A tense calm has returned to central and southern Israel, and to the Gaza Strip, after one of the shorter rounds of conflict between Israel and the terror groups.
We all know it won’t last.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad, expanding its nefarious capabilities under Iran’s sponsorship, has lost several of its Gaza terror chiefs, and its operatives are being targeted by the IDF in the West Bank as well. But it lives to fight, and fight it will, another day. Hamas, its ruthless, savvy big brother, stayed out of the conflict, but only for tactical reasons — it determined that its wider ambitions, namely retaining control over the Gaza populace while building up the capacity to damage and ultimately destroy Israel, were not served by joining in this time.
In a speech on Monday evening mainly directed to Israelis, Prime Minister Yair Lapid attempted to reach out to Gazans, over the heads of the terror groups, telling them that we need not all be sentenced to endless bloody confontation.
“There is also another way. We know how to protect ourselves from anyone who threatens us, but we also know how to provide work, livelihood, and a life of dignity to anyone who wants to live in peace by our side,” said Lapid. “There is another way to live. The path of the Abraham Accords, of the Negev Summit, of innovation and economy, of regional development and joint projects. The choice is yours. Your future depends on you.”
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Hamas, PIJ and, unfortunately, the loudest voices coming out of the Palestinian Authority-controlled West Bank, don’t want Palestinians to believe there is “another way to live.”
The PA, while maintaining the security coordination with Israel that prevents Hamas taking over in the West Bank, nonetheless rejects normalization with Israel, denies Israel’s legitimacy, rewards those who attack us, and accuses the region’s Abraham Accords signatories of betrayal.
Hamas this week attempted to rewrite not history but current affairs, telling the local reporters and assistants upon whom foreign media rely that they were expected to ensure that international coverage blames Israel, and only Israel, for the flare-up and its consequences. There was, for instance, to be no reporting of Gazans killed by the terrorists’ own misfired rockets. This had of course happened, but was to be deemed an untruth.
“Demonstrate national spirit, defend the Palestinian narrative and reject the foreigner’s bias to the Israeli narrative,” the foreign media’s local Gaza hires were ordered by their Islamist rulers, in directives that only came to light, and were subsequently rescinded, when the foreign press pushed back. As the Associated Press noted, however, “Even if the rules are officially withdrawn, Hamas has still signaled its expectations, which could have a chilling effect on critical coverage.”
There is another way, and there is another narrative. It’s a narrative that recognizes historic Jewish sovereign legitimacy and responsibility in this part of the world as well as Palestinian history, rights and responsibilities, acknowledges the inconvenient fact that neither of the two peoples who contest this land is going anywhere, and concludes that both are better served by coexistence.
This a narrative widely, though not universally, recognized by Israelis. It is certainly not the narrative the PA, Hamas or Islamic Jihad want disseminated, abroad or at home. It is not the narrative peddled in Palestinian media or in Palestinian textbooks.
Giving Palestinians wider access to that kind of nuanced narrative, and thus to the choice that Lapid urges them to make, would require a long-term, strategic effort — allocating and redirecting funding, and using diplomatic leverage — to impact Palestinian education, conventional media and social media. The kind of effort, in short, that the international community, while indulging Palestinian victimhood, has always resisted.
There is, indeed, another way to live. It’s paved with honest and challenging education for all, free and fair media, and difficult truths.