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  • Mark Lavie

The Biden plan for Gaza could still work

On a different planet, the Biden plan to end the war in Gaza would be welcomed. It provides both sides with most of what they want: It stops the bloodshed, frees all the Israeli hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, promotes plans for reconstruction, and returns Gazans to their homes.

It comes as Israel continues its last-ditch military operation in the southern border city of Rafah, blowing up smuggling and attack tunnels, killing Hamas terrorists and civilians, but taking an awful price in soldier casualties.

Hamas, meanwhile, has its local leadership stuck far underground, is losing its terrorists, weapons, and rockets, is presiding over destruction of its home territory, and is gradually but steadily alienating whatever support it had among its people.

So on a different planet, the three-phase Biden program—mostly an Israeli plan—would be an acceptable end to the eight-month war. A large portion of Israel’s public wants the war to end and the hostages returned home, even if that means scrapping the unattainable goal of “total destruction of Hamas,” as articulated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

But on this planet, it won’t work in its present form.

Netanyahu is trapped—willingly or unwillingly—in a political reality that means agreeing to any compromise on stopping the war spells the end of his long reign in office, as he is beholden to a small, militant faction in his ruling coalition that calls plans like this one “childish.”

Also, implementation of the Biden plan, though it’s not stated, depends on negotiating with Hamas and getting its agreement. This is the same Hamas that sent thousands of bloodthirsty terrorists across the border last Oct. 7, killing, raping, and burning more than 1,000 Israelis and kidnapping 240 others. The same Hamas that routinely makes up “facts” and feeds them to an adoring foreign media machine, even forcing the sympathetic UN to repudiate the Hamas “Health Ministry” death toll, cutting it in half. That, of course, hasn’t stopped the media from parroting Hamas figures and claims, just noting down there somewhere in the article that “the figures could not be independently confirmed.” Copout.

That Hamas. The one with genocide in its charter, the one that rejects the very concept of a Jewish state in the Middle East, the one that trains its children to welcome “martyrdom” as long as they take Jews with them when they die.

That Hamas. Negotiating with Hamas on an equal footing with Israel is obscene—even given that Israel’s record is far from spotless, and even though the Arab propaganda machine, tapping into historic wells of anti-Zionism and antisemitism, has successfully tainted Israel with the same crimes Hamas itself proudly promotes toward Jews in its charter.

Then there’s the “day after” problem. Interestingly, there’s no mention of negotiations toward the holy “two-state solution” formula in the Biden plan. In other words, it basically returns the situation to what it was before the Hamas pogrom of last October.

Does that mean that the West is finally waking up to the fact that at least for the coming decades, the utopian dream of a Palestinian state living peacefully next to Israel is dead? Probably not—but for years it’s been little more than a mantra to be intoned at various intervals, and then set aside.

That’s because it’s not just Hamas that rejects the idea of a Palestinian state next to Israel—so do the more moderate rulers of the West Bank. They are the ones that turned down two concrete Israeli proposals, maps and all, of a Palestinian state in the equivalent of all of the West Bank and Gaza (with a corridor through Israel to connect them) and parts of Jerusalem, not once, but twice—in 2000 and 2008.

No excuse, like “the Israelis weren’t nice” or “the Americans weren’t forceful,” can excuse these rejections, which set back Mideast peacemaking for decades and led to a series of skirmishes and, now, this war in Gaza. The Palestinians could already have had their state for two decades or so if they had accepted one of the proposals, even if it wasn’t exactly everything they were demanding—just as Israel did in 1947, when the UN offered the Jews and the Palestinians separate states.

Instead, we have endless conflict.

Even so, all is not lost. The Biden plan can open the way to a new era—but not unless the US and moderate Arab nations are prepared to get some skin in the game, and not unless Israel changes either its policy or its leadership—or both.

It’s a critical mistake to view the conflict as bilateral, involving only Israel and Hamas. Other active players include Iran and Qatar. Along with supporting Hamas, Iran is sponsoring a painful flare-up on the Israel-Lebanon border that could turn into a larger war. Qatar has been funding Hamas weapons acquisitions and tunnel-digging for years (with Israel’s misguided cooperation), and Qatar provides a comfy home base for the Hamas leaders who either left or fled Gaza. Dealing with Iran and Qatar is a crucial element of seeing to it that the Biden plan, if implemented, does not just lead to another war in a year or two.

That requires an active coalition of the US and moderate Arab nations to take over administration of the Gaza war settlement, even if the Palestinians and Israel object.

The Palestinians, mainly Hamas, are certain to object. That could lead to renewed rocket fire at Israel. Iran also won’t take this lying down, resulting in more attacks from Lebanon and possibly a reprise of the massive air attack against Israel a few weeks ago. The coalition would have to respond to those.

Israel, on the other hand, should accept active involvement of Arab nations that could become its allies. The current leadership might not be able to do that, but Israel has a democratic form of government that features actual elections—unlike the Palestinians, who last had an election in 2008, or Iran, where the opposition to the regime of the ayatollahs is cruelly repressed and elections are meaningless. So Israel could well get on board here.

If the Biden plan results in a wide coalition of forces dedicated to pacifying the Israel-Palestinian front by dealing with its sponsors, then there’s a chance it could make a real difference.

On this planet.

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