Victory or not? That is the question. Are the Palestinians victorious in this ceasefire agreement? Do we have cause to celebrate?
Yes and No.
Yes. There is a victory on several counts.
(1): Israel has previously conditioned that there wouldn’t be a ceasefire agreement without first disarming Hamas. Now, Israel agreed to a ceasefire without that condition– rather, that condition has been tabled for negotiations in one month.
(2): One of the objectives of the Israeli offensive was destruction of the Palestinian Resistance. That objective has also failed. Haaretz diplomatic correspondent Barak Ravid wrote that, “the Egyptian cease-fire proposal that Israel accepted on Tuesday did not deliver a single achievement,” Ravid wrote, and actually represented a “regression” from Israel’s position before the war. This agreement did not win the favor of 4 of the 8 Israeli ministers nor has it been well-received in the Israeli press.
(3): Most critically, the importance of armed resistance as a pathway to liberation has been reasserted. It was because of the armed resistance to the Israeli offensive that a ceasefire was even reached: the Israelis in the settlements closest to Gaza demanded an end to the bombardment of Gaza so that they would no longer receive rockets.
There is room for joy, and yes I salute the Palestinian Resistance and the Palestinian Steadfastness – and I pause here and recognize both those pillars of strength. However, this is not the time for a full celebration.
(1) “Israel agrees to “open more of its border crossings with Gaza to allow the easier flow of goods, including humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment, into the coastal enclave.” What does this actually mean? Which border crossings will be opened? What does an “easier flow of goods” actually mean? How much easier? Who defines what constitutes “reconstruction supplies” and “relief” and “humanitarian aid”? Will ‘dual use’ items be banned? Palestinian journalist Mohamed Omer spoke on Democracy Now that in 2010, easing of the siege meant that ketchup and coriander were allowed into Gaza!
(2) “Israel will extend the fishing limit off Gaza’s coast to six miles from three miles, with the possibility of widening it gradually if the truce holds. Ultimately, the Palestinians want to return to a full 12-mile international allowance.” Again: critical to recognize that Palestinian fishermen are entitled to a full 12-mile fishing access. Will fishing within six miles even result in increased fishing – given the overfishing? And, critically, will the Israeli navy adhere to this agreement? The Israeli government has regularly violated previous commitments on this front.
(3) Who will ensure these agreements? The ceasefire agreement says that Egypt is the guarantor. Egypt is not a neutral party, and, unfortunately, has been siding with the Israeli occupation and not with the Palestinian people.
And then there are the more dangerous aspects of this agreement.
(4) “The Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, is expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas. Israel and Egypt hope it will ensure weapons, ammunition and any “dual-use” goods are prevented from flowing into Gaza.” What is “dual-use”? Who defines it? We need to remember our long experience with ‘dual use’ items in the sanctions imposed on Iraq. If the same material that is needed to rebuild the thousands of homes destroyed can also be used to rebuild the tunnels, will that material be prohibited? The emphasis remains on Israeli “security” at the expense of Palestinian economic empowerment. Furthermore, what good can be expected from Mahmoud Abbas? Israel and Egypt are positioning Abbas here to weaken the political gains obtained by Hamas.
(5) “The Palestinian Authority will lead in coordinating the reconstruction effort in Gaza with international donors, including the European Union.” This point is quite important, and what should cause us to worry is the excitement that Tony Blair has shown on this regard. Blair has tweeted: “Blair: Quartet to concentrate on long-term plan for #Gaza & reconstruction to enable proper and decent life for Gazans, security for #Israel” As Rania Khalek pointed out, “Beware the vultures circling Gaza for “reconstruction”. Disaster capitalists are salivating beside their PA cronies.”
(6) There remain further critical questions. These issues have been tabled for “negotiations” in one month “* The release of hundreds of Palestinians by Israel. They were detained in the West Bank following the abduction and killing of three Jewish seminary students in June.; * The building of a sea port in Gaza and the rebuilding and reopening of the Yasser Arafat International airport – opened in 1998 but bombed by Israel in 2000.; * The un-freezing of funds to allow Hamas to pay 40,000 police, government workers and other administrative staff who have largely been without salaries since late last year.” What happens from those negotiations depends on the strength and power that the Palestinian team brings to the negotiating table.
(7) Also note that the border between Gaza and Rafah is not discussed in this ceasefire agreement. That border has not been opened, only eased, and the Egyptian government want another set of talks with the Palestinian team to discuss that critical crossing.
So, yes, the Palestinian in Gaza breath a bit easier because the bombs over Gaza have stopped, but the destruction and death on Gaza has been enormous! A total of 2,142 people, including more than 490 children, have been killed in Gaza. 1,800 children have been made into orphans – and the institutions that take care of orphans have been bombed, along with the main hospital centers. Will Israel be tried in the ICC? Will Israel’s reign of impunity finally end?
Don’t stop organizing, protesting, writing, and boycotting! The struggle is still long!