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What we need to learn from this con­flict

What­ever hap­pens in Gaza — and the news changes by the minute as this ed­i­to­rial is be­ing writ­ten — all sides have to ac­cept some very hard truths. If not, the blood­shed will re­sume, the anger and frus­tra­tion will spread and the re­gion, Is­rael’s neigh­bor­hood, will squan­der the hope and po­ten­tial of the frag­ile cease-fire.

We be­gin with what is, for a Jewish pub­li­ca­tion, a fun­da­men­tal be­lief: Is­rael should have the right to be ac­cepted as a free na­tion and to de­fend it­self from at­tack. This shouldn’t just be a Jewish value; it should be a value em­braced by ev­ery­one.

But it isn’t, and that is the hard truth that Ha­mas and its al­lies in the Mus­lim world, have to ac­cept. Six decades of de­nial have given them noth­ing. They can­not es­cape his­tory. The State of Is­rael is a re­al­ity now — a flawed but still mirac­u­lous re­al­ity — and there is just no ben­e­fit in deny­ing that any­more. Many Pales­tini­ans, liv­ing in the West Bank and in Gaza, ac­cept that re­al­ity even if some of their lead­ers don’t. These prag­matic voices must be heard and strength­ened.

And that leads to the sec­ond hard truth. The past few years rep­re­sent a heart­break­ing, in­deed tragic, missed op­por­tu­nity by Is­rael and the Pales­tinian Author­ity to set­tle their dif­fer­ences and cre­ate an in­de­pen­dent Pales­tinian state that pro­tects Is­rael’s fu­ture. Two years ago, Ha­mas was in a freefall, its pub­lic stand­ing weak­ened as Pales­tini­ans told poll­sters again and again that they fa­vored a two-state so­lu­tion.

But Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu and Pales­tinian Author­ity Pres­i­dent Mah­moud Ab­bas let it go. They let the op­por­tu­nity go. Each side will blame the other, and each side will have some le­git­i­macy in do­ing so, but the de­tails are ir­rel­e­vant here. The past is worth re­hears­ing only to rec­og­nize what was lost and why the op­por­tu­nity should not slip away again.

Is­rael also has to deal with hard truths. Much as its lead­ers continue to ig­nore the im­pact of set­tle­ment growth, it is a real im­ped­i­ment to peace. So is its corol­lary — the con­tin­ued, some­times bru­tal, oc­cu­pa­tion of Pales­tinian lands. The Is­raeli block­ade of Gaza’s ports and con­trol of its bor­ders doesn’t jus­tify the in­creas­ing bar­rage of rock­ets launched in the last few years, but it does help to ex­plain why Gazans be­lieve that they live in an open-air prison and that Is­rael holds the key. The oc­cu­pa­tion of the West Bank is only lead­ing to more Pales­tinian rad­i­cal­iza­tion while tear­ing at Is­rael’s soul.

Main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo is not an op­tion, be­cause it sim­ply can’t be main­tained.

As of this writ­ing, the cease-fire an­nounced by the U.S. and Egypt is hold­ing. As Jews, our hearts go out first to other Jews who have suf­fered and then to all who, we pray, will have the courage to ac­cept the hard truths this ter­ri­ble sit­u­a­tion de­mands.

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