By Robert Wax
President of the Board of Directors
The brutal atrocities on October 7 awakened many to the depravity of Hamas, the ruthless terrorist organization controlling Gaza. Since then, I have had countless conversations about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with members of our community. Like many of us in the Jewish community, I have been asked to explain the history of Israel’s relationship with Gaza, and I thought it would be helpful to provide some guidance for those who find themselves in similar circumstances.
What do the Palestinians want from Israel?
The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is one of the most complex disputes in recent history. Israelis and Palestinians both hold legitimate claims to land. Unfortunately, the Palestinians have never chosen peace when it was presented. A peace process can never truly begin without a willing partner with whom the Israelis can negotiate. The Palestinians have consistently rejected any deal with Israel that does not include the Palestinians taking the land “from the river to the sea.” For those unfamiliar with this phrase, it means that the Palestinians seek the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea (i.e., all of Israel). This is not a compromise position, but rather a call for the destruction of the State of Israel.
Has land been offered to the Palestinians in exchange for peace?
Yes, many times. The Palestinians have rejected every peace plan offered, choosing instead to pursue terrorism against innocent victims and call for the destruction of Israel. The Palestinians rejected: (1) the United Nations partition plan in 1947, (2) the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194 land plan proposal in 1949, (3) the U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 land plan proposal in 1967, (4) the Menachem Begin/Anwar Sadat peace proposal in 1978, (5) the Yitzhak Rabin/King Hussein peace proposal in 1994, (6) the Ehud Barak/Bill Clinton peace proposal in 2000, (7) the Ehud Olmert/George W. Bush peace proposal in 2008, (8) the John Kerry “contour for peace” plan in 2014 and (9) the invitation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Donald Trump to join the Abraham Accords in 2019. Each of these plans would have created two states, one for Jews and one for Arabs.
What is the closest the Israelis and Palestinians have come to peace?
Many were optimistic the parties would follow a roadmap to peace outlined in the Oslo Accord signed by then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and international terrorist Yasser Arafat at the White House in 1993. Unfortunately, the Palestinians later rejected the roadmap and sent waves of suicide bombers into Israel.
In July 2000, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat a peace plan in exchange for the end of his reign of terror. Arafat rejected the proposal and refused to offer any counterproposal. Rather, the Palestinians began a new wave of terror resulting in the murder of more innocent Israelis.
The same narrative played out in 2008, when then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, another broad peace proposal. Once again, the Palestinians rejected it and refused to discuss any concessions. More recently, the Barrack Obama and Trump administrations hoped to restart peace negotiations, but the Palestinians refused.
The lack of peace cannot be blamed on the lack of effort or interest by the Israelis. Rather, the lack of peace is a direct result of Palestinian leaders showing no desire for it.
Does Israel “occupy” Gaza?
Following the Israeli withdrawal nearly 20 years ago, the Palestinians in Gaza have ruled themselves. No, Israel does not occupy Gaza. For those who aren’t familiar with the Gaza Strip, it is a small territory along the Mediterranean Sea, which previously included numerous Israeli villages. In 2005, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon pursued a different approach to the peace process. Since the Palestinians still refused to come to the negotiating table, he required the unilateral evacuation of all Israelis from the Gaza Strip, so the Palestinians could control their own destiny there. Unfortunately, the people of Gaza elected Hamas, which the United States has recognized as a terrorist organization for 25 years. Because Hamas has regularly launched terrorist attacks from Gaza, including the horrific attacks on October 7, Israel has maintained heightened security along the Gaza border.
What is the role of the United Nations?
The U.N. has created more problems than solutions. First, the U.N. is inherently biased against Israel. The U.N. General Assembly approved 15 anti-Israel resolutions in 2022, versus 13 resolutions criticizing all other countries. Russia was the focus of six resolutions condemning its invasion of Ukraine. North Korea, Afghanistan, Myanmar, Syria, Iran, and the United States were hit with one resolution each. Since 2015, the General Assembly has adopted 140 resolutions criticizing Israel, mainly over its treatment of the Palestinians, its relationships with neighboring countries, and other alleged wrongdoings. Over the same period, it has passed 68 resolutions against all other countries.
