PRAGUE — Finally, the U.N. Security Council has unanimously agreed a resolution to end the crisis in Lebanon. Now, the first priority must be a full and immediate ceasefire to end the suffering of unarmed civilians and make way for peace. The international community must be guided in their actions by a common conviction that violence is never a viable solution.
We, the authors of this article, as well as the organization we represent, the Socialist International, have always defended Israel’s right to exist and defend itself. We wish to see Israeli citizens living in peace and security alongside all their neighbors. We have consistently condemned attacks that target innocent Israelis.
Israel claims its actions in Gaza and Lebanon are designed to safeguard its own security. However, indiscriminate use of force and continued occupation will never give Israel lasting security. The response to Hezbollah’s initial aggression, as well as Israel’s military response in Gaza, is disproportionate. The devastation in Lebanon will take generations to repair, not only materially, but also psychologically. Hezbollah, which claims it is fighting for Lebanese independence and sovereignty, also bears responsibility for unacceptable aggression, placing the lives of innocent Israelis and Lebanese at stake.
We are convinced that the way these policies are carried out will only deepen mistrust, heighten polarization, and embed hatred between neighbors who have to learn to live with each other. A military solution is not viable. War is strengthening the hand of those who regard terror as the only effective weapon, thus creating a breeding ground for more violence, insecurity, and extremism across the Middle East. With moderates being marginalized, the long-term effect will be to undermine democratization efforts in the region.
Innovative and bold diplomatic initiatives for peace must be launched as an alternative to the logic of military force. This has happened before. The Gulf War led to the Madrid Peace Conference in 1991 and the subsequent Oslo accords between the PLO and Israel in 1993.
This crisis, too, can be a steppingstone for a long-term political solution involving all parties in the Middle East. Today’s incoherent, piecemeal strategies will not break the cycle of violence. As well as taking collective action to stop the war in Lebanon and Gaza, key players like the “quartet” — the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and Russia — must develop a comprehensive security framework for the Middle East. The international community should demand the immediate start of negotiations toward the creation of a Palestinian state and push for direct negotiations on a peace agreement between Israel and Syria.
If the international community is to remain credible, a regional initiative for collective security — a Madrid II — needs to be taken. This presupposes the engagement of all parties, including Syria and Iran, as well as all political and religious groups. A strategy of isolation has resulted in a dangerous alliance of convenience among extremist forces excluded from political processes and power structures. Unless leading actors have ownership of local solutions, peace will never be sustainable.
If we hope to halt violent extremism, we must engage religious and militant groups in dialogue and address the root causes of violence. Both the PLO and Israeli militant groups active at the time of Israel’s creation moved away from violence once the international community engaged them. Likewise, influential groups such as Hamas, the legitimate winner of the Palestinian elections, cannot be eliminated by military force, however powerful, nor exorcised by decree.
For their part, radicalized groups must renounce violence and accept international principles and laws. Causing loss of lives does not contribute to the present or future welfare of the people of the region. There is currently no guarantee that a political truce with Hamas or Hezbollah would result in a renunciation of their absolutist vision. Nonetheless, there can be a diplomatic process with rights and obligations. To secure lasting peace, the key is to develop political mechanisms that allow space for moderation and democracy.
We therefore must support political alternatives to violent extremism. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ initiative to unite the Palestinian leadership may lead to greater moderation on the part of Hamas and create real prospects for the negotiation of a two-state solution. If this effort is successful, the international community must cooperate fully and swiftly with the Palestinian Authority.
Our appeal is for preventive diplomacy rather than pre-emptive strikes. This policy of inclusion rather than exclusion is based on political pragmatism and the belief that this carnage can and must stop. To save innocent people from paying with their lives, the world’s leaders must act quickly and boldly. The Socialist International is committed to working hard with its partners in the region to make peace in the Middle East a reality.
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