This piece originally appeared in JNS.

The unbearable images of the war in Gaza have shaken the world, prompting urgent calls for an end to the suffering. However, neither calls for an immediate unilateral ceasefire, nor incantations, nor grand speeches, nor votes at the United Nations will be enough to bring about peace or stop the violence. Yet somehow, this approach seems to prevail in much of the international community. To think that a solution can magically emerge—where hostilities cease overnight without the release of hostages or a significant weakening of Hamas’s military infrastructure, leading to its loss of control over the Gaza Strip—and that unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state, as recently voted for by a number of countries at the U.N. Security Council and promoted by several European countries including Spain, Slovenia, Ireland and Belgium, would lead to actual peace is not only naive but also dangerous.

It is first necessary to understand that the events since Oct. 7 are not just a renewed repetition of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but mark a war between Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran and its proxies—Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza; Hezbollah in Lebanon; Shi’ite factions in Syria and Iraq; the Houthis in Yemen; and terrorist groups in the West Bank. Iran’s hegemonic ambitions, nuclear aspirations and alliance with other authoritarian and dangerous global players, such as Russia, must be factored into any global analysis and strategy. The West, which has been too passive in the face of the mullahs, must finally tackle this problem.

The current onslaught by these authoritarian and terrorist allies represents a multifaceted threat—not only geopolitically but also by exploiting vulnerabilities inherent within Western societies. By co-opting seemingly progressive ideologies, these groups have launched a divisive assault aimed at fragmenting our social fabric. This strategy is starkly evident in its most extreme form on college campuses, where we have witnessed an alarming trend: Influenced by these manipulated narratives, some young people are not advancing the idea of peace but increasingly voicing support for radical anti-Israel discourse and terrorist organizations, and for endorsing extremist actions, including the murder and genocide of Jews. This troubling development is a direct consequence of such an insidious strategy, designed to undermine and destabilize from within and to be leveraged as political pressure.

If we truly want to envision a better future for Israelis and Palestinians, it is also necessary to understand that continuing to offer better terms to a party that has consistently rejected any peace proposal to resolve the conflict in the past—and of which one faction, Hamas, has vigorously engaged in terrorist acts—only encourages the most extreme elements among the Palestinians to persist in this approach.

It also pushes the most intransigent parties in Israel to persuade the rest of the population that the status quo is preferable to any form of agreement. To those who know the reality on the ground, it was no surprise to see the recent vote in the Knesset, initiated by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, against unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Despite Netanyahu’s low polling, 99 Knesset members out of 120 supported him, including a large part of the opposition. The move towards unilateral recognition is perceived by the majority of Israelis as a reward for the horrors of Oct. 7.

Moreover, the once unshakeable support in Israel for a two-state solution has gradually waned, and the national trauma experienced on that Black Shabbat seven months ago has further reinforced the rigidity in public opinion. In January, 59% of Jewish Israelis expressed their opposition to a two-state solution. This resistance is not ideological, but based on concrete considerations and legitimate fears; although many Israelis are open to a compromise for peace, they are reluctant to abandon the status quo without any solid security guarantees and a peace deal that would actually bring about the final resolution of the conflict.

The history of Israel’s territorial withdrawals is a cautionary tale for many. The Oslo Accords were followed by the bloody Second Intifada, during which more than 1,000 Israelis were killed, often in suicide bombings. The withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 saw Hamas rapidly overtake the Palestinian Authority, and go on to invest years in building rocket factories and a complex underground military infrastructure. Similarly, the departure from the Israeli security zone in Southern Lebanon did not lead to peace with Hezbollah, but rather enabled the group to consolidate its control, accumulate a large arsenal of rockets and deploy thousands of elite Radwan commandos near the border. These decisive moments have influenced Israelis’ perception, associating the abandonment of territory—and thus the idea of a two-state solution—with significant security risks. Many now prefer to maintain the status quo. Mere general talk of “security guarantees” will never reassure the public.

This perception is exacerbated by a deep suspicion of Palestinians. On Oct. 7, it wasn’t just Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives who entered kibbutzim to rob and take hostages, but also Gazan civilians. Israelis recall images of jubilant crowds manhandling the bodies of hostages in vans or the testimonies of freed hostages recounting how they were held and tortured in the homes of Gaza residents.

Moreover, a survey by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Polling found that 72% of Palestinians consider Hamas’s decision to attack on Oct. 7 to be justified; this support rises to 82% in the West Bank. The leaders of Fatah and the Palestinian Authority have not condemned Hamas for the massacre, nor questioned its legitimacy as a movement. The Israeli public also notes that the Palestinian Authority continues its sinister “pay for slay” program, allocating 7% of its annual budget to the “Martyrs’ Fund,” which pays monthly stipends to Palestinian terrorists imprisoned in Israel, as well as to the families of terrorists killed in attacks. Terrorists involved in the Oct. 7 attacks are in the process of receiving payments.

When Western leaders speak about the situation between Israel and the Palestinians, they must avoid repeating the same mantras and hackneyed formulas. Yes, they have every right to tell Israel that the situation in the West Bank is unsustainable and will ultimately increase Israel’s insecurity. Yes, they have the right to tell the Israelis that the violence of a minority of settlers is unacceptable. Yes, they can condemn the irresponsible statements of extremist politicians, whom many in Israel condemn as well. And they must also continue to remind people that compromise is necessary, not only for peaceful coexistence but also to preserve Israel’s democratic and Jewish identity.

But international discourse must stop overlooking Palestinian misdeeds while disproportionately criticizing every Israeli action.

Palestinians are not passive victims without agency. The corruption, incitement to hatred and violence in schools and the official media, the inability to accept compromise, the lawfare, and the perpetuation and glorification of martyrdom and victimhood must end.

Finally, those same leaders must realize that their support for UNRWA runs counter to any policy of advancing peace. UNRWA perpetuates the conflict, maintains Palestinians in a status they should long have surpassed and promotes the idea of a Palestine “from the river to the sea.” It’s hardly surprising that since Oct. 7, a great deal of evidence has emerged revealing links between some of the organization’s employees and terrorist organizations in Gaza. In fact, the structural problems within the organization have been consciously ignored for decades.

For everyone who truly wants peace and believes that both Israelis and Palestinians have the right to self-determination and to live in dignity, Oct. 7 should serve as a wake-up call. It should compel each and every one of us to confront the realities that have led us to this point. And it should be a moment to view things differently.

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