Working with moderate Muslims to end the Arab-Israeli conflict

Former Silver Spring resident and Knesset member Dov Lipman say it makes a big difference to Israelis that America is supporting the Jewish state in the battle against Hamas. (File Photo)
Former Silver Spring resident and Knesset member Dov Lipman

It felt painfully distant from Jeremiah’s prophecy (Jeremiah 33:11) of a time when, “The sounds of joy and the sounds of gladness” will be heard in the mountains of Jerusalem. All I heard were cries, wails and screams of sorrow echoing off the Jerusalem hills. Those cries were not limited to the children, spouses, siblings and parents of the four Jews who were murdered in the kosher supermarket in France, but they extended, as well, to thousands of Israelis who gathered to give them honor and to bury them.

We have been doing a great deal of crying here in Israel lately. We experienced a summer replete with funerals, starting with those of the three kidnapped high school boys and continuing with the burial of 70 soldiers who fell during Operation Protective Edge. The tears continued as we suffered horrific terrorist attacks in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

How do we bring an end to this bloodshed? This question has weighed on the minds of Israelis for decades and has now spread to the halls of government and cafe discussions worldwide. And therein lies the beginning of working towards a solution.

The moment world leaders realize that the terrorist in Tel Aviv is the terrorist in Toulouse and that the terrorist in Jerusalem is the terrorist in Paris, we can begin the process of combating this common enemy. The moment that it is understood that Israel’s battle against Hamas and Hezbollah is the same as the world’s war against al-Qaida and ISIS, the coalition necessary to defeat this common enemy can begin to coalesce.

We still have a long way to go but we are beginning to turn the corner.

This change works to Israel’s advantage in its war against fundamentalist Islam as well as in its conflict with the Palestinians. It has become very clear that P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas does not have the courage or ability to make the compromises that we, in Israel, require in order to provide for our security as we try to separate from the Palestinians.

However, there are moderate Arab states in the Middle East, led by Egypt, that are more afraid of ISIS and fundamentalist Islam than we are. We must take advantage of this phenomenon – worldwide terrorism and the spread of ISIS in the Middle East – in order to separate from the Palestinians in Israel.

I say “must,” because if we don’t act, there is a risk of Israel waking up one morning with a few million Palestinians saying they no longer want their own state and, instead, requesting citizenship in Israel. After all, Israel is a democracy, they live within the borders of the land over which we have control, so how can we deny them this right? And the state of Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state will then be at risk. So, we must strive to separate from the Palestinians using the current development of moderate Arab states who desire our assistance in combating ISIS and fundamentalist Islam. They are the ones who can nudge the Palestinians and give them the backing they need to make compromises.

Israel cannot jeopardize its security and therefore the Palestinians will have to compromise as Israel pursues an agreement with them. The basis of any agreement with the Palestinians must be a safe and secure Israel.

Up until this point in time, the Palestinians have not shown a willingness to provide us with the security arrangements which we need. That is where the moderate Arab states come in as we begin to work together to look out for the security interests of the entire region.

The approach that I have described is the platform of the Yesh Atid Party led by Knesset member Yair Lapid in which I proudly serve. While Israelis will go to the polls on March 17 with a primary focus on socioeconomic issues, they are also aware of the ticking time bomb that is the unsettled Palestinian conflict. The Left believes that if we simply sit with Abbas, we can work out a peace agreement by giving in to his demands. We believe that the outcome of such an agreement will be a meaningless piece of paper which would actually be very dangerous for Israel’s security.

The Israeli Right has become more and more extreme and has not put forth a plan beyond “managing” the conflict which we believe is morally wrong and also a danger to the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

Yesh Atid leads the pragmatic center, which says that it is in our best interest to work towards separating from the Palestinians and, that in order to protect our vital security interests, we must approach this process from a position of strength. The agreement must be based on a
regional solution as part of the worldwide battle against the terrorism of fundamentalist Islam.

We, in Israel, actually do experience “the sounds of joy and the sound of gladness” echoing off the hills of Jerusalem on a daily basis. The Jewish people have returned to its ancient and biblical homeland and despite the terrorism and bloodshed that have plagued our state since its inception, we have persevered and, with God’s help, will continue to persevere and thrive.

Now we must have the courage to work with moderate Arab states in the region to try to root out the cries of sorrow which have become all too common in our country, in the Middle East, and throughout the world.

Dov Lipman, born in Silver Spring, made aliyah and is a Knesset member for the Yesh Atid Party.

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