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How can Israelis and Palestinians move forward from this crisis?

Al Jazeera asks regional experts to weigh in on how a cease-fire can be implemented and peace efforts renewed

After the collapse of U.S.-sponsored peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians, violence between the two peoples has spiraled out of control.

Three Israeli teens kidnapped near a settlement in the West Bank were found dead. Israel blamed the Palestinian group Hamas and carried out raids all over the West Bank, detaining hundreds of political leaders and activists. A Palestinian teen from East Jerusalem was kidnapped and burned to death in an apparent revenge attack by Israeli extreme nationalists, while other Palestinians were subjected to attempted kidnappings and beatings.

As Palestinian protesters and Israeli forces clashed, Hamas fired rockets from Gaza into Israel, which responded by launching Operation Protective Edge, an airstrike campaign that has left scores of Palestinians dead or injured.

With no cease-fire in sight and as Israel considers deploying ground troops to the Gaza Strip, Al Jazeera asked a number of regional experts one question: How can Israelis and Palestinians move forward from this crisis?

Diana Buttu

Diana Buttu

Diana Buttu was a legal adviser to the PLO in negotiations with Israel from 2000 to 2005.

For decades, Israel has attempted to portray its control over Palestine and the Palestinians as a security problem requiring a security solution rather than a political problem requiring political solutions. The international community has largely bought into this approach, perhaps thinking that it is easier to address security issues rather than political ones. The end result has been disastrous: Israel has been allowed to maintain a cost-free military occupation; it has been allowed to build Israeli-only colonies on Palestinian land; it has been allowed to kill Palestinians with impunity; it has been allowed to imprison more than a quarter of the Palestinian population — including without charge or trial; and it has been allowed to maintain a brutal military siege and blockade over the Gaza Strip, all in violation of international law.

All throughout this period, as the world is focused on Israel’s security, no one has answered a simple question, Who is protecting Palestinians and, in particular, Palestinian children? According to human rights organizations, Israel or its armed settlers have killed a Palestinian child every three days for 13 years. Today 200 Palestinian children are in Israeli prisons, many of them held without charge or trial. And children under the age of 3, who make up 20 percent of the Gaza Strip’s population, continue to be subjected to Israeli air bombing campaigns that have killed and maimed dozens in the last few days.

A new approach is needed, one that finally addresses the underlying causes of this conflict — the denial of freedom for Palestinians. Three measures must be effected immediately: 1) An international protection force must be brought into place to ensure that Palestinians, a stateless and largely refugee population, are protected. 2) Israel should be sanctioned for its ongoing violations of international law and human rights abuses. 3) The international community — both states and citizens — must ensure that Israel be held to account for its military occupation and denial of freedom for Palestinians through support for the Palestinian-led global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Peace will come only when Israel is no longer allowed to act above the law and the Palestinians are not treated as though they are beneath it. 

Abraham Foxman

Abraham Foxman
Ariel Jerozolimski

Abraham Foxman is the national director of the Anti-Defamation League.

The way forward in my view is as it always has been. The Palestinians have to finally accept the legitimacy of the Jewish state in the land of Israel. This would manifest itself in recognizing that the refugees would be resettled in a Palestinian state, stopping the teaching and preaching of hatred toward Israel and Jews and breaking off all relations with Hamas, which represents the extreme version of rejection of Israel’s existence and the use of terrorism toward that end.

In other words, the Palestinians would fundamentally change their approach of seven decades and more, which has brought suffering to Israel but even more to the Palestinians themselves.

This will change the dynamic in profound ways. It will lead Israel to move the peace process forward through significant concessions on territory and settlements while providing for security. It will open up the possibility of normal relations between the two peoples. It will allow for two independent states to live side by side in peace and security.

Israel needs a solution in order to maintain the essence of the country as a Jewish and democratic state.

The Palestinians need a solution to satisfy the legitimate needs of their people, which have been ill served by the obsession with upending the Jewish state.

Mustafa Barghouti

Mustafa Barghouti

Dr. Mustafa Barghouti is an independent member of the Palestinian Legislative Council and the secretary-general of the Palestine National Initiative.

[Yuval] Steinitz, the Israeli intelligence minister, says that Israel’s attack aims at reoccupying Gaza completely and that Gaza will remain under Israeli military occupation for a very long time. And they will uproot all Palestinian — as he says, “militants” — but he means all Palestinians who are struggling for their freedom. And they will take over Gaza completely. This is going to be the most bloody massacre ever in this region if they are allowed to continue that.

This is not an act of self-defense from the side of Israel. To my knowledge, fortunately for us and unfortunately for the prime minister of Israel, not a single Israeli has been killed so far. All the people who die are Palestinians. Most of the people who are injured are Palestinians.

It’s — to a large extent — a unilateral war from one side on another side, which is barely capable of responding with these primitive missiles. There is no way that one can equate between the two sides.

What is the way out of this? I think the only way out of this is for the world community to immediately mobilize in every possible way to enforce a cease-fire immediately. Israel must be restrained.

