To Establish a Palestinian State Now, After October 7, Would Be a Strategic and Moral Failure

I was a teenager when the Oslo Accords were signed. I deeply believed in the political process of compromise and a peaceful solution. I attended the peace rally the night Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin was gunned down and murdered; later, I myself sought to promote the two-state solution for years which would include Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, and Palestine, the homeland of the Palestinians.

I still believe that in the long run, the vision that will ensure the existence of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, requires the Palestinians in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza to be citizens of demilitarized Palestinian state living under its sovereignty. But I can’t accept it when I hear people calling for Israel to act now in order to establish a Palestinian state.

My belief in the two-state solution was not based on naïveté. I understood well that there are terrorist elements among the Palestinians. We Israelis felt it on our buses, in our shopping malls and restaurants which were constantly blowing up, murdering and maiming innocent civilians. The unprecedented attacks of Palestinian suicide bombers during the Oslo process clearly demonstrated that there is a fundamental problem in Palestinian society—their unwillingness to recognize Israel’s existence, and their continued support of cruelty and terror.

Yet I hoped that logic would prevail and believed that in Palestinian society, there was also a strong movement that opposed terrorism.

A few decades ago, Prime Minister Golda Meir claimed that if the Arabs didn’t have an army, peace would come; if Israel didn’t have an army, it would be destroyed. The October 7 attack clearly proved that what Golda said then is still true today. It was the cruelest massacre of women, babies, and the elderly. Entire families were burned alive in their homes. Women were raped and innocent civilians with babes in their arms were abducted from their beds into the tunnels of Gaza. More than 1,200 were murdered and 236 were kidnapped.

This is the biggest tragedy for the Jewish people since the Holocaust. But it’s not 1939. Today we have a country. We stood up and defended ourselves.

The U.S. is Israel’s greatest ally. The moral, political and military support that the Administration gives us is a huge blessing. But the Administration is making a strategic mistake by trying to push Israel to establish a Palestinian state only four months after October 7. How can this even be on the agenda, when Israel is still licking its wounds and mourning its dead?

Hamas, Inc_Cover_1
Members of Al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of the Palestinian Hamas movement, march in Gaza City on May 22, 2021, in commemoration of senior Hamas commander Bassem Issa who was killed along with other militants…

This is not just a psychological issue but a policy that ignores the grim reality: If Palestinian society had denounced Hamas and we could say that the massacre was carried out by a few extremists, then there might have been something to discuss. But the opposite is the truth: A survey conducted by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Surveys found that 72 percent of Palestinians believe that Hamas’s decision to attack on October 7 was justified, and in the West Bank, 82 percent supported it.

Moreover, there is no alternative Palestinian leadership that sharply opposed the massacre. None of the Fatah and PA leadership denounced Hamas for the massacre or dared to say that Hamas isn’t a legitimate movement.

Would you have accepted the leaders of the Nazis party as part of the new German government that sees the Nazis as a partner?

A month after the massacre, the Hamas deputy leader Khalil al-Hayya said that the goal of October 7 was to change the equation and that they had successfully brought the Palestinian issue back onto the agenda.

Are we going to let Hamas succeed and establish a Palestinian state on the foundations of a massacre? What message would this send to the other terrorist organizations and regimes?

Even the establishment of a Palestinian state wouldn’t satisfy Hamas. The Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal announced after 7 October that the creation of a Palestinian state “from the river to the sea” is a consensus among a Palestinian people. Another Hamas senior official, Razi Hamed, announced that they will repeat October 7 time after time and that “Israel is a country we want to bring down.”

Israel should not take unilateral steps that would prevent a Palestinian state or any other political agreement in the long term, such as Israeli resettlement of Gaza or the expansion of isolated settlements in the heart of the Palestinian population in the West Bank. (This is not to say that Israel shouldn’t continue construction in existing settlement blocks and places that have a security value, for example around Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley.)

But time must pass to make it clear that there isn’t a connection between October 7 and the establishment of a Palestinian state. Then we will be able to bring it back to the table. It also requires not ignoring the main challenge: Palestinian society would have to undergo a real process of renouncing terrorism and Denazification, building up strong support for peace and acceptance of the existence of Israel.

This is the way to ensure that the massacre of 7 October won’t become the symbol of Hamas’s victory.

Eran Hermoni is the General Secretary of Israel’s Labor Party.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.