Inching Toward A Ceasefire?

The Gaza war continues, despite an uneasy calm during the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which began today, and renewed calls for a more permanent ceasefire. During the halt in the fighting on Saturday, Gazans assessed the damage to their homes and neighborhoods, discovering scenes like the one above:

Some Shejaiya residents had held out hope their homes would be spared only to find utter devastation. Ahmed al-Jamal, a 60-year-old grandfather, sat on a plastic chair in front of the wreckage of his home. “I had no idea it was destroyed,” he said. He stared at the floor, picking absently at a piece of wire by his foot. “I came to get my things during the cease-fire and I found nothing. I don’t know where we’ll go.”

Meanwhile, Israelis have reacted with fury to John Kerry’s proposal for a cease-fire, which includes an easing of the blockade of people and goods in the Israeli-occupied urban prison. Kerry’s crime was to include Hamas’ regional allies, Turkey and Qatar, in the negotiations, to be based on the 2012 Egyptian proposal. The president also reiterated to Netanyahu that he wanted any cease-fire to allow for a normal life for Gaza’s residents. The Israeli cabinet leaked Kerry’s proposals and leading Israeli figures could not believe what they were reading. Actual relief for Gazans? Negotiations with Hamas’ allies even as Israel is on the verge of “victory”? Here is alleged moderate Ari Shavit letting it rip:

The Obama administration proved once again that it is the best friend of its enemies, and the biggest enemy of its friends. The man of peace from Massachusetts intercepted with his own hands the reasonable cease-fire that was within reach, and pushed both the Palestinians and Israelis toward an escalation that most of them did not want … If Israel is forced to ultimately undertake an expanded ground operation in which dozens of young Israelis and hundreds of Palestinian civilians could lose their lives, it would be appropriate to name the offensive after the person who caused it: John Kerry.

What the Obama administration proved is that the US and the world would prefer not to have to keep witnessing these bloodbaths and want to get to the real roots of the conflict. It’s understandable that the Israelis simply believe that US foreign policy is about backing them and paying them for the privilege, but this administration has at least attempted to forge a policy in America’s rather than Greater Israel’s interests.

David Bernstein has a similar take on Kerry’s proposal, now backed by all 15 members of the UN Security Council:

It’s truly awful; it meets most of Hamas’s demands, and none of Israel’s. Even the left-wing Ha’aretz carries this commentary from its diplomatic correspondent: “The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal (leader of Hamas). It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.”

Adam Taylor offers a less tendentious take:

To understand why Kerry’s cease-fire plan failed, it helps to understand what a “cease-fire” really means in the reality of the current Israel-Palestinian conflict. While it’s not exactly a war, the conflict has been escalating and de-escalating for years, occasionally flaring up into full warfare at points. In this context, Kerry’s cease-fire doesn’t really look like a chance for a return to peace: It looks like a break from fighting and a return to a lower, yet still uncomfortable, level of hostilities that will probably soon flare up again. Israel has targeted Gaza, with the hope of crushing Hamas, four times since the Palestinian Islamist group came to power in 2007. Even if a cease-fire is agreed on soon, a betting man might predict the two sides will be trying to reach another one in a couple of years.

That’s a big problem. Numerous public opinion polls have shown that for all the international criticism of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, it remains popular within Israel. … “Israel must be permitted to crush Hamas,” is how Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States from 2009 to 2013, put it in an op-ed for The Post published Thursday. Reports that Israel hopes to expand its ground operation suggest that may be the way things are heading.

In any case, Juan Cole argues, a ceasefire is not enough:

Gaza is not a country, that Israel can be at war with it. It is a tiny strip of land surrounded by Israel from land, sea and air, which is kept from exporting its made goods for the most part, faces severe restrictions on imports, and therefore has had imposed on it a 40% or so unemployment rate. Some 56% of Palestinians in Gaza are food insecure. Gaza is recognized by the international community as an occupied territory, with Israel being the occupying power. If being occupied by Israel were so great, by the way, why is Gaza so badly off?

Hamas keeps rejecting any ceasefire that does not include a provision for the lifting of the siege of the civilian population. I heard the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, speaking after the meeting of diplomats in Paris, and he spoke about a settlement that allowed for the social and economic development of the Palestinians. What a joke! France has done nothing practical to end the blockade or allow Palestinians to develop. So a cease-fire that does not include an end to the blockade on Gaza by Israel is not a cease-fire, it is a pause in the war.