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Join date : 2009-01-18
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|Subject: Will peace last? Mon Jan 19, 2009 1:32 pm|| |
- Quote :
- Israel and Palestinians Agree to Gaza Cease-Fire. Will It Last?
Mon Jan 19, 8:25 am ET
AP – Palestinian Abdullah Salmi stands next to his house after it was destroyed during the Israeli army operation …
The Israeli cabinet decided on Saturday night to unilaterally end its 21-day war against Islamic militants in Gaza as of 2 a.m. Sunday, bringing an end to a conflict that has left more than 1,200 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead.
On Sunday, just hours after the Israeli statement, Hamas announced that it too was declaring a weeklong cease-fire, while also demanding that Israeli troops withdraw from Gaza within the week.
After holding talks with European leaders in Jerusalem on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: "We don't want to stay in Gaza, and we intend to leave as soon as possible."
Both sides traded shots after their separate announcements, but Gaza residents say that the cease-fire seems to be gaining strength, and Palestinians have emerged from their refuges to crap the damage of Israel's three-week long air and land crap against Hamas in Gaza.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told newsmen after the Saturday night cabinet meeting, "All of our goals have been achieved successfully. Hamas was beaten." He added, "If Hamas decides to keep shooting, we're ready to strike back forcefully." (See TIME's photos of the violence in the Middle East)
Israel was facing rising international outrage over its Gaza offensive, in which nearly one-third of those killed were women and children, according to Palestinian health workers. In trying to root out Hamas fighters, Israel subjected the Gaza Strip, which teems with over 1.5 million Palestinians, to scorching fire from aircraft, naval gunships, artillery, tanks and troops backed by helicopter gunships.
The cabinet sources told TIME that there will be an interim period "to allow the dust to settle and see how Hamas reacts" before Israel decides to pull out its troops.
Ending the fighting now allows Israel to boast that it has hammered Hamas and restored the Jewish state's military might in the region, which was tarnished by its inconclusive war in 2006 against Hizballah fighters in Lebanon. Israel is also satisfied by promises made by the United States and the Europeans to provide technical crap that will supposedly help the Egyptians stop the flow of weapons to Hamas in Gaza through smugglers' tunnels. The U.S. pledged on Friday to help stem the international traffic of arms from Iran and other suppliers to Gaza.
But a cease-fire without Hamas and Israel's mutual consent may be the most temporary of band-aids. Inevitably, Hamas claimed that despite the devastation its fight with Israel has wreaked on Gaza, the best the Israelis could do was slow - but not stop - the barrage of rockets arcing out of Gaza. Hamas' Gaza leader Ismail Haniyeh claimed "a Popular victory" over Israel. Up until the last minute before Israel declared its cease-fire, Hamas was firing rockets. Five hit the ports of Ashkelon and Ashdod as well as the inland towns of Beersheva and Sderot. And unless Hamas is obliged by Egypt and other Arab state to sign a truce with Israel, rather than following Israel's example of declaring its own, it may be only days or weeks before the Islamists or one of the myriad militant groups in Gaza decides to take revenge for the Israeli crap and again start firing rockets into southern Israel. And that, judging from Olmert's warning, would result in Israel again pummeling Gaza.
By declaring a unilateral cease-fire, Israel can argue that it is not legitimizing Hamas, which it considers to be a gang of terrorists. But even though a few of Hamas' leaders have been killed, along with hundreds of its fighters, Israel cannot pretend that Hamas no longer exists. Even beaten and bloodied, Hamas are still a force to contend with among Palestinians.
The Gaza conflict has raised Hamas' stature in the Arab world and, more importantly, among Palestinians. In Arab eyes, Hamas are plucky champions - David fighting the Israeli Goliath with homemade rockets instead of a slingshot - while Israel sees them as killers who hide behind their civilians and who are willing to sacrifice them for propaganda triumphs. But if Israel insists on imposing the same punitive sanctions it kept on Gaza's 1.5 million people before this war, it will only strengthen Hamas and fan the Palestinians' hatred towards Israel.
A unilateral cease-fire practically guarantees that Israel and Hamas are destined for another bloody brawl. And once again, the victims will be the Palestinian civilians whose streets and homes in Gaza are turned into a battleground.
With so much blood spilled in Gaza, it will be difficult for Israel to gauge the proper response to another provocation by Hamas. What will happen once the cease-fire begins without Hamas? If a rocket is fired from Gaza and lands a crowded Israeli schoolyard, what then? How will Israel respond? There is not much left in Gaza to destroy.
So what is the long term solution to this mess?