Ceasefire in Gaza, An Offer Israel Can’t Refuse—Yet It Is

            The Left is doing something right.

            And it’s something that I initially disagreed with, even though I didn’t comment in a public space.

            When Israel overreacted to Hamas’ October 7th attack on western Israel with a brutal saturation bombing campaign against the Palestinian civilian population of the Gaza Strip, defenders of human rights, antiwar activists and supporters of the Palestinian liberation movement demanded a ceasefire.

            To me, that felt like yet another example of the Left settling for too little, negotiating against itself. Ask for the stars, I usually advise, and you might settle for the moon. Ask for the moon and you might wind up with nothing. A ceasefire isn’t an armistice, much less a peace agreement. It’s merely an interruption in a war. What kind of antiwar activist doesn’t ask for an end to a war?

One of the most famous examples is the Christmas Truce of 1914, when German and British troops crawled out of their trenches and met in no-man’s land to exchange presents, play soccer and celebrate the holiday together. A day or two later, however, World War I resumed. It’s a cute story that changed nothing.

            Israel owes the people of Gaza nothing less than an immediate cessation of hostilities and official acceptance that the current conflict is a war crime for which top Israeli governmental and military officials should be prosecuted. The IDF should withdraw. Israel should pay to rebuild everything it destroyed and compensate the families of dead and wounded Palestinians. It should house everyone it has displaced on Israeli territory, in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem if need be. It should recognize a free and sovereign Republic of Palestine in Gaza and the West Bank, with East Jerusalem as its capital, within 1967 borders along with a safe corridor to connect the currently non-contiguous borders. The 700,000 settler-colonists should leave the West Bank and return to Israel.

            A ceasefire seems so tiny by comparison.

            Which is why it’s proving effective as a demand.

            When people confront two parties engaged in a conflict, one of their first reactions is to try to assess which, if either, is right (or at least more right). This determination is affected by such cognitive biases as whether one side looks or acts more like the person making the assessment. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, some Americans have baked-in personal allegiances because they are Jewish or Muslim.

            Which leaves the other 97% of the population. Citizens of the United States are notoriously ignorant about politics and cultures beyond their borders. To the extent that they pay attention to the Middle East conflict, there has been a historical bias in favor of Israel, a fact that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his ally President Joe Biden relied upon at the beginning of the war in Gaza. As we have seen in the past, however, Israeli overreaction has prompted the public to take a closer look and, following the usual practice, led them to a “pox on both of their houses” stance. Deputy National Security Adviser K.T. McFarland repeated that trope in 2020 when she claimed on Fox News that in “…the Middle East, they’ve been fighting for 4,000 years. It’s been an ethno-sectarian battle and psychodrama, and they’ve been killing each other for millennia. Their normal state of condition is war.” (This is not even a little bit true, but let’s leave that for another time.)

            20,000+ dead Palestinians into the latest episode of the conflict, the Gaza war has become a catastrophe too big to ignore or dismiss with glib inanities. Day after day, as Americans’ social media feeds fills with bloody images of dead Palestinian babies, initial public sympathy for Israel has given way to a feeling that the Palestinians of Gaza are victims at least as much as the Israelis of October 7th. Choosing sides is no longer easy. But one thing is clear: the carnage has gone on too long and, even if a long-term conclusion like a two-state solution is impossibly elusive, the bombing simply has to stop.

            By mid-December, three out of five American voters—with few differences between political parties—supported a ceasefire, up significantly from October. The public had caught up to the pro-Palestinian activists. By not asking for much, the Left appears moderate and reasonable.

            Meanwhile, voters keep reading headlines in which the Israeli government is refusing a ceasefire. To the contrary, Netanyahu says the war will continue for “many more months.” Israel is framing itself as rabid, overreaching and bloodthirsty.

            Because it is out of sync with public opinion, good will for Israel is ebbing like the pulse of a man bleeding to death from a gunshot wound. Although older voters still tend to support Israel, a mere 28% of voters between ages 18 and 29 told the latest New York Times/Sienna College poll that they believed Israel was seriously interested in a peaceful solution. On the other hand, half said the Palestinians do want peace.

(Ted Rall (Twitter: @tedrall), the political cartoonist, columnist and graphic novelist, co-hosts the left-vs-right DMZ America podcast with fellow cartoonist Scott Stantis. You can support Ted’s hard-hitting political cartoons and columns and see his work first by sponsoring his work on Patreon.)

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