Our politicians have become weathermen, forecasting that the cease-fire won't hold.
But war is not one of the four seasons. Next spring, or next summer, there does not have to be a war with Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran. War is not a force of nature; it is a product of politicians' inability to resolve conflicts with negotiations.
Written agreements carry weight. The peace agreement we signed with Egypt has prevented war between our two countries for generations. On Aug. 11, 2006, the U.N. Security Council adopted Resolution 1701 — a cease-fire agreement that saw an end to the war between Israel and Hezbollah. The resolution involved deployment of U.N. peacekeepers to southern Lebanon. They were sent in to guarantee a complete halt to all aggression and to help the Lebanese army gain control over the region. Reality speaks for itself: For the past six years, the communities along Israel's northern border are enjoying the kind of calm they never knew before this agreement was reached.
Hamas emerged as a serious partner for productive negotiations when Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit was released last year, five years after his abduction by Gaza terrorists. It is imperative to find out why that same successful negotiation process was stopped, rather than riding its momentum to achieve a long-term agreement with Hamas for calm in the south. The deal demonstrated that certain things, like the release of Palestinian prisoners, are more important to Hamas than its despicable charter, which calls for the murder of Jews. Hamas is capable of acting out of rational considerations, not just out of radical ideology. It presents Israel with rational demands. There is someone to talk to, and there is plenty to talk about. Former Prime Minister Levi Eshkol once said, "I compromise and compromise until I get what I want." Levi Eshkol was a wise statesman.
The Israeli government owes it to the public to take advantage of the momentum this time and continue the negotiations with Hamas, while also seeking a U.N. resolution that will anchor the principles of this cease-fire agreement, the same way the U.N. resolution ensured six years of calm in the north. Such a resolution, with the support of the U.N. Security Council, is a top priority for every Israeli, especially the ones residing in the south and in the center. It is an essential Israeli interest to show that anyone who honors agreements with us benefits from it.
The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has maintained an effective and long-term truce with Israel. That is why it is important for Israel to bolster Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his government. To threaten the authority with sanctions would be stupid and would hurt Israel's interests.
The Palestinian Authority's statehood bid at the U.N. General Assembly, scheduled for Thursday, will give Israeli statesmen with vision and foresight the one-time opportunity to support the Palestinians' effort to become an observer state. Such support, on behalf of an Israeli politician, would reshuffle the regional deck and could turn the winds of war into winds of peace.
If our leaders squander this rare opportunity, it is our duty to ask them: You, forecasters of the next war, why do you fail to understand the sign of our time, which is handing you a rare opportunity to abandon the path of futile wars and embark on a path to peace?