On Thursday 22nd November, Gush Shalom, Israeli Peace Bloc, said in a press release that tonight’s ceasefire put an end to a week of brutal warfare which caused suffering on both sides of the border. At least, the Government of Israel was able to understand the limitations of power and stop the war before implementing the threatened ground invasion which would have multiplied the destruction and bloodshed and would have isolated Israel totally.
In spite of the government claims of «surgical bombing», the past few days saw already an enormous increase in the number of civilians killed, among them many children. Photos of the dead children were spread all over the world – though not published by the Israeli media. PR efforts ( «Hasbara») would not have stood a chance had the war continued.
According to published details of the agreement reached in Cairo, there is a provision for some relief of Israel’s siege of the Gaza Strip. It is to be hoped that such would prove the case, and that it would be the first step to lifting the siege altogether. Lifting the siege on the Gaza Strip is not only a Palestinian interest – it is also an Israeli interest. The siege, which is the continuation of the occupation by other means, has not prevented the mass accumulation of missiles in the Gaza Strip, as we all saw during the past week. But it did cause serious economic damage to the residents of the Gaza Strip, exacerbating poverty, suffering and hatred. The residents of Gaza have the right to free access to the outside world by land, sea, and air – just like the residents of Israel and of all countries.
Egyptian President Morsi played a positive and vital role. Now there is a chance to revitalize the peace with Egypt and to open channels to the rising forces of political Islam throughout the region. However, such a development requires first and foremost a progress toward peace with the Palestinians.
There are certainly valid grounds for the concerns of many in Israel, and of residents of the south in particular, that the ceasefire signed today would prove but a temporary intermission, and that sooner or later there will be a new outbreak of violence. Absent a real progress towards solving the fundamental issues between Israel and the Palestinian people, such apprehensions could well come true. But this is certainly not inevitable. A move forwards could and should be undertaken, from ceasefire towards full-fledged peace with the Palestinians, with all their parties and factions.
This is the second time that the Netanyahu government negotiated and reached an agreement with Hamas. As in negotiations on the prisoner exchange last year, there was no meeting face to face – the Egyptians passing back and forth messages, proposals and counter proposals – but Netanyahu knew full well with whom he was negotiating.
This could work as a not unimportant precedent towards political negotiations with all Palestinian factions, whose uniting would be in the true interest of Israel. But to actually go in such a direction requires an Israeli government willing to end also the occupation of the West Bank.