Tuesday, June 2, 2020 -
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Full stop.

It’s not unusual for neighbors to have border wars. I myself have mediated between neighbors who disagreed about each others lifestyles in a way that affected their own. But they needed to learn to live with each other. Some neighbors might be hardy partyers living next door to more mellow celebrators. Some may welcome the bark of a dog, while others may feel it is a disruption to their peace and quiet. The differences between neighbors are as limitless as the different types of people.

Not to trivialize the magnitude of the “differences” Israel shares with her neighbor, the Palestininans. Obviously, terrorism and rockets aren’t a little neighborly dispute. But at the end of the day, that’s what Israel and the Palestinians are: neighbors. Here is the rub: one of these neighbors does not want the other neighbor to exist. Ever. So there is no real stake in striving, at a minimum, to find a way to learn to live together.

It is important to keep the eye on the ball and remember that this is the goal of Hamas jihadists whom the Palestinians voted for: to destroy Israel completely. Not about how, procedurally, to deal with the real and uncomfortable challenges of living together as neighbors, not just to hold the sentiment of wishing your neighbor would disappear, but actually, unabashadly, announcing your plan to make your neighbors go away. Keep you eye on the ball because when you hear the UN and world leaders treat the topic of Hamas and its rockets, or suicide bombing, or any of its other violent acts, they are treated so narrowly. You know — debating rockets, suicide bombers, ceasefires, and the fairness, or merits, of Israel’s response.

So I ask you: what exactly is a measured response to terrorism? You bet Israel has not responded proportionately. She let rockets rain on her residents for years, hijacking their lives for years, and doing nothing in response — you are quite right. That, certainly, is not proportionate.

You need to seriously think twice about supporting the establishment of a state that is founded on, and whose very existence depends on, the destruction of her neighbor. Such a state cannot function as a state.

Being at war is what you always want to avoid at all costs. Every human life is so very precious. I feel deep sadness at the Israeli soldiers we have lost. And the loss of any innocent life touches me. But when there is no alternative course of action, it’s what you have to do. Israel is doing what she has to do.

Unfortunately, this response, this war, has been a long time in coming. It is necessary. Yet, it is not sufficient. Beating Hamas terrorists to a pulp and bringing them to their knees, only to have a neutral party broker a mini-cease fire, will not do.

What will be when this war is over? What is the goal? Another flimsy, fragile ceasefire that is not worth the paper it is written on, based on Hamas’ track record of violating agreements in the past, won’t cut it.

The desired outcome of this war, must be, I believe, a tangible achievement. As interior minister Meir Shitrit said, “The point is to break the will of the Palestinians, of Hamas, to continue to fire at Israel.” Continuing to live a getting by, day by day, tenuous existence in the south of Israel is not OK. It is not enough.

I want to see a true sense of normalcy returned to these people who have felt abandoned by the perceived or real indifference of their people, their government. I’m talking sleeping in your bed, eating breakfast, grocery shopping, school buses, and doctor visits — normal.

The goal of this war needs to be ensuring that normal life is possible again in Sderot, and for that matter, everywhere in our Jewish homeland.

I’m proud of Israel for fighting unapologetically for herself. This time around, unlike two summers ago when we were fighting Hezbollah on the northern border of our country, the army seems different. It is organized. There is a plan. Israel is bombing strategically. I’m glad the press is being kept at bay. I am hoping the relative silence surrounding this operation is a good sign.

There is a saying “let them hate so long as they fear.” I never liked this because it is not OK to accept hate. Yet, there is truth to this. To learn to live with someone is a practical, behavioral business, not a philosophical one. I pray for a day when we will all drink together from “the cup of peace,” but until such a time, we must learn to live with one another in an imperfect way, don’t you think?

All these years Israel has been living on a wing and a prayer, and a string of ceasefires. With Egypt, many interval ceasefires eventually turned into a peace treaty, a cold peace, as it is known. With Syria, the Yom Kippur war has yielded, for the most part, a fairly stable ceasefire.These agreements meet minimum criteria of non violence toward Israel. But the sense of hostility and of being enemies persists. There are no illusions.

No one is talking about the friendly neighborhood of bringing over peach pies. Israel knows her neighborhood. But at least such a bar allows for a way to find a life to build, a life to make for oneself.

When this war is over, it is the time — long overdue of course — for Israel to expect and demand — with the support of the international community — an enduring agreement from Hamas, from the Palestinians. Full stop. Nothing less should be acceptable.

My prayers for safety are with all the soldiers and their families, and all the citizens of Israel.

Tehilla R. Goldberg

IJN columnist | View from Central Park

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