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Hamas Holds the Key to Ending Israel's Endless Wars in Gaza

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Hamas militants march in the Gaza Strip in 2021.
Hamas militants march in the Gaza Strip in 2021.Credit: Adel Hana /AP

Just hours after the cease-fire went into force, Israel’s political leadership came to recognize something important – that it can leverage the military achievements it made in Operation Breaking Dawn to make advances on the civilian and diplomatic fronts. The decision of the Hamas leadership to act as the “responsible adult” in the latest round of fighting and avoid escalation may be signaling a willingness to reach an understanding on a long-term period of quiet with Israel, to work to improve the welfare of Gazans, to pave the way for an international effort to rehabilitate the enclave and perhaps even to reaching an agreement on returning Israeli hostages and soldiers missing in action.

Days of war: Understanding this weekend's Israel-Gaza flare-up

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Israel’s official position is not to hold negotiations with terror organizations. But in practice Breaking Dawn has proven that Hamas is now the address for Israel in Gaza. So much so, that there were even those in Israel who were disappointed at the organization’s neutrality and its failure to stop Islamic Jihad when it launched rockets at Israel.

The fact that Islamic Jihad has been wounded by the operation has increased Hamas’ strength. These developments can and should change the rules of the game between Israel and the leadership in Gaza.

The outgoing “government of change” is made up of opposing forces divided over policy, which has made it difficult to take far-reaching measures. But increasing the number of work permits Israel provides Gazans, allowing more goods to go into and out of the enclave, and encouraging countries of the region to provide financial aid could all help with rehabilitating Gaza and improving Israel’s regional ties. But all of these measures can be done directly with Hamas, with the coordination and involvement of Egypt, Qatar and Turkey.

We must remember that none of these measures can serve as a substitute for negotiations toward a two-state solution and strengthening Israeli relations with the Palestinian Authority, which is Israel’s partner for diplomatic negotiations.

Gaza’s rehabilitation must begin immediately and in a businesslike manner with the goal of making life more tolerable for its residents. At the same time, we must remember that there’s no real substitute for creating a clear political horizon. Israel will continue to be dragged into endless wars in Gaza and into violent conflict in the West Bank as long as it insists on “managing the conflict” rather than solving it.

Right now, ahead of an election and in the wake of a military operation that disrupted the lives of millions of people, Yair Lapid needs to raise the flag of diplomacy – to speak in a loud and clear voice about the two-state solution and to offer a real alternative to Benjamin Netanyahu’s 12 years of despair and the threat to what remains of the hope of two peoples living side by side in peace.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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