A woman wearing a light blue blouse with a black blazer sitting down next to an Israeli flag

‘Our main goal is to bring our family members back to Israel’ Israeli MP says

Host Marco Werman is in the Middle East this week to gauge the mood of both Israelis and Palestinians six months after the war between Israel and Hamas began. On Oct. 7 last year, Hamas militants attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people and taking over 200 people hostage. Israel hit back with strikes on the Gaza Strip, and the death toll there has been mounting, including thousands of children. Host Marco Werman spoke with Sharren Haskel, of the New Hope party and member of Israel’s parliament, the Knesset for her thoughts on the status of the war today.

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Talks between Israel and Hamas for the release of Israeli hostages and a possible ceasefire are reportedly still ongoing in Egypt, even as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says his government has set a date for a military offensive in Rafah. 

The idea of an Israeli assault on Rafah has alarmed the international community, but many of Israel’s parliamentarians agree with the idea and, in fact, want their government to go further. 

“Our main goal here is to bring our family members back to Israel as quickly as possible,” Sharren Haskel, of the New Hope party and member of Israel’s parliament, told The World.

“The fact that there isn’t real military pressure on Hamas in Rafah means that as Hamas acts, it doesn’t agree to a deal, and it will not agree to a deal until there’s enough military pressure on it.”

From Haskel’s office in the Knesset, Marco Werman of The World spoke to her about Israel’s political future.

Marco Werman: Of course, the international community has been very insistent that after pushing a lot of Palestinians down to Rafah, now there’s going to be an actual attack on Rafah. That could be a humanitarian disaster. Plus, food isn’t getting in. Do you think that the prime minister has been too beholden to those international interests? 
Sharren Haskel: I don’t think that’s the reason why. Because there’s a different solution. You can open, for example, a humanitarian corridor from Rafah to go up to the north to find shelter there. Yes, maybe it’s an inconvenient thing, but in a war where we’re trying to have the least casualties possible, this is, for example, one of the possibilities. 
So, who has been holding out on a humanitarian corridor? There used to be 500 trucks a day, at least, going into Gaza. Now, there are hardly any. 
Well, no one’s holding humanitarian aid. There are hundreds of trucks going into Gaza every single day. There’s storage of UNRWA that is full with hundreds of containers full of food and humanitarian aid, but they don’t distribute it. The ones who are holding the humanitarian aid are Hamas, in fact. You go to the Gaza market, and you see the flour being sold for 200 shekels [$54]. The tents are being sold for 2,000 shekels [$541]. It’s not being distributed for free for Palestinians. And that’s what you really have, the humanitarian situation. 
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel, Thursday, March 14, 2024. Ohad Zwigenberg/AP
What does the platform you now have with the New Hope party actually afford you in terms of political maneuverability? 
We are overseeing the government. So, it’s the government’s position to actually execute a lot of the power to do the things. And here in the Knesset, we do the oversight. So, our work is mainly in the committees, checking up on information, creating discussions and inviting people to speak and share their points of view. So, this is our political position. 
What do you make of the protests and the people who say we need elections now, we need the prime minister to go, and we need a new prime minister?
Look, there’s always been political discourse, left and right. There are different opinions. And, as you see, Israel is a free country where we exercise freedom of speech and freedom of demonstration. And that’s what they think. And it’s OK. Personally, I don’t think this is the time to go into elections — not during the middle of war. 
People protest against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and call for the release of hostages held in the Gaza Strip by the Hamas militant group in Tel Aviv, Israel, Saturday, April 6, 2024. Ariel Schalit/AP
The White House, as you know, says there’s only one solution to the problems that Israelis face perennially — and that’s the two-state solution. What do you think? 
I think it’s only going to cause bigger problems. They don’t understand the Middle East and do not understand the conflict if they say [they do]. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not a territorial conflict. It’s a religious and a cultural conflict. And you will not resolve a cultural and a religious conflict with a territorial solution. It didn’t. Gaza is proof of that. Gaza was an independent autonomy. They had the freedom to build whatever they wanted there. They could turn Gaza into a Singapore. 
Could they really, though? 
Of course, they could. If their goal was to build a peaceful neighboring country, not just would the international community invest in that, but Israel would have invested in that. I mean, why does Egypt close the border with them as well? OK. Why do they close that? Because this was a state of terror. They received independent autonomy on a territory that was a Palestinian state. But what they wanted to achieve with that … they want the elimination of our state. 
So, in your opinion, what is the solution, if it’s not a two-state solution? 
This is starting, first of all, with education. I’m a person who believes in education. The first step that we need to do is to completely change the education system of Palestine from radical Islam to the values of the future that we want to see between Israelis and Palestinians. Something that we can coexist together. And then after two and three generations, then either there’s going to be a leadership that will really want or can take control, or what I think is to apply Israeli sovereignty and give them a cultural autonomy, but apply the Israeli laws on these areas so that we can live in a society that respects Western values of equality, of mutual life and coexistence, of democracy. 

This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.

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