Building a Gaza ceasefire on a crumbling jigsaw
In violent conflicts, parties to the conflict are always under pressure to cease fire
In violent conflicts, parties to the conflict are always under pressure to cease fire. Ceasefire agreements tend to have different formats but there are two basic requirements that successful long-term ceasefires require.
The first is clear: a total cessation of all attacks using all forms of weapons and from and to all relative locations. But most people don’t realize that the most important part of an effective ceasefire agreement is usually the second part - namely, the political conditions that are being offered to buttress and cement the cessation of hostilities.
The idea of both parties stopping attacks usually doesn’t hold for very long. There is always an element, usually political or logistic, that was the cause of hostilities and which the parties are adamant to try and address in order to justify to their own people why they participated in the violence in the first place.
The recent months have shown that the relative calm that Israel has enjoyed for the past few years was artificialDaoud Kuttab
Applying this theory to the current Israeli war on Gaza it is clear that the Israeli idea of mutual tahdiya (calm) is not a formula that will last very long.
Feeling wrongly accused
The Palestinian side feels that they were wrongly accused of being behind the kidnapping of three Israelis in areas under Israel’s control in the West Bank. They, along with the entire population of Gaza and the rest of the world, also feel that the seven-year illegal and unauthorized land and sea siege of Gaza must come to an end.
One possible way out of the current situation is to involve the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, which has, at least on the civilian side, a legal and authoritative role as to the lives of Palestinians in Gaza. The unity government has ended the period of two governing bodies in the West Bank and Gaza. All Palestinians in the occupied territories today have a single civilian governing leadership, namely the government headed by Rami Hamdallah.
This government can, and should be allowed, quickly implement the 2005 border agreements in which Palestinians security officials from the presidential guard along with European observers will man the two crossing points out of Gaza and ensure that movement of people and goods is carried out in an orderly manner and with all the necessary security arrangements.
This issue is touched on lightly in the Egyptian-sponsored ceasefire agreement which was hastily prepared and made public before any Palestinian had a chance to review it.
Palestinians, including Hamas, are also anxious to reverse some of the Israeli actions carried out in the West Bank following the disappearance (and later confirmed death) of the three Israelis.
It is difficult to move in a ceasefire agreement that will surely need external guarantors such as Egypt, the Palestinian government and possibly Turkey, Qatar and even the U.S. if previously guaranteed agreements are not respected.
The October 2011 prisoner exchange that included the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and Palestinian prisoners was guaranteed by the Egyptian government on the condition that the released Palestinian prisoners would not be re-arrested so long as they are not carrying out any actions against Israel.
However, in the aftermath of the kidnapping of the three Israelis, tens of Palestinians released under that exchange were taken from their homes and are in administrative detention (no charge or trial) without any claim that they were arrested for carrying out any action against Israel.
Just like prisoners are released in most ceasefire agreements, it would make perfect sense to release the nearly 1,000 Palestinian prisoners that include elected members of the Palestinian legislature and prisoners released in the Shalit exchange as part of the ceasefire agreement.
Without such a move, it would be foolish for countries to once again guarantee an agreement to which they can’t obtain the adherence by one side.
Lifting the siege of Gaza
Lifting the siege of Gaza in an orderly way that prevents the entry of any military supplies and the release of prisoners snatched after the kidnapping of the three Israelis are likely to encourage the widest public support to such an agreement and will encourage influential parties to ensure that the cessation of violence is permanent.
While some of the above mentioned issues are necessary to move from a state of violence to a ceasefire, the root causes of the conflict will naturally require a much more serious and in-depth look at the overall picture of the long-term relationship between Israel and Palestine.
The recent months have shown that the relative calm that Israel has enjoyed for the past few years was artificial and that the end of the occupation and the creation of an independent state in Palestine is absolutely necessary for Israelis and Palestinians to move, not only from violence to ceasefire, but to a phase of natural neighborly relations.
This article was first published in The Jordan Times on July 17, 2014.
Daoud Kuttab, an award winning Palestinian journalist who resides in Jerusalem and Amman. Mr. Kuttab is the director general of Community Media Network a media NGO that runs a radio station in Amman (al balad radio 92.4fm) a newsweb site ammannet.net and a TV production operation in Palestine Penmedia (penmedia.ps) which is producing the Palestinian version of Sesame street. You can read his blogs on DaoudKuttab.com and find him on Twitter @DaoudKuttab.
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