Similarly, the U.N. Human Rights Council, which is charged with the mission of upholding human rights around the globe, has demonstrated significant bias against Israel. Despite including countries with problematic human rights behaviors as members, such as Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, China, Cuba, Congo, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, the council passed more than 70 resolutions critical of Israel since 2006. During the same period, the council passed only seven resolutions critical of Iran. Israel’s human rights record is the only country-specific standing-agenda item for the council and is discussed at every meeting.
What is UNWRA?
The U.N. established the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East in 1949 to aid the more than 700,000 Palestinian refugees who fled their homes at the behest of Arab neighbors in advance of the Israeli War of Independence. UNRWA is charged with using funds to implement reforms and provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians. The United States is the largest donor to UNWRA, contributing $344 million in 2022. Unfortunately, UNWRA has allowed terrorist organizations to use its facilities. UNWRA funds educational materials used by the Palestinians that include antisemitism and insight violence. UNRWA ambulances are used by Hamas gunmen, and UNWRA employs Hamas members on its vast staff. Aid intended to assist the Palestinian people is routinely used to support terrorism in various ways, including the creation of terror tunnels built to allow Hamas operatives to carry out terroristic attacks within Israel.
Who else funds Hamas?
he Palestinian Authority, the body that governs Palestinians in the West Bank, provides funds to Hamas. The largest sponsor of Hamas is Iran. Iran and Hamas are longtime allies, with a shared goal of destroying the State of Israel and the United States.
What is the “Pay for Slay” program?
The Palestinian Authority and Hamas pay families of terrorists who murder innocent Israelis. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and members of his government defend these payments, which currently include a $1,511 “success” bonus and a $353 monthly stipend in perpetuity. In 2018, Congress passed the Taylor Force Act, which reduced economic aid to the Palestinian Authority until it ends the payment policy. Taylor Force, a 28-year-old U.S. Army veteran, was touring Israel in 2016 when he was murdered by a Palestinian terrorist.
Why is there so much hatred toward Israel on college campuses?
Certainly, antisemitism plays a large role. In addition, many faculty and students view the world in black or white and refuse to acknowledge the complexities of the conflict. They compartmentalize people as “oppressors” and “oppressed.” Because Israel has a strong military, and since the Palestinian people are considered refugees by the U.N., Israel is viewed as an “oppressor” by many on campuses.
This characterization is patently untrue. If one considers the entirety of the Middle East, it is easy to see Israel surrounded by Arab countries, most of which support the Palestinian people and oppose Israel’s existence. Israel does not “occupy” Gaza, but rather establishes a strong border to prevent terror attacks by Hamas. The Jewish people are not colonists who stole land from the Palestinians, but instead have lived there since biblical times. Unfortunately, many faculty and students disregard these facts and instead support the view that Israel is oppressing a weaker neighboring people.
It is truly upsetting when other minority groups on campus support Hamas and its terroristic activities. For example, if members of the LGBTQ+ community attempted to live in Gaza, Hamas would murder them. By comparison, Israel totally accepts and supports members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Does the Israel Defense Forces kill civilians indiscriminately?
Of course not. The IDF is the most precise military in the world, and it is more cautious about its targets than any other military in modern times. The IDF warns civilians before bombing in populated areas. It reviews each tactic available before proceeding. IDF soldiers who use excessive force are arrested and jailed. Compare that approach with Hamas, which hides weapons in schools and hospitals, routinely uses human shields to protect its terrorists, takes civilians as hostages, rapes women and beheads women and children.
Does Israel still want peace?
Of course. However, it is unlikely any time soon. As the late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously noted, “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.” Israeli leaders yearn for a time when Palestinians and Israelis can live adjacent as peaceful neighbors. Palestinian leaders yearn for a future without Israel.
So, when will there be peace in Gaza?
As soon as the Palestinians want peace, rather than the destruction of the State of Israel and the Jewish people, there will be peace in Gaza.