Israel must embrace reality, not ignore it

Once the dust settles post-Hamas, it will be crucial for Israelis to confront the harsh reality of the attack on Oct. 7. The escapist impulse to reduce the motive for the assault to “pure evil” inhibits a deeper examination of the conditions and context that led to these horrors. Even the most extreme and shocking forms of evil can have their roots in underlying causes, with drivers that give rise to it and fuel it. While this fact is uncomfortable, ignoring it condemns the victims to a recurrence.

The evil of Oct. 7 was not a random occurrence; it emerged from decades of oppression and the intense hatred that this cultivated in the oppressed. Such evil thrives on human desperation. Consistent neglect of the ongoing Palestinian tragedy ensured that Israeli policies continued to breed and feed this malevolence, perpetuating the cycle of violence.

Israelis now face the stark reality that, despite 75 years of military prowess, nuclear capability and significant influence in the West, their state could not protect citizens in their homes — a fundamental function of the state and the essence of Israel’s existence. Despite Israel’s numerous achievements, including advanced military technology, the recent tragedy demonstrated the inadequacy of these measures to protect the families who were affected.

Constructing higher walls and wider moats and simultaneously escalating brutality is an ineffective response. In an era of great advances in technology, such measures will not protect Israelis from evolving forms of violence. After all, nonstate actors equipped with lethal capabilities already pose a threat beyond that posed by traditional state enemies.

Wholesale ethnic cleansing — a disturbing prospect entertained by some on the Israeli right — is not a viable solution. Much of the global reaction to the horrors of Gaza, coupled with Palestinian resistance and heightened awareness of the risk by Egypt and Jordan, make such actions now virtually impossible. Israel must face the reality that it will have to coexist with Palestine and must work toward developing a sustainable peace informed by the Arab Peace Initiative.

The only viable path to ensure the safety and security that Israelis have long desired is a final peace settlement with the Palestinians. Without this, the enduring peace that is hoped for will remain elusive. If Israel’s generals’ next move is merely to prepare for the last war, then they are bound to face new rounds of unanticipated terror. The time has come for Israel’s leaders to abandon their arrogance and acknowledge that force alone cannot protect their nation against 7 million subjugated people.

A Palestinian people with a meaningful peace to protect would fight tooth and nail to prevent actors such as Hamas from sabotaging their well-being and their children’s future.

Lasting peace requires granting Palestinians freedom and dignity. This involves affording Palestinians total freedom of movement and international protection from Israeli abuse. A fully contiguous Palestinian territory in the West Bank with unimpeded access to Jordan, and a seaport and airport in Gaza, would facilitate this.

Israel has won every conventional war it entered with Arab states, but it has never experienced the domestic dividends of peace with the Palestinians. Radicals from both Israel and Palestine must be sidelined to make way for the peaceful majorities of both Jews and Palestinians to coexist.

Only by creating an environment in which Palestinians have full freedom of movement and are safe from Israeli abuse can the underlying hatred be extinguished. This approach has the potential to open the doors to regional normalization with Israel and its full integration into the Middle East.