Can Peace Come After War Ends? – OpEd


Just before Christmas the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry claimed that over 20,000 people in the Strip have been killed since the start of the Hamas-Israel war and Israeli officials said over 8,000 of those killed in Gaza were Hamas operatives.

A new Harvard CAPS (Center for American Political Studies)/Harris poll released December 15, 2023 shows that while 81 percent of Americans across all ages say they back Israel in the conflict only 19 percent support Hamas. However, those from age 18 to 24 are equally split over who they support. Since Hamas led its deadliest-ever attack on Israel on October 7, young people have been at the forefront of the “Free Palestine” movement. 

The October 7 attack on Israel by Hamas killed 1,200 people and about 245 hostages were seized. Israel subsequently launched its heaviest-ever airstrikes on Gaza and 20,000 Palestinians have been killed so far. Young Americans are the only age group where the majority does not want a two-state solution, which is heavily favored by older Americans. 

More than half of 18- to 24-year-olds want Israel to be ended and given to Hamas and the Palestinians, while 32 percent favor two states.

More than 70 percent of young people said that October 7 was a terrorist attack, with 66 percent believing it was genocidal in nature. But 60 percent also thought the attack could be justified by the grievances of Palestinians, and the same percentage believed Israel is the one committing genocide against those in Gaza.

The poll shows that young adults aged 18 to 24 have a slightly more favorable view of Israel than Hamas. Seven-in-10 said that Israel is trying to avoid civilian casualties, while only 58 percent believe the same of Hamas. Additionally, 62 percent said Hamas uses people as human shields and 54 percent said the group was responsible for putting citizens in Gaza in harm’s way.

Hamas’ 2017 charter states that in principle, it “rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea.” In a 2012 speech, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said, “Palestine is ours from the river to the sea and from the south to the north. There will be no concession on any inch of the land.” Hamas opposes a two state solution, and violently opposed the Oslo peace accords negotiated by Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in the mid-1990s. 

Yet if the war ends with Hamas eliminated, and with a new Israeli government elected; there is the hope that the miracle of the Yom Kippur War may be repeated. On October 27, 1978, only five years after Egypt started the Yom Kippur War with a surprise  attack on Israel, Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin were named winners of the Nobel Peace Prize for their progress toward achieving a Middle East accord. The Yom Kippur War was followed six years later by a Peace Treaty between Egypt and Israel which has lasted to this day. 

Could the same process follow the defeat of Hamas, and its opposition to a two state solution?  Not if Hamas has leaders like Ghazi Hamad, a senior member of Hamas, who hailed the systematic slaughter of 1,200+ civilians in Israel on October 7, vowing in an interview that “if given the chance, Hamas will repeat similar assaults many times in the future, until Israel is exterminated.”

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou, a Professor at a university in Rabat, Morocco writes: “After the current (Hamas-Israel) war, Israel’s ultra-nationalist coalition will undoubtedly be undermined by public opinion, and probably by a commission of inquiry. If the Palestinian Authority were to agree to take over Gaza – backed by the international reconstruction aid that would inevitably arrive – and if a centrist coalition government were to emerge in Israel, everything would once again be possible. Two difficult “ifs” perhaps, but there is no serious alternative.”

The only possible chance for avoiding more wars is the two state solution. To establish a Palestinian state alongside Israel. That will not be possible with the current leaders on either side. Extremists, both Israeli and Palestinian, will do all they can to sink the idea, as they have done since the 1990s. If this war does not deliver enough of a shock to break deeply-held prejudices and to make the idea of two states viable, nothing will. And without a mutually-acceptable way of ending the conflict, more generations of Palestinians and Israelis will be sentenced to more wars.

Although it might seem impossible now, I do believe that within a decade or two Muslims will visit Jerusalem and pray together with Jews as Prophet Isaiah states: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. On that day Israel will join a three-party  alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.” …(Isaiah 19:23-5) 

And then “Nation shall not lift sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:4)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

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