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Political settlement are the only way to solve the problem

The critique made by opponents of Benjamin Netanyahu and his government is that the prime minister is evading a new hostage deal because he prefers to continue what he takes to be a justified war. We must admit, however, that Netanyahu's position doesn't only reflect his private stance and the position of cabinet members Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir, but also the position held by most Israelis.

The hostage families' protest concerns only one issue – the return of their relatives from the Gaza Strip at any cost. Nothing else interests them. Not the question of whether Gaza remains a ruin and not the issue of its post-war governance. Most Israelis aren't interested in these questions, out of anger or Ideology, and won't even consider ending the war through diplomatic means.

This wasn't the case in previous wars. During the 1967 Six-Day War, some Israelis considered the occupied Palestinian territories as leverage for future negotiations. Called "land for peace," it was also considered among Palestinians and the leaders of the Palestine Liberation Organization. It eventually led to the idea of a two-state solution.

After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, it was clear that Israel was heading toward a peace agreement with Egypt and that the price would be the return of the Sinai Peninsula to the Egyptians. The issue of Palestinian autonomy was discussed, but the Palestinian leadership opposed the idea and Israel, in turn, did not help when it doubled down on its settlement project.

Even in 1982, when Defense Minister Ariel Sharon led Prime Minister Menachem Begin deep into the "mud" of the First Lebanon War, the political goal was to expel the PLO leadership, make Lebanese militia commander Bashir Gemayel the president of Lebanon, and sign a peace agreement with him.

The thought was that signing a peace deal with Gemayel would lead to a potential similar agreement with Jordan. This achievement would then indefinitely postpone any considerations of the Palestinians.

All this led to nothing. Reality slapped us all in the face and rivers of blood continue to flow. Crucial opportunities were missed, and the Palestinians are here to stay. Only now, instead of the PLO, we have Hamas and Islamic Jihad. PLO leader and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas – who has been saying "yes" to peace for 30 years – and the Saudi-led Arab Peace Initiative hold as much interest for Israelis as elections in the Histadrut labor federation's Givat Shmuel branch.

Seven months after the atrocious events of October 7, Israel once again faces the same question. It's not Hamas or the cruelty of the Nukhba terrorists. It's the burning issue, the old elephant in the room, that it never wanted to acknowledge.

The families of the hostages held in Gaza – as well as all sane Israelis – should go beyond anger and revenge. If we gained control of the Rafah Crossing; even if we managed to kill Yahya Sinwar and if we destroyed Al-Shifa Hospital – we must understand that bringing back the hostages requires stopping the war through a diplomatic initiative. It also requires that war cabinet minister Benny Gantz, who aspires to be prime minister, lose his timidity and say these things out loud, and that opposition leader Yair Lapid not be terrified of being labeled a "leftist." We simply don't have a choice.

Seven months of war. The hostages haven't been released, Hamas hasn't been defeated, and there's no Israeli victory in sight. There's only an ongoing war; only rage and destruction. Indeed, many Israelis can't put up with the prospect of a diplomatic solution. It is therefore not surprising that both Netanyahu and Hamas are now facing the same equation.

Netanyahu can now look the hostages' families and all Israelis dead in the eye and say Israel doesn't want a diplomatic solution or a peace agreement with the Palestinians, and that the occupation requires the price of the lives of their sons and daughters. "At the price of the hostages' deaths, we prevented a peace agreement and punished Hamas," he might say. "We'll continue to rule over the Palestinians for several more generations, and this is a reasonable price and a sacrifice we are willing to accept."

True, at least 35,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the war started, and thousands more are missing. In addition, the devastation will require at least two decades of reconstruction. But if at the end of the war, somehow, the Palestinians have a shred of hope and the international community really advances a diplomatic solution, then everything will be seen as a worthy sacrifice in the struggle for Palestinian freedom and liberty.

Even Hamas will have to reconsider its position and give up its weapons and ideology in such a scenario. That's the only viable path forward. Otherwise, neither the hostages held in Gaza nor the Palestinian prisoners held in Israel will ever be released. There will be no hope, only more bloodshed and tears, for generations.

Jack Khoury