Open-Ended Ceasefire reached in Israel/ Gaza: But how Long will it Last?

By Juan Cole

Israel on the one side and Hamas and Islamic Jihad on the other have announced an open-ended cease-fire brokered by Egypt, the terms of which are similar to those of 2012.

Mass celebrations broke out among war-weary Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinians could argue that they have won some concessions. New checkpoints will be open and restrictions on imports into Gaza by Israel will be eased. The zone of the Mediterranean allowed for Palestinian fishing will start at 6 nautical miles and extend to 12 by the end of the year. (Current Israeli restrictions on fishing have meant a huge loss in protein for the population, and it is difficult to see what their purpose is beyond imposing a caloric restriction on the people of Gaza, half of whom are children.) The US and Israel will drop their objections to Palestinian government officials in Gaza being paid. In further negotiations, Israel will press for Gaza to be a demilitarized zone (sort of on the model of Austria in the Cold War) and Hamas will press for the strip to be allowed an airport and seaport. Egypt will oversee these further talks and will police the agreements just made.

The Israeli side can claim to have inflicted substantial attrition on Hamas military capabilities, having destroyed many tunnels, rockets and armaments stockpiled by the party-militia that has ruled Gaza since it won the 2006 elections. Moreover, because the current Egyptian government abhors the Muslim Brotherhood and movements of political Islam like Hamas, it is unclear that Hamas can restock its rockets and other weapons via the Sinai, as in the past.

Still, what the Israeli military was going for was a result similar to its 2006 war on Hizbullah in Lebanon; since that conflict Hizbullah has not fired any rockets into Israel or Israeli-occupied territories like the Shebaa Farms (which belong to Lebanese farmers). It is not at all clear that the war produced any such similar cessation of hostilities between Gaza and Israel. In part, there are undisciplined small groups in Gaza perfectly able and willing to construct some flying pipe bombs and send them over to Beersheva and Sderot (former Palestinian cities from which Gaza refugees hail that are now Israeli cities). One drawback of Israel reducing Hamas’s capabilities is that it also reduced its ability to police the Strip. Hamas itself has in the past honored cease-fires as long as Israel has observed their terms. In part, that 70% of Palestinians in Gaza are refugee families from what is now Israel and that 40% still live in squalid refugee camps means that they are very unlike the Shiites of southern Lebanon, who are farmers with their own land.

If the Palestinian side really does get the things it is asking for– an end to the illegal and creepy Israeli blockade of the civilians in its Occupied Territory — then the struggle will have been a big win for them.

The good thing about peace, however, is that it need not be a zero sum game. Both sides can gain from it.

Obviously, this open-ended cease-fire is fragile. Some of the goals of the two sides will be very hard to attain. And, at root, the Israel-Gaza war won’t really be over until there is a comprehensive peace settlement with either a two-state or a one-state solution to Palestinian statelessness. Israeli propagandists say that Gaza could be “Singapore” if it chose peace, but in fact 1.8 million stateless people don’t have the kind of rights, including rights over property and trading routes, that would allow them to prosper.

Israel’s Likud government has the doctrine of the Iron Wall, of hitting its enemies hard and consistently until they comply. It has failed to secure the acquiescence of Palestinians in their dispossession because being stateless is intolerable. Israel is put forward by Zionists (Jewish nationalists) as a solution to the statelessness of European Jews under the fascists during the 1930s and 1940s. But they have a blind spot when it comes to the statelessness of Palestinians, figuring that that does not need a solution. Until Israelis come to terms with the Catastrophe (Nakba) that they have inflicted on generations of Palestinians, who have been left more or less homeless and in a kind of vast concentration camp, they cannot really make peace. And each episode of the Iron Wall with its Iron Fist degrades Israel a little more. Perhaps it can survive being an international pariah. But Israelis will one day look in the mirror and not like what they see, one little bit.


Related video:

Hamas & Israel reach long-term Gaza ceasefire – BBC News

9 Responses

  1. Great crimes have been committed against the Palestinians, crimes enabled by the U.S. I have heard noting from Obama or his administration except support for the perpetrators whom we continue to enable.

  2. Hamas appears to have lost much support among the Arab states, which seem to be willing to throw them under the bus. And the backing of some of their allies isn’t really helpful.

