negotiating with Hamas directly and indirectly. You have been supplying Gaza with electricity, fuel, building materials, and medical equipment, and allowing foreign powers to provide Hamas with an array of commodities and financial assistance.

You have quickly accepted Hamas' offer of ceasefire because you wanted to focus on the Iranian threat. Remember this, as long as the conditions in Gaza do not improve, it is only a question of time when the next violent eruption will occur. The Iranian threat is a long-term threat, which of necessity requires addressing the combustible dire situation in Gaza-and in so doing you distance Hamas from Iran, rather than bringing them closer.


You have been demanding that Hamas must first surrender its cache of weapons before Israel lifts the blockade. Hamas rejected this demand because it is tantamount to surrender before they even start the negotiations. What is a right and necessary demand is that Hamas must first renounce violence and cease all hostilities (Hudna), which they will develop a vested interest in maintaining as long as they reap immediate and continuing benefits, creating an atmosphere of calm and mutual trust that could lead to peace.

A process of quid pro quo should be established, where a reduction or destruction of weapons by Hamas will be reciprocated by further easing of the blockade. Both sides need to agree on a negotiating process, the purpose of which is to first establish a permanent ceasefire, build trust, and finally bring about a gradual and complete lifting of the blockade. This will, over a few years, provide the foundation on which to build a permanent structure of peace where all other conflicting issues can be settled.

This is the most realistic approach, because unlike the West Bank, Israel does not want any part of Gaza nor does it want to establish a security apparatus in Gaza such as the one that exists in the West Bank. In fact, it's in Israel's best interest to deal with Gaza as a separate entity from the West Bank. In any case, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have little in common. They do not see eye-to-eye neither ideologically nor politically, and by separating them in the pursuit of peace, you would also facilitate negotiations with the Palestinian Authority.

You as well as Hamas's leaders are trapped in your old and tired narrative, blaming each other for the impasse and refusing to come to grips with reality. Indeed, the past cannot be put on trial, as neither Israel nor Hamas can right the wrongs of yesterday and must accept each other's reality, as neither can wish it away.

You, Mr. Netanyahu, have a solemn responsibility to end this conflict because not a single Israeli or Palestinian should die in a blood-soaked conflict that has not and will never yield any tangible or lasting gain for either side.

You will either be remembered as the Prime Minster who made Israel a strong and prosperous powerhouse at peace with its Palestinians neighbors, or a power that lives by the gun plagued by moral decadence with an uncertain future. What legacy you leave behind is for you to decide.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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