by Dish Staff
The ceasefire between Israel and Hamas fighters in Gaza has been extended for five days, despite an exchange of fire last night that briefly threatened to unravel the truce. Negotiations over a longer-term truce are ongoing in Cairo, but it’s not clear whether they’re going anywhere. Haaretz’s live blog has the latest updates on the situation:
One of spokesmen for the Hamas leadership that resides outside the Gaza Strip asserts that Israel’s responses so far in Cairo have not met the Palestinians’ minimal demands, and no real progress has been made. He did not rule out the possibility that the fighting would be renewed “to force Israel to acquiesce to Palestinian demands.” In contrast, a member of the Hamas delegation, Khalil Al-Hayya, who returned to Gaza from Cairo, said just a little while ago that there is still a chance of reaching an agreement. He expressed hope that the Egyptian mediator would succeed with his intensive efforts to secure a deal.
Lest anyone forget amid Hamas’s bellicose rhetoric, Rami Khouri makes the point that Palestinians, by and large, want peace, too. Only that’s not all they want:
Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups recognize that they will never destroy Israel. In their own way, they’ve even acknowledged the need to coexist peacefully — a reality they express in terms of a “long-term truce,” even while saying they wouldn’t themselves recognize Israel. So what does Hamas expect to achieve through continued fighting, and why does it enjoy, for now, almost unanimous Palestinian support?
It wants to force Israel to do two things: to honor the terms of the 2012 ceasefire agreement that would allow Gazans to live a relatively normal life, with freedom of movement, trade, fishing, marine and air transport, as well as economic development. And it wants to force Israel to address what are in Palestinian eyes the root causes of the conflict: the 1947-48 ethnic cleansing and displacement of the Palestinians.
Israelis are justified in demanding security and acceptance in the region. But that’s only half of the equation. Ending Palestinian refugeehood, occupation and siege is the other. The message Israelis should take away from Gaza is that if the Palestinians don’t see movement toward their reasonable goals within a framework of international legitimacy, the Israelis shouldn’t expect to rest in peace either.
But Daniel Gordis fears that Israelis are taking away another message, that they need to double down on the national security state:
Some Israeli villages surrounding Gaza are now ghost towns; many residents simply refuse to return home. They do not believe the IDF’s assurances that all the tunnels have been found and destroyed, and are beyond frightened that terrorists could pop out of the ground, quite literally, in their backyards. Israelis are united to a degree not seen in a long time, because they feel threatened as they have not in many years. And, many are pointing out, none of this would have happened had Ariel Sharon not pulled out of Gaza in 2005. Many are now convinced that if the pull-out from Gaza was foolish, a parallel move on the West Bank would be suicidal. Once again, as was the case during the Second Intifada a decade ago, Palestinian violence may have dealt the Israeli political left a death blow.
A.B. Yehoshua argues that Israel needs to stop calling Hamas a terrorist organization and start treating it as a legitimate adversary if it wants to talk seriously about peace:
In my own view, Hamas’s frustration derives from a lack of legitimization by Israel and by much of the world. It is this frustration that leads them to such destructive desperation. That’s why we need to grant them status as a legitimate enemy—before we talk about an agreement or, alternatively, about a frontal war. That is how we functioned previously with Arab nations. As long as we label Hamas as a terrorist organization, we cannot achieve a satisfactory cease fire in the south and won’t be able to negotiate with the Gaza government …
The skeptics among us will argue that Hamas would not sit with us for such open negotiations. If so, then we must propose meetings within the framework of the united Palestinian government. And should Hamas reject that proposal, then our war will become a legitimate war in every sense of the word, fought according to the general rules of warfare.