Israeli, Palestinian leaders once shared peace prize

Now they may share war crimes charges

It is somehow fitting that the International Criminal Court prosecutor is seeking arrest warrants against leaders of both Hamas and Israel in connection with mass slaughters carried out since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack and Israel’s response. 

ICC Prosecutor Karim Khan is seeking arrest warrants for Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar, Mohammed Deif and Ismail Haniyeh and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. 

All parties unsurprisingly expressed outrage that they would be deemed equally complicit in an endless war that in its latest iteration has resulted in the deaths of more than 30,000 noncombatants. 

Linking Israeli and Palestinian leaders in this fashion is a tragic and thoroughly depressing reminder that there were once more hopeful times. In 1994, their predecessors — Israeli leaders Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat — were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for moving from avowed eternal enmity and armed force to attempted reconciliation. 

“We who have fought against you, the Palestinians, we say to you today, in a loud and clear voice, enough of blood and tears,” Rabin said to Arafat in 1993. “Enough!”  

The Oslo Accords intended to pave the way to Palestinian statehood were never fully embraced. Arafat was discredited by Islamic activists for making peace, and his successors lost control of Gaza to Hamas. Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by an Israeli claiming to be acting on orders from God, and his successors encouraged continued Jewish settlement on Palestinian lands in the West Bank. 

Before Oslo, there were the Camp David Accords, which resulted in mutual recognition of Egypt and Israel, return of the Israeli-occupied Sinai Peninsula to Egypt and a commitment to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The notion of “land for peace” became current. Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat were awarded the 1978 Nobel Peace Prize. Sadat was assassinated in 1981. 

Begin, Peres and Rabin, Arafat and Sadat — they were spokesmen for bitter enemies, who attempted to destroy the other, much as Netanyahu and Gallant promise to destroy Hamas and Sinwar, Deif and Haniyeh vow to destroy Israel. They succeeded at killing tens of thousands of people, and warriors and terrorists turned into peacemakers. But they are now gone, and the momentum for destruction remains. 

Enemies who were once connected by peacemaking efforts are now enemies who may be linked soon in arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The important point is not legalistic arguments over who bears the greatest moral or legal responsibility. The point is that they are linked. Neither side earns a Nobel Peace Prize or an arrest warrant without the other, nor are they ever likely to. 

However committed each is to eliminating the other from the face of the Earth, neither has much chance of success. They will remain linked, forever, as neighbors at war or — if they ever decide that this time they really have had enough blood and tears — neighbors at peace.  

This editorial first appeared in the Los Angeles Times. This commentary should be considered another point of view and not necessarily the opinion or editorial policy of The Dominion Post.