An event happened a week ago that has changed the calculus of foreign affairs. The situation in Israel and Gaza right now is extremely perilous, not only for the people of those two regions but for the world.
Black and white thinking will help no one, and has no place in any serious analysis of the current situation. Many truths exist here simultaneously.
Atrocities such as those committed by Hamas against civilians in Israel were acts of pure evil, transgressing the most basic dictates of a moral universe. The invasion did nothing to promote the cause of justice for the Palestinians; if anything, it puts the cause of justice for Palestinians back for decades and possibly longer. Hamas is a terrorist organization, and this was a terrorist attack. The aspirations of Hamas have nothing to do with striking a peace deal with Israel. Their stated goal is the complete eradication of the state of Israel, and they will settle for nothing less.
While it is often stated – incorrectly – that the goal of Israel is the extermination of the Palestinians, in fact the stated goal of Hamas is the extermination of the Jews. Clearly they are trying, and Israel cannot be expected not to respond. No one expected the United States to not go after Al-Qaeda after 9/11, and no one should expect Israel not to go after Hamas. Of course, we did…and of course they will.
But an eye for an eye doesn’t just leave everyone blind; in this case it leaves everyone dead. While I have cried for days about an event that exterminated ten times more Jews than died on the night of Kristallnacht, now I am crying the same infuriated and helpless tears for over two million people who live in Gaza, over half of whom are children.
Humanitarian corridors must be established immediately. The siege must end, and power be restored immediately so hospitals can be more than graveyards. Gazan civilians and foreign nationals must be given safe passage. There are surely phone calls going back and forth among world leaders today – including Europeans and Arabs – seeking desperately to broker some kind of humanitarian solution, to create a ceasefire and restore delivery of water, food and medical supplies.
Hamas is not the Palestinian people; in fact, Hamas displays dictatorial power over their own people in Gaza. Yet innocent Palestinians as well as Israelis are already paying a terrible price for what has happened, and their safety must be as high a priority for the world as should the safety of innocent Israelis.
Hamas has announced it will start executing the 150 hostages one by one if Israel takes military action against Gaza, leaving the hostage’s loved ones and the entire nation of Israel in a state of horrifying trauma. No person of good will anywhere in the world wants those hostages executed. The hatred spawned by such insanity would only increase the hostility that already exists between far too many Israelis and Palestinians – two peoples who we should remember lived in peace for centuries, and hopefully will live in peace together again someday. One of the tragic consequences of this situation is how many Palestinians and Israelis have worked for years to forge a better way – only to see their dreams of peace be shattered by what has occurred.
As President, in the years leading up to this I would have been far more active on behalf of an effort to broker peace between Israel and the Palestinians. Supporting Israel militarily yet not playing an active role in emphasizing the need for Palestinian justice was a failure of American leadership and a transgression against our own values. Once Trump was out of office, I would have moved the U.S. Embassy back to Tel Aviv. I would not have allowed the Abraham Accords to minimize the cause of justice for Palestinians. I would have demanded justice for Shireen Abu Akleh. I would have demanded that no military assistance provided to Israel – created by a Congressional Memorandum of Understanding that extends until 2028 — be used in a way that supports the occupation of the West Bank, the settlements, or the blockade of Gaza. I would have stated my opposition to all three. I would have worked assiduously with Middle East peace builders both there and here. I would have supported all efforts to create the resurrection of plans for a two-state solution. I would have used American power to side with our highest ally: humanity itself.
I do appreciate the moral clarity of President Biden’s speech on Tuesday. It was clearly from his heart. My clarity and compassion would have been more universal, however. I would have emphasized to the American people that Hamas is not the Palestinian people, and the Palestinian people are not Hamas. Palestinian Americans, just like Jewish Americans, would have heard in my speech both respect and support. As an American, and as a Jew, I stand with Israel. But I stand no less for the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people.
On Wednesday the President met with Jewish American leaders, which I would have done as well. But I would also have met with Arab-American leaders, particularly Palestinian, to begin a deeper dialogue on how the world will go forward from here — specifically, what role America can play in trying to pick up the pieces at the end of all this. As President, I will dedicate the power of the U.S. government to creating a phoenix of peace arising from the ashes of this war. Peacebuilding will be a cornerstone of my Presidency, and the peacebuilders of the world will always have my ear. People have asked me what my Department of Peace would do in this situation? The point is that a Department of Peace could have helped prevent it.
In the meantime, President Biden is correct to have warned that other nations – clearly, I assume, a reference to Iran – should be very careful not to interfere. The President is right to be concerned about Iran’s involvement; I share that concern. The President of the United States must always be on heightened alert to protect America’s homeland as well as our interests abroad, and no American law enforcement, military or intelligence agency should blithely assume that this situation couldn’t have repercussions for us as well. I am sure that they do not.
The day after the invasion, I was sitting at an airport bar in Reno, Nevada, when I struck up a conversation with a gentleman sitting next to me. We talked and enjoyed each other’s company, and after a while he told me he’s a Palestinian-American and I told him I’m a Jew. The irony was lost on neither of us. Both of us were reminded of the world as it should be, for we were experiencing it together. It is to the achievement of that world – for every Palestinian and for every Jew, indeed for every citizen of the world – that I dedicate my life, and would dedicate my presidency.