The fighting in Gaza between Israel and the Hamas terrorist organization that has picked a serious fight with our nation’s strongest Middle East ally is testing my once-unshakeable optimism that there can be a peaceful solution to this ancient conflict.
It’s Hamas’s fault.
Hamas has rejected an effort led by Egypt to broker a ceasefire. It has fired more rockets into Israeli neighborhoods, killing an Israeli resident overnight. Israel has responded with more air attacks. It is threatening now to invade Gaza with ground troops and armor.
It baffles me beyond my belief that Hamas would pick this fight. I am acutely aware of the ancient tensions and the dispute that goes back almost to the dawn of recorded history between Arabs and Jews in the region.
While other Arab nations and political groups have declared a sort of peace with Israel, Hamas and some others have continued to insist that Israel has no place in the region. They are fundamentally wrong in both a political and historical sense.
I don’t proclaim to be an expert on Israel, but I’ve had the high honor of spending five weeks in that country. I have spoken with dozens of Israelis about this on-going war with Arab terrorists. The only conclusion I can draw is that Israelis — on the left and the right — simply want to live in peace with their neighbors.
Hamas sees it differently. They want Israel wiped out. They contend the land occupied by Israel is Arab land. Hamas wants it for Arabs and will fight for it.
I won’t argue here what I understand to be God’s view of who belongs in the region.
Israelis and Arabs can live side by side in this place. Indeed, they do so within Israel’s territorial borders. Nazareth, one of the holiest cities in the Holy Land, is now 80 percent Muslim. Mosques and churches stand next to each other, on the same block as synagogues.
Yet the fighting continues. It has flared again because Hamas has launched rockets into Israeli neighborhoods.
The Israelis say they’ll do whatever it takes to put down this violence, even if it takes more violence. That’s the nature of the place they call home.
My hope for an eventual peace remains. However, it’s getting a little shaky.