We hear the cries of bereaved parents, and we watch the funerals of innocent children who have lost their lives far too early. In this climate, a negotiated solution seems a distant dream for Israelis and Palestinians. And yet, a two-state resolution to the conflict remains not only necessary for true peace, but, in fact, the only hope for Israel's survival as a Jewish and democratic state.
Achieving peace will require committed leadership, tough decisions, and real compromises; specifically, it will require the realization that neither side will get exactly what it wants and that conditions will never be perfect. Prime Minister Netanyahu should keep this is mind when he discusses incitement and anti-Israel rhetoric. Though it may be a difficult decision to make, especially now, the end of Palestinian incitement should not be a pre-condition to talks – in fact, it should not play a major role at all.
Abbas stated, "We are still looking and searching to find out who carried out such an act," and, "he who committed such an act wants to destroy us." As for his stance on another intifada, President Abbas was anything but ambiguous: "I say it openly and frankly. We will not go back to an uprising that will destroy us."
These words come from a man whom Israel’s president and most experienced living peacemaker, Shimon Peres, called “a true partner for peace.” Abbas is a man under tremendous domestic pressure, yet he condemned the kidnappings, defended cooperation with Israel and wrote an op-ed in Haaretz calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict as tensions and anger continue to mount.
Netanyahu is right to counter a barrage of several hundred rockets targeting civilians with a calibrated military response, but this is merely a tactic that accomplishes a momentary goal. In the bigger strategic picture, only peace can end the cycle of violence and bring real stability. Many of Israel’s top political figures and its most senior statesmen seem to think that Abbas is the man to talk to and make peace with, and yet, despite these opinions and Abbas’ demonstrations of moderation, Netanyahu continues to insist otherwise.
There are still skeptics who cling to the narrative of Palestinians saying one thing in English and another in Arabic, those who point to incitement and say, “how can we make peace with these people?”
No one, not even President Abbas, is denying that incitement exists among the Palestinians, and that it is a serious issue. That being said, talks that lead to a negotiated peace are possible, even with ongoing incitement. If achieved, peace would actually alleviate the conditions that produce much of the venomous rhetoric we see today.
Within Israeli society, chants of “Muhammad is dead” and “death to Arabs” are a common occurrence during celebrations of Jerusalem’s reunification, or even before Beitar Jerusalem soccer games. Prime Minister Netanyahu himself walked a fine line by calling for vengeance, and not justice, after the horrible murder of the three kidnapped boys. Though not equivalent to Palestinian incitement, occurrences like these are commonplace. A Facebook group calling for vengeance in retaliation for the killings of three innocent Israeli youths, and the subsequent torture and murder of Palestinian teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir, don’t exactly leave Israeli society with a clean slate.
Those using Palestinian incitement as an excuse to avoid serious peace talks do more than ignore Israeli society; they ignore history. When Sadat made peace with Begin, incitement was an issue; this same incitement was an issue under Muslim Brotherhood rule later on in Egypt, and it is still an issue today, and yet, peace has survived. Similarly, in Jordan, a former foreign minister has used quotes from Mein Kampf to bash Israel, and other radicals perpetuating anti-Semitism have been given a public platform, and again, peace has survived.
With millions of Israelis scrambling for shelter from rocket attacks, it is Israel’s duty to respond, and in the short term, it is doing just that. However, while Operation Protective Edge may destroy enough of Hamas's infrastructure in Gaza to allow for an immediate cessation of rocket attacks, it will not end the seemingly endless cycle of violence permanently. Only a serious dialogue without the false stumbling block of issues like incitement can do that. Peace is not just a favor for Palestinians, but a necessity for Israelis who want a future free of economic embargos, population worries -- a future that hears no more cries of bereaved parents and funerals for those who pay the price of their leaders’ lack of brave decisions for peace.
Strauss is a recent M.A. graduate of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem where his studies were focused on Israeli Politics and Society. He currently serves as executive director at The Common Good, a non-partisan, non-profit organization based in New York City.