  3. Why no “new Intifada” on the West Bank during the assault on Gaza? PLO complicity with Israel? Fear of repression by Palestinians? Hopelessness? This is a part of the story that is being ignored.

  4. Prof Coles description of the ceasefire is the best I have seen…unless Hamas agrees to police a dis armament ..I doubt that they can get anywhere…

  5. ”Moreover, because the current Egyptian government abhors the Muslim Brotherhood and movements of political Islam like Hamas, it is unclear that Hamas can restock its rockets and other weapons via the Sinai, as in the past. ”

    The upper echelons of the Egyptian military have always detested Hamas, and, it has to be said, Palestinians in general. However, is the same true for the rank and file? I doubt it. I’m willing to bet there are plenty of Egyptian officials on the Rafah crossing who regularly turn a blind eye – perhaps for a financial consideration – to truckloads of contraband passing through Rafah. I’m not sure what can be done to prevent this, especially bearing in mind how little these men get paid.

    ”s in the past.

    Still, what the Israeli military was going for was a result similar to its 2006 war on Hizbullah in Lebanon”

    Are you implying that the July war was a success for Israel? If so, I completely disagree. The Israelis may now say that all they wanted was ‘quiet’ on their northern non-borders, but it’s clear that their original war aims were far more ambitious, involving nothing less than the complete destruction of Hizballah. Remember those ‘birth pangs of a new Middle East’? If they had wanted ‘quiet’ they could have negotiated it, not suffered a humiliating defeat. I highly doubt that the IDF was happy to see over 1OO soldiers killed in return and their ‘deterrence’ exposed as never before in return for a cessation of rocket fire.

    ” Israel will press for Gaza to be a demilitarized zone”

    They may ‘press’ for it, but there’s no way it can be achieved. Years of a suffocating siege, with the aim of doing just that, have failed, as Hamas is clearly a much more sophisticated fighting force than it was a few years ago.

  6. The problem for Israel is that, as they keep engaging in uglier practices, they have to exert more and more pressure to ensure their narrative is dominant. There is a HUGE reservoir of people who are kept back by threats (to their careers), waiting to burst en masse. The behavior of Israel can end up costing their backers elsewhere, no one wants to be associated with carnage and dead children. This time it is not nice to support the Israeli assault. It is like Soweto in 1976, the apartheid regime seeding unknowingly its isolation.

  7. And now a new generation of righteously angry victim’s families will have to re-build their lives with no job prospects, while choking back tears, anger and resentment.

    We must all stoke the thought of committing to generations of peace as much as we can. International leaders must be creative and expedient in rebuilding Gaza as soon as possible.

    The Palestinian grievances are not petty by any measure, but only restraint can win the goal of statehood. It can be done.

  8. The war devastated both sides.

    PM Netanyahu admitted openly recently that the cease-fire was motivated in part to save the lives of IDF soldiers – implying that Hamas has built up a deterrent effect against IDF ground invasion. The 64 IDF soldiers killed in action – including a brigade commander – represent a new level of fatalities that Palestinians have not inflicted upon Jewish forces in battle situations since the 1982 war in Lebanon, and far more than the 13 IDF personnel and civilians combined in Operation Cast Lead. By comparison, 112 IDF personnel were killed in action in the Second Lebanon War.

    The war will also cost Israel billions of dollars in military costs, property damage, decreased economic productivity and other expenditures.

    The phenomenon of having rockets strike almost every corner of Israel from Gaza is unprecedented and has a profound psychological impact upon Israel’s population.

    Israel may now face investigation by the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has continued to isolate itself in the world community and may face increased BDS activity.

    Gazan damages are even more massive and have been estimated as high as 8 billion dollars. Over 2,000 Gazans – chiefly civilians – perished in the war. Children will likely face further malnutrition issues. Gaza’s “win” may be some increased fishing privileges and limited easing of the blockade, however this ignores the fact that damages its residents has incurred is massive.

    This conflict achieved little on each side; the corresponding damages incurred by each, however, have been prohibitive.

    • Mark is right…both sides took a beating..all this goes to prove how war destroys all envolved if only the human condition could only get it into their thick heads..

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