The images of the terror attack at the yeshiva in Jerusalem are difficult, painful, and infuriating. It appeared we already reached a calmer period. Only recently we were thankful for the relative quiet of 2007, yet again we see ambulances, the dead, and the wounded.
Yet we must not repeat the grave mistake we made in the fall of 2000, when it appeared that an iron fist would cut off the enemy’s arm. The iron fist gave rise to hatred, revenge, and many clenched fists – never before have so many civilians been killed in Israel as were killed in the first years of the third millennium. We must not return to September 2000.
Indeed, again we see innocent people being killed and wounded, and again we are overcome with fury. Again we see calls to hit back, retaliate, exact a price tag, and etch the other side’s consciousness. It is true that not everything is in our hands, and that those who face us act based on motivates that we sometimes find difficult to grasp or address, but much does depend on us.
The government’s job at this time is to undertake the utmost effort in order to lower the height of the flames and prevent escalation. Sinking into a renewed cycle of violence is very possible at this time, and we must not lend a hand to this.
We have nothing to lose
The government must expand the negotiations being held with Hamas via Egypt on the release of abducted IDF soldier Gilad Shalit to include ceasefire talks. This truce must include the prevention of Qassam and mortar fire by anyone, as well as an end to Israeli military raids in the Gaza Strip and an end to targeted killings.
We have nothing to lose from this kind of agreement. We are not giving up any territory – we already gave all of it up. If the ceasefire fails to be realized by the other side, we can violate it at any junction on our part as well. Not only Hamas has an interest in calm at this time, so do we.
The duty of Israel’s leadership is to protect its citizens, and today it has no real solution for residents of the western Negev. The “Iron Dome” anti-rocket system may be ready in about three years, and until then at least there is no substitute for a ceasefire. The military operations carried out thus far no doubt hurt Hamas, but did not minimize the fire on Israel and strengthened Hamas’ leadership politically.
The negotiations with the PLO should be managed with much greater vigor. The faster we reach a detailed peace agreement, the quicker we reach to understandings regarding the implementation of such agreement in line with the Palestinian Authority’s ability to control its territory, and the faster we are able to prove to West Bank residents that a pragmatic Palestinian leadership enables them to live a better life – the more we will weaken Hamas and other radical elements, which prefer violence over dialogue.
Knesset Member Yossi Beilin is the Chairman of Meretz