Editor's Note: Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a weekly opinion contributor to CNN, a columnist for The Washington Post, and a columnist for World Politics Review. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author. See more reviews on CNN.
(CNN) -- The brief respite from the fighting between Hamas and Israel has ended, as many of us anticipated, reigniting the harrowing conflict that has produced so much suffering on both sides of the Gaza border. The battles will continue. Unless, of course, the main actors in the Middle East and the rest of the international community step in to exert the necessary pressure and take risks to resolve this conflict.
Is there a way to stop the bloodshed? Is there a way to end this war and open a path to lasting peace?
The answer is yes. There is a perfectly reasonable solution, though extremely difficult and perhaps unrealistic. But it's not impossible.
Every Israeli-Palestinian peace plan, every element of a plan, immediately brings to mind the many obstacles it contains. And yet, there are glimmers of light, reasons to be hopeful. They are weak, but remarkable, and hold the potential for at least a modicum of optimism.
The answer to ending the war, and even the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is no mystery. Negotiators have come close several times in the past to resolving a decades-old conflict. Right now, the most immediate problem is Hamas, a terrorist organization opposed to Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation and committed to Israel's destruction.
No country can allow a hostile group backed by a near-nuclear enemy (Iran, in this case) to rule a territory on its doorstep. It is impossible to expel Hamas from Gaza by military force without aggravating the desperate conditions of Gazan civilians.
But allowing Hamas to prevail and remain in power would embolden him and his allies, especially Hezbollah in Lebanon. It would bolster Iran and its network of affiliated militias in Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. A Hamas victory, its survival in power, would destabilize the region and boost Iran. History has shown what happens when aggressors are not deterred.
But if Hamas releases the hostages and lays down its arms, this war could end.
Why would Hamas? Its leaders claim that the people of Gaza, and they themselves, enjoy becoming martyrs. But it is clear that Gaza's leaders do not want to die. The prospect of survival would be tempting, especially given their enormous financial resources. Which poses another problem: Israel will be reluctant to let Hamas leaders escape. And yet, Israel has no guarantee that it will be able to uproot and totally destroy the organization.
To make Hamas go, Arab and Muslim countries should join with the rest of the international community in putting pressure on the group that sparked this war.
This would be a reversal of course from the current push for a permanent ceasefire, which would leave Hamas in power and ensure that it would strike again and that another, probably much more deadly, war would ensue. Because if Hamas survives, Hezbollah could join it next time. And by then, Hamas may have become so popular that it will be able to take control of the West Bank. If October 7 was a nightmare of carnage, an assault from the West Bank and Lebanon would have apocalyptic potential.
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In exchange for Hamas laying down its arms, Israel should agree to restart a process towards the creation of a Palestinian state. I know, I know. The current Israeli Government opposes this, and in the aftermath of the massacre of some 1,200 Israelis by Hamas on 7 October, Israelis have experienced a chilling reminder that the "Axis of Resistance", as Iranian-linked groups committed to the destruction of Israel and the promotion of Iran's objectives call themselves, They are very serious about their goal.
The "Axis of Resistance" should face an "Alliance of Peacemakers."
A strong push for peace by Israel's new Arab friends, the Abraham Accords countries, which normalized diplomatic ties with Israel under the series of agreements signed by Trump that bear that name, perhaps new countries joining that front, along with Arab countries that made peace with Israel previously, they could help persuade Israel that there is a path to peace and security.
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has become deeply unpopular. He is unlikely to survive in power long after the fighting is over. His prospects for remaining in power seem even bleak after The New York Times' latest report that Israeli intelligence officials had information about the impending Hamas attack and dismissed it.
Whoever his replacement is, the far-right politicians he brought into his coalition, once political pariahs, are unlikely to be part of the next one. Without Netanyahu, the governing coalition could include lawmakers who have refused to join the current prime minister, so radical parties would not be required to form a governing majority. That's another bright spot on the horizon.
Relatives and friends of hostages held in Gaza call on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to bring them home, during a rally in Tel Aviv on Nov. 21. Credit: Ahmad Gharabli/AFP/Getty Images
Here's the brightest one: When Hamas launched its October 7 attack, it could be expected to be joined by Hezbollah, perhaps even Iran, and the West Bank Palestinians, or Israel's Arab citizens, who make up about 20% of the country's population. He might have expected Arab countries that maintain diplomatic relations with Israel to break them.
But that has not been the case.
President Joe Biden's decision to strongly support Israel and deploy the U.S. Navy to the region may have prevented Iran and its groups from taking action. Hamas also targeted Arab citizens of Israel. Druze, Bedouin, and others are in the fray.
Meanwhile, the Abraham Accords, put to the test, have endured. Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates condemned the Hamas attack. The UAE then condemned Israel's campaign in Gaza for its high number of civilian casualties. But the relationships have survived.
A senior UAE official recently stated, "The Abraham Accords are here to stay." Equally noteworthy is that Saudi Arabia has indicated that it remains interested in pursuing peace with Israel, according to the White House.
The rise of anti-Israel sentiment throughout the Arab world in reaction to the Israeli counteroffensive in Gaza is undoubtedly causing unease, even anxiety, among the leaders of Arab countries that maintain relations with Israel. But autocracies, though conscious of popular opinion, are not subject to it. The Saudi and Emirati monarchies are in absolute control of their countries. At least for now, the popular backlash may not do much more than create a temporary cooling of bilateral relations.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia's reasons for wanting closer ties with Israel – to counter Iran, strengthen their economies, promote regional stability – remain intact after October 7.
This is terrible news for Hamas and for Iran. Like others, I believe that one of the reasons for the Hamas attack was to derail the reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Israel. In fact, it may have done precisely the opposite, by showing how dangerous Iranian-backed fighter groups are to the region and thereby bolstering Saudi motivation to counter Tehran by reaching out to Israel.
One of the biggest dilemmas is what will happen in Gaza if Hamas is ousted from power. No Arab country wants to take responsibility for this restive territory. The Palestinian Self-Government, the logical governing body, can barely control the West Bank. It has lost legitimacy and public support.
And yet, this could be a moment for Arab leaders to step in with an act of heroism. Perhaps the UAE, whose forces are experienced and well-trained, could offer support to the Palestinian Self-Government, with joint patrols and strict administration of what should be a large-scale reconstruction programme. Interestingly, the UAE is already setting up a field hospital in Gaza.
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A large-scale political reconstruction programme in the Palestinian Self-Government is imperative, to eradicate rampant corruption and rebuild public trust. And a strong Palestinian leader would have to emerge who will defend peace with Israel to avoid a repeat of the times when Palestinian leaders rejected the Israelis' peace offers, effectively destroying Israel's peace wing and opening the door to right-wing leaders in the country.
Again, each step toward a solution comes wrapped up in a hundred problems. Reasonable and realistic are not synonymous in this conflict. That's why the world's best diplomats haven't managed to solve this problem in 75 years.
Perhaps the biggest reason for optimism is that some of the worst fighting has led to progress toward peace on two previous occasions. It happened after the 1973 Yom Kippur War and after the first Intifada, which eventually led to peace between Israel and Egypt and the Oslo Accords, respectively.
Allowing Hamas leaders to survive in exile, bringing Palestinian self-government and perhaps the UAE to Gaza is not without risk. And yet the alternative is worse: more death, more suffering, more generations of mistrust.
Am I optimistic? Please don't ask. But I do believe that there is a chance for peace.