If this goes on, Israel will not achieve its political goals, but the price will be very heavy. I’m sure [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu will drag himself into a very serious political crisis sooner or later, but the price is going to be very heavy. We’re talking about the loss of thousands of lives. We’re talking about the potential imminent destruction of most of the infrastructure of the Gaza Strip. This will be one of the most devastating operations in modern history. That’s why immediate actions have to be taken to stop this massacre from evolving and to stop this attack from continuing. 

Saliba Sarsar

Saliba Sarsar

Saliba Sarsar is a professor of political science at Monmouth University and a member of the board of directors of the American Task Force on Palestine.

The current escalation between Israel and Hamas is both tragic and worrisome. It is a direct result of the events on the ground in Israel and Palestine, with the recent kidnapping and killing of three Israeli teenagers and the subsequent abduction and the burning to death of a Palestinian teenager.

The escalation is also a consequence of the deep frustration Israelis and Palestinians feel. The U.S.-brokered peace process reached a dead end in April, Israeli settlements on the West Bank continue to expand, and extremism in both Israel and Palestine is on the rise.

This cycle of violence must end, as it is killing and wounding civilians, destroying property needlessly and causing untold misery. A mutual cease-fire is essential, as violence can lead only to more violence and to the perpetuation of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Reason is most needed when emotions are running high and when unreason abounds. Israeli and Hamas officials are counseled to rethink their actions and rhetoric. The United States has a special responsibility to urge Israel to de-escalate the crisis, as do the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Egypt and others with Hamas.

Past conflagrations did not bring the Palestinians and Israelis any closer to ending their conflict. The solution rests with diplomatic negotiations, not retaliation and military occupation.

Lisa Goldman

Lisa Goldman

Lisa Goldman is the director of the Israel-Palestine Initiative at the New America Foundation and a co-founder of and contributing editor at +972.

Nobody really knows where to go from here. With the failure of U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s initiative, during which the Netanyahu government accelerated settlement expansion even as it claimed to be taking the talks seriously, it looks as though the United States will refrain from any further attempts to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The Kerry talks, after all, came after more than two decades of failed U.S. diplomatic initiatives in Israel-Palestine. And all they have to show is a further entrenchment of the military occupation, in tandem with a dramatic shift rightward in Israeli opinion and a precipitous decline in the Palestinian Authority’s credibility.

But in the absence of even the appearance of diplomatic engagement, there is now a complete vacuum in which hopelessness, frustration, rage, intolerance and extremism are festering.

In its editorial of July 7, Haaretz recommends a social revolution for Israel. Referring to the murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir, allegedly at the hands of Jewish teenagers from the Jerusalem area, the authors of the editorial write, “Without a revolution based on humanist values, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.” That is a laudable sentiment, but a bit mushy. What, in practical terms, must be done? The obvious answer, which has remained unchanged for 47 years, is that Israel must end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and enforce equal civil rights for all of Israel’s citizens, regardless of nationality or ethnicity. I am not alone, however, in feeling that the window for a two-state solution closed some time ago. While I believe that shared sovereignty is a just and admirable idea in theory, I do not see how it can be achieved in the near future without violence — given that the vast majority of Israeli Jews would object strongly to the idea of giving up Jewish majority rule.

For now, as an interim step leading toward some kind of shared sovereignty or consociational agreement in the medium or long term, the best way forward is to begin the steps toward granting civil rights for all the people living under Israeli rule while conducting a very tough conversation in Israel about the true nature of democratic values. Given the long, long lines of religious Zionist Jews who waited to pay their condolences at the Abu Khdeir family’s mourning tent in Shuafat, I think it is genuinely possible to have this conversation. Most people do have a conscience. They just need to face and conquer their fears. 

Benedetta Berti

Benedetta Berti

Benedetta Berti is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, a Young Atlanticist at the Atlantic Council and a member of the faculty at Tel Aviv University.

In the short term, the priority needs to be ensuring the renewal of a cease-fire and the immediate cessation of hostilities. However, to avoid the repetition of the dangerous cycle of relative calm followed by military escalation (which has de facto been in place between Israel and Hamas since Operation Cast Lead in 2008), it is necessary to fundamentally change the paradigm in place.

So far, the entire Israeli approach to Hamas in Gaza has been based on a combination of isolation, sanctions and military deterrence. But these policies have not led to a stable situation, and they have not provided security to the citizens of Israel while proving extremely costly for the Gaza Strip and its civilian population.

To move forward and change the paradigm, the first step would be to renew the terms of the November 2012 cease-fire, which envisioned a gradual normalization of the flows of good and people to and from Gaza and a reintegration of Gaza with the West Bank. Not only is this needed to ease the living conditions of the citizens of the Gaza Strip, but it is also necessary to ensure the future viability of a Palestinian state. Reversing the policy of isolation would of course also require Hamas to keep its side of the bargain and cease armed attacks against Israel. In this context, the fragile unity government should be given a chance. In other words, a change in paradigm would require to shift from an approach based solely on deterrence to one based on political engagement.

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