By Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D.
Exclusive for Shalom Magazine
As one who moved to Israel with my wife in 2016, I was shocked and saddened by the intelligence and other failures that led to the brutal massacre of 1,400 Israelis and the kidnapping of 230 Israelis on October 7. I hope and pray that Israel wins a very decisive military victory so that Hamas is completely destroyed, and that Israel will never face such a threat again. Fortunately, my family is safe, but, as I write this on November 1, 2023, I am very concerned about the safety of my three grandchildren who have been called up for military service, as well as the many other Israelis who are now in harm’s way.
Among the many other worrisome considerations related to the current tragic situation are:
• Israel might become bogged down in a long, difficult, and very painful war in Gaza. That would very negatively affect our economy as hundreds of thousands of Israelis have been called to military service.
• Hezbollah might open up a new front in northern Israel. This could be especially harmful as they are far stronger militarily than Hamas, with many more rockets that have far greater destructive power.
• Relations between Israeli Jews and Arabs might deteriorate to the point that it could cause conflicts in mixed Jewish/Muslim cities. Already, some Arab bus drivers are refusing to come to work because they have been harassed or threatened and some Israeli Jews are urging supermarkets to fire their Arab workers. Israel’s economy depends on Arab workers so this could have very serious consequences.
• The above factors might result in increased conflicts between Jews and Palestinians in the already volatile West Bank (Judea and Samaria), where there has already been a significant increase in attacks from both groups.
• There has already been a reported 12-fold increase in antisemitism in many areas of the world and this could continue and even worsen. Because of these worrisome concerns and the present extremely difficult conditions, it is important to consider “the day after,” Israel’s future after hopefully Hamas is no longer a threat and the situation in Israel has been stabilized. Along with many world leaders, including US President Joe Biden and Israeli military and strategic experts, I think Israel should make it a priority to pursue a two-state resolution of its conflict with the Palestinians. This would not be easy and would involve painful compromises, but such a resolution is essential for Israel to be able to avert continued and possibly increased violence and diplomatic criticism, effectively respond to our economic, environmental, and other domestic problems, and remain both a Jewish and a democratic nation.
As long ago as 2013, an Israeli Academy Award-nominated documentary, The Gatekeepers, provided interviews of the then sixliving retired heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s security service. The six strategic experts unanimously were critical of Israel’s continued occupation of the West Bank and felt that Israel should be doing more to help resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in order to provide Israel with a decent future.
These views are shared by Commanders for Israel’s Security (CIS), which includes over 300 Israeli retired generals and leaders of Mossad, Shin Bet, and Israel’s police force. They believe that advancing Israeli separation from the Palestinians into two states, as part of a regional initiative, is the best way to maintain Israel as a Jewish democracy.
Most of the world’s leaders and strong majorities of US Democratic politicians and US Jews also favor a two-state resolution of the Israeli/ Palestinian conflict.
Of course, any agreement would need to include security guarantees for Israel and involve territorial swaps that would involve over 70 percent of West Bank Jewish residents to become residents of Israel.
The achievement of peace between Israel and the Palestinians and nearby Arab states is essential to a decent future for Israel. Pursuing it puts into practice essential Jewish values and mandates: to seek and pursue peace (Psalms 34:14), to turn enemies into friends (Avot d’Rebbe Natan 23:1), and to work cooperatively for justice (Deuteronomy 16:20) and the preservation of God’s world (Genesis 2:15).
In addition, a resolution of the conflict would serve as a model for other trouble spots throughout the world.
Richard H. Schwartz, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus at College of Staten Island. He is the author of Vegan Revolution: Saving Our World, Revitalizing Judaism; Judaism and Vegetarianism; and over 250 articles at JewishVeg.org/schwartz.
Learn more at www. facebook.org/JewishVeg