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Forget 'peace,' how about Israel and Hamas give 'compromise' a chance?

Israelis and Palestinians say they want peace but continue to fight; let's try something in between

The saying goes: “When you’re already in a hole, stop digging.” In Israel, they apparently have a slightly different saying: “When you’re already in a hole, dig it deeper.”

On Wednesday, as the Israeli air offensive against the Gaza Strip continued — as did the Hamas rocket barrage against Israel — the talk was that Israel was likely to launch a ground offensive soon in Gaza.

Now, I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure the road to peace won’t be built by bulldozing one’s way into Gaza.

If all this gives you a feeling of déja vu, you are not alone. As The Times’ Batsheva Sobelman and Carol J. Williams noted in their story Wednesday:

“Nine days into the military offensive Israel says it launched to halt rocket fire from Gaza into Israel, the current round of fighting — the third in five years — is already longer than the previous one that ended with a cease-fire and informal understandings between the sides in November 2012, after eight days.”

Yep, been there, done this. Welcome back to the Mideast merry-go-round of death.

It’s not as though folks on both sides don’t have reasonable arguments to make. In Wednesday’s Times opinion pages, writer Ibrahim Sharqieh offered the Palestinian supporters’ side: “Israel cannot win this war, primarily because it is fighting only the symptoms of the conflict with the Palestinians — rocket launching — not the underlying causes, which are the Gaza blockade and the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories.”

On the other side, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Wednesday laid out the talking points of the Jewish state’s backers:

“Lieberman told reporters in the Israeli city of Ashkelon that ‘terrorists are using civilians in Gaza as human shields to protect their rockets and weapons’ and that civilians are sometimes hurt by Israeli attacks. But he insisted: ‘The rocket threat cannot be addressed thoroughly from the air only.’

“Referring to Israel’s disengagement from Gaza nine years ago, Lieberman said the international community repeatedly demands Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders and remove Israeli settlements from the West Bank.

“ ‘Israel did just that in Gaza and withdrew to the last millimeter and evicted 21 communities,’ he said. ‘The result of that move was rockets on all Israeli cities.’ ”

And you know what? They’re both right.

But where does that leave us?

Well, on Tuesday, also in The Times’ opinion pages, author Etgar Keret, writing from Tel Aviv, offered these heartfelt thoughts on the current situation, as well as a possible window to a lasting solution:

“What is it about that elusive peace so many people love to talk about, though no one has managed to bring us even a single millimeter closer to it?...

“I think that my son is the second generation, if not the third, to be indoctrinated with the view that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been imposed on us from above. A bit like terrible weather, which we can talk about, cry about, even write songs about, but which we can’t do anything to change….

“Peace, by definition, is compromise between sides, and in that kind of compromise, each side has to pay a genuine, heavy price, not just in territories or money but also in a true change of worldview.

“That’s why the first step might be to stop using the debilitating word ‘peace,’ which has long since taken on transcendental and messianic meanings in both the political left and right wings, and replace it immediately with the word ‘compromise.’ It might be a less rousing word, but at least it reminds us that the solution we are so eager for can’t be found in our prayers to God but in our insistence on a grueling, not always perfect dialogue with the other side.”

It may not sound like much. It may be just semantics.

But it seems to me a better choice, a more reasonable approach, than sending tanks into Gaza, or rockets into Israel.

John Lennon said to “give peace a chance.” Today, that seems a naive suggestion for this particular region. But perhaps we could at least give Etgar Keret’s “compromise” a try?

Follow Paul Whitefield on Twitter @PaulWhitefield1

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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