Skip to main content

A smart way out of the Gaza confrontation

By Michael Oren
updated 12:59 PM EDT, Mon July 14, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Michael Oren: Mideast crisis presents opportunity for creative diplomacy
  • He says model for a solution should be the removal of chemical weapons from Syria
  • Oren: U.S. inspectors could oversee removal of Hamas rocket stockpiles
  • He says international aid could repair Gaza's economy, and Israel could ease blockade

Editor's note: Michael B. Oren is the Abba Eban chair in international diplomacy at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and an ambassador-in-residence at the Atlantic Council. He was formerly Israel's ambassador to the United States. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN) -- Great baseball players know every pitch is an opportunity. As with fastballs, international crises also present opportunities. And the current clash between Israel and Gaza offers several potential game-changers.

Over the course of the past six days, Hamas gunmen, along with other militant groups, have fired nearly 800 rockets at Israeli cities and towns. The Israeli air force, in response, has conducted some 1,200 sorties against Hamas targets and -- despite warning civilians of impending attacks -- inflicted civilian casualties.

Now, the Israeli army is poised to enter Gaza and uproot Hamas by force. Destruction is expected to be at least as extensive as in the previous rounds of fighting between Hamas and Israel. Thousands are liable to be displaced; civilian casualties will mount. Still, with nearly its entire population under rocket fire, Israel will have no choice but to invade.

Michael Oren
Michael Oren

The obvious solution is a cease-fire similar to ones mediated by Egypt in 2008 and 2012 and co-sponsored by the United States. Such a cease-fire would end the shooting but would not hold for long. An unconditional cease-fire would enable Hamas to rearm and reignite the conflict at a time of its choosing.

Egypt, moreover, is now focused on its domestic challenges and reluctant to become embroiled in regional conflicts. And American foreign policy has been weakened by its failure in the peace process and its resistance to intervening in the Syrian and Iraqi civil wars.

What's the endgame?

Worsening matters, the Egyptian government of Gen. Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has had a strained relationship with the U.S. government that frowned on his undemocratic rise to power. In baseball terms, the crisis in Gaza seems to be a fastball too blistering to hit.

Israel launches new air strikes on Gaza
Israeli strike hits home for handicapped
McCain: Israeli 'restraint' is admirable
Source: Israel raids missile site in Gaza

Yet, the very threat of full-scale fighting can serve to motivate the combatants to seek a way out. Promised a new beginning in their relations with Washington, the Egyptians can be induced to once again mediate between Hamas and Israel. And America can reclaim its traditional leadership. A simultaneous cease-fire can be achieved, but that would only be the first in a multistaged diplomatic process.

The next stage would apply the formula with which the United States and Russia successfully removed chemical weapons from Syria. American inspectors can locate Hamas' rocket stockpiles and ship them abroad for destruction.

At the same time, the people of Gaza would receive the international aid needed to repair the war damage and energize their economy, which has been failing for years. Finally, once the rockets are eliminated, Israel can ease the maritime blockade of Gaza. The Palestinians will be spared further hardship and Hamas deprived of one of its chief pretexts for attacking Israel.

The crisis also presents an opportunity to strengthen Palestinian moderates. American and Canadian-trained police officers loyal to the West Bank Palestinian Authority can be stationed at the border crossings from Israel into Gaza. Similarly, these security personnel can be deployed at the Gaza border crossings that Egypt formerly closed but would now reopen.

Opinion: How Iron Dome missile defense buys time for Israel

Ideally, the Palestinian Authority would replace Hamas rule over Gaza. It is doubtful whether that goal could be achieved swiftly and without prolonged violence. Yet a new status quo can be created that is more stable and less prone to breakdown.

Effectively demilitarized, with a stimulated economy and an expanded role for Palestinians committed to the peace process, Gaza can cease being the cause of repeated conflict. The Obama administration could point to a significant diplomatic victory, Egypt could reassert its regional leadership and Israel and the Palestinian Authority could create a context for restarting the peace process.

Israelis and Palestinians are indeed confronting a complex and dangerous situation. But as every slugger knows, the faster the pitch, the further the ball will fly off the bat. For all of the pain and trauma it has caused so far, the crisis in Gaza offers all the parties a chance to hit deep, perhaps even a diplomatic home run.

Fearing daughter's border wedding

Read CNNOpinion's new Flipboard magazine

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Michael Oren.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 5:39 PM EST, Mon December 22, 2014
Conservatives know easing the trade embargo with Cuba is good for America. They should just admit it, says Fareed Zakaria.
updated 8:12 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
We're a world away from Pakistan in geography, but not in sentiment, writes Donna Brazile.
updated 12:09 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
How about a world where we have murderers but no murders? The police still chase down criminals who commit murder, we have trials and justice is handed out...but no one dies.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
The U.S. must respond to North Korea's alleged hacking of Sony, says Christian Whiton. Failing to do so will only embolden it.
updated 4:34 PM EST, Fri December 19, 2014
President Obama has been flexing his executive muscles lately despite Democrat's losses, writes Gloria Borger
updated 2:51 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Jeff Yang says the film industry's surrender will have lasting implications.
updated 4:13 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Newt Gingrich: No one should underestimate the historic importance of the collapse of American defenses in the Sony Pictures attack.
updated 7:55 AM EST, Wed December 10, 2014
Dean Obeidallah asks how the genuine Stephen Colbert will do, compared to "Stephen Colbert"
updated 12:34 PM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Some GOP politicians want drug tests for welfare recipients; Eric Liu says bailed-out execs should get equal treatment
updated 8:42 AM EST, Thu December 18, 2014
Louis Perez: Obama introduced a long-absent element of lucidity into U.S. policy on Cuba.
updated 12:40 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
updated 11:00 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
updated 4:54 PM EST, Tue December 16, 2014
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
updated 5:23 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
updated 1:39 AM EST, Wed December 17, 2014
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
updated 3:20 PM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
updated 9:56 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
updated 4:01 PM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
updated 9:53 AM EST, Mon December 15, 2014
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
updated 5:53 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
updated 10:50 AM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
updated 4:23 PM EST, Sat December 13, 2014
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
updated 9:26 AM EST, Fri December 12, 2014
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
updated 9:39 AM EST, Thu December 11, 2014
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
updated 12:38 PM EST, Sun December 14, 2014
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT