Another ceasefire

Exact details of what the ceasefire entails are not yet clear. Indeed, the government has done everything to avoid calling it a ceasefire at all.

By
May 6, 2019 22:28
3 minute read.
Lihi Piatzsky defends her daughter with her body during a Hamas rocket attack

Lihi Piatzsky defends her daughter with her body during a Hamas rocket attack. (photo credit: ALON PIATZSKY)

On Monday, another ceasefire went into effect after a massive round of hostilities from Gaza. Since Saturday, some 700 rockets have been launched by Hamas and Islamic Jihad at Israel. Four Israelis were killed and more than 200 wounded, including those suffering from shock. Neither the offensive itself nor the way it ended were a surprise. Even the timing was not unexpected. Israeli officials had predicted for a long time that the Palestinian terrorist movements in Gaza would exploit this particular, sensitive period to try to gain extra benefits – ahead of Israel’s Independence Day, the first anniversary of the US relocation of the embassy to Jerusalem and, significantly, the Eurovision Song Contest being hosted by Israel in Tel Aviv next week.

Although officials denied that the timing of the Eurovision had anything to do with the efforts to quickly end this round of hostilities, it was clearly on people’s minds. Instead of being able to showcase the country to boost tourism (as every host country wants to do) there would have been a danger that Israel would be seared even more in international minds as a no-go war zone.
 
Similarly, that the end of the hostilities coincided with the start of Ramadan is also no coincidence. It is doubtful that either Hamas or Islamic Jihad wanted Gaza to be under war conditions during the month when Muslims fast during the day but have festive meals and gatherings every night. Ultimately, even the terrorist regime that controls the Gaza Strip knows that it has to answer to the people who live there. Despite Gazans’ public joy at every Israeli fatality and at perceived PR victories, the ordinary residents of the Strip are not eager to suffer another devastating war.
 
Exact details of what the ceasefire entails are not yet clear. Indeed, the government has done everything to avoid calling it a ceasefire at all, because it wants to prevent a situation in which it could be interpreted that Israel is officially recognizing Hamas, a terrorist organization.
 
However, we can make some assumptions based on previous ceasefires, and sadly there are ever shorter periods between the rounds of hostilities.
 
It seems likely that the latest arrangement was reached with the help of Egypt, the UN and a promise of Qatari money to cash-strapped Gaza and the easing of certain restrictions on imports and the fishing zone off Gaza’s shores, for example.
 
It is not yet known what agreement has been reached regarding the regular weekend “March of Return” rallies on the Gaza border, but this is a very important issue. This week’s round of hostilities started when Palestinian snipers hit two Israeli soldiers on the border, Israel responded and the violence quickly escalated. Also, it needs to be seen whether the low-level arson-terrorism will continue, with Israel turning a blind eye as long as only a few incendiary-laden balloons and kites are launched on the farming communities and nature reserves of the South. Such violence should also be considered unacceptable, but the government will be reluctant to risk a major escalation as long as there are no fatalities.
 
In addition, no real deal is possible without the return of the two Israeli citizens and the bodies of the two IDF soldiers being held by Hamas.
 
There is a feeling that a ceasefire is just that: a temporary halt in the hostilities. Both sides know this. There can be no chance of peace without a real change to the status quo involving diplomatic measures.
 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been criticized by many – including Gideon Sa’ar from with his own Likud Party – for not having decisively ended the hostilities. On Monday, Netanyahu himself said that: “The campaign is not over and it demands patience and sagacity... the goal has been – and remains – ensuring quiet and security for the residents of the South.”
 
It is hard to know what is going on behind the scenes. Netanyahu seems set on a course of permanently separating the Palestinian Authority-controlled areas in the West Bank from Hamas-controlled Gaza and linking Gaza’s fate in some way to Egypt. Possibly, Netanyahu is waiting for US President Donald Trump’s long-anticipated “deal of the century” for a more comprehensive approach.
Since the Palestinians have already rejected the deal, sight unseen, it has very little chance of success. Sadly, another round of hostilities likely lurks just over the horizon. If Hamas cared for its own people, they could prevent it.


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