Hamas rightly deserves global condemnation for its brutality in murdering over 1,400 innocent Israelis on October 7. Not since the Holocaust has this number of Jews been killed in a single day. Israel has a sovereign right to protect itself by engaging in this just war in Gaza against the Hamas militants.
At the same time, Israel has the responsibility to minimize civilian casualties in its pursuit of legitimate military objectives. According to health officials in Gaza, which is run by Hamas, more 9,000 civilians, including thousands of children, have already died in the Israeli bombardment campaign against Hamas, whose fighters use hospitals and schools as human shields.
In the polarized debate over what is happening now in Gaza, the public is being presented with a false choice – either a full ceasefire or a continued all-out assault that will put even more lives at risk.
But there is a third way that allows Israel to pursue its war against Hamas while protecting the innocent: Establish new refugee camps outside the borders of Gaza – either in Israel or Egypt – to be overseen by the United Nations to provide food, water, medical care and shelter to civilians who wish to leave Gaza as Israel roots out Hamas fighters.
Once the 25-mile-long Gaza strip is cleared of Hamas terrorists, the internationally financed process of rebuilding the territory and moving the civilian population back can begin.
The U.S. is poised to commit $14 billion in military aid to Israel. The Congress, with the support of President Biden, can also help finance the temporary enclave outside Gaza. Our nation has significant leverage with Israel and Egypt and should use it to create the safe haven while seeking additional political and financial support from a coalition of Arab and European nations.
This approach will get civilians out of danger as Israel seeks to destroy Hamas as a fighting force. The shelling of densely populated neighborhoods — even if they shelter legitimate military targets using civilians as shields — is just wrong when other options are available.
As a Jew, I am committed to the beautiful idea of Israel. I have prayed for peace at the Wailing Wall. Yet, I am concerned for all innocent civilians, driven by the eternal Jewish value to protect the weak and build kinship with all human beings, even our enemies.
There is simply a lack of imagination and/or will to find a third way out of this crisis — a solution that addresses the humanitarian crisis while taking into account Israel’s military imperative.
I am a strong supporter of President Biden and serve on his re-election finance committee. That hasn’t stopped me from imploring the White House to embrace a humane solution to the difficulty posed by the need to root out Hamas.
Every day that more bombs fall and more innocent civilians die brings us another day closer to a wider war in the region. Tensions in the West Bank have already reached a fever-pitch, with attacks on Palestinians by settlers inviting lethal retaliation. Hezbollah, backed by Iran, is stoking anger throughout the Middle East, fueled by Palestinian casualties.
Hopes that this latest chapter in the long-running conflict might open the possibility to a more lasting resolution — the long-unfulfilled promise of a two-state deal — are dependent on a modicum of trust and goodwill.
It will be nearly impossible for honest brokers in the region to convene a coalition of state and non-state actors to engage in a serious peace process leading to a Palestinian homeland in the wake of civilian casualties in Gaza rising to tens of thousands.
Now is the time for bold thinking and bold action. The status quo ante cannot stand. We can and must take decisive steps to stem civilian bloodshed and set the stage for a new pact leading to lasting peace in a troubled corner of the world.