Monday, November 19, 2012

What's a Ceasefire For?

There are rumours a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is near. I have no idea how serious they are. What I do know, having spent a chunk of time today looking for a what might resemble reliable information, is that there isn't much of it out there. Someday, decades from now, my professional descendants in the archives will publish the documents being created as we sit here, and their readers will be offered a nuanced, detailed look into the minds of the decision-makers and the sources they had to inform them - but that's not much help this afternoon. What I have managed to glean from here and there sounds like a total collossal waste of time.

Not a waste of time in that a ceasefire can't be achieved. It probably can, or will be achievable in a few days or a week or shortly thereafter. No. The waste, even in the best of scenarios, will have been of the years since 2005.

According to the rumours I'm hearing, Hamas is demanding that Israel lift its blckade (or what's left of it), and desist from targeted killings; and Israel is demanding some sort of guarantee that there will be absolutely no rocket-fire from Gaza, and no attacks on Israeli troops in our side of the border. In other words, Hamas is demanding... what Israel already gave in 2005.

2005 was a very very long time ago. So long ago that almost nobody old enough to use twitter or otherwise be able to express an opinion on Israel and Palestine can be expected to remember it. Still, the fact is that in September 2005 Israel pulled its very last soldier out of Gaza, after having pulled its last settlers out in August. Ariel Sharon, the prime minister and architect of the unilateral withdrawal, had intended to leave IDF forces on the Phladelphi line, the Gaza-Egypt border, to ensure that the Gazans not smuggle nasty things in, but the Bush adminstration had forced him to drop that idea: You're leaving? Then all the way. True, back in April 2004 the president seemd to accept some sort of Israeli military presence in Gaza, but that was then and now was now. so what was eventually worked out was that Israel really left, and some EU inspecters were sent over to inspect stuff. (They're long departed, obviously, since the inspecting proved to be unpleasant).

The significance of this is that between September 2005 and early 2006, there was no Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Gazans were in an eiree sort of diplomatic limbo, unlike anywhere else in the world, with no internationally recognized sovereign, but with lots of internationally recognized clout, and could have reasonably expected the Palestinian Authority to move towards an upgrade of its status. There can be little doubt that had the Gazans done in 2005 what the Jewish Agency did in 1947, namely purposefully go about the mundane but crucial task of nation building, Israel wouldn't have interfered. On the contrary: a majority of Israelis were hoping - fervently or dubiously - they'd do exactly that, which is why Sharon, then followed after his illnes by Ehud Olmert, built the election strategy of their brand new party Kadima on the idea of continuing the disengagement process on the West Bank. (Hitkansut, Olmert called it).

The reason none of this ever happened is that the Palestinians made their choices, and their choices were not what Israel had hoped. And thus began the downward spiral to where we're at now.

Is Hamas is now negotiating for what already existed in 2005, after having spent the intervening years pounding into the collective Israeli psyche that the gamble of 2005 was idiotic?


David Gruber said...

I've really missed your insightful analysis, Yaacov. I love the Archives blog, too, but your clear-eyed thoughts on the present are so valuable.

NormanF said...

Hamas would like to have its cake and eat it, too.

It will take a timeout to refresh and regroup but it will never make peace with Israel.

A "hudna" is not going to last 15 years and Israelis must be smoking crack if they really believe Egypt, which is powerless to even secure its sovereignty in the Sinai, can rein in Hamas.

There will be another war in five years' time and the Islamists will redouble their efforts to wipe out Israel.