Israel and Hamas have announced a ceasefire that was midwived by Egypt and the U.S. It will ostensibly end this round of fighting–until the next time. And there will be a next time. Of that you can be sure.
150 Gazans were killed in this garbage war. Over 1,000 wounded. Five Israelis were killed. The ratio of Palestinians to Israelis killed was 30 to 1. When next you hear an Israeli complain about their side not being accorded enough air time or a lack of balance or context, just remember this single statistic. And tell them to read Seamus Milne’s passionate refutation of this Israeli claim.
Here’s the text of the ceasefire agreement:
Agreement of Understanding For a Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip
1. A. Israel should stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.
B. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.
C. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
D. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.
2: Implementation mechanisms:
A. Setting up the zero hour for the ceasefire understanding to enter into effect.
B. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.
C. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations, Egypt as the sponsor of this understanding shall be informed to follow up.
Here is my (cynical) version of the ceasefire agreement signed by the parties:
1. Bibi has gotten what he needed–an election boost.
2. Hamas has gotten what it needed–striking body blows against the Zionist oppressor, further isolating and discrediting its mortal national enemy, Fatah. The Iranian Fajr 5 rockets which reached Tel Aviv and environs, while mostly stopped by Iron Dome, served a useful purpose by reminding Israel that it was not invincible, and reminding Israel of what Iran can do to it if Iran is attacked by Israel.
3. Bibi avoids the worst pitfalls of an escalation–lots of Israeli body bags and a war extending into the election period–each of which would tend to weigh on the minds of the voters in ways that would be unpleasant and unproductive (for Likud).
4. Hamas gets to avoid the worst of an invasion in which there would be hundreds, if not thousands of civilian dead. Stopping the war now allows them to keep much of their powder dry for a future war, of which one can be guaranteed.
If you review the real ceasefire document you’ll find nothing but bland, vague assurances of action accompanied by no concrete mechanisms for enforcement, as there was in the UN ceasefire that ended the 2006 Lebanon war. The most hopeful clause, as far as Hamas is concerned, is the one concerning the end of Israel’s siege. Here too the language is vague to the point of meaninglessness. In 24 hours, some unspecified process should lead to further discussions which should lead to unspecified procedures that end the siege (or not). Good luck with that.
This settles nothing, solves nothing. It addresses no major issues and will lead to nothing positive. But one positive thing that has come out of this indirectly is that if Obama ever gets his shit together and decides to implement a real peace process, then Egypt could be a real partner and interlocutor on behalf of the Palestinians. It could both advocate for them and keep them in line at the point where the rubber meets the road. The question is whether the U.S. can play the same role regarding Israel. Certainly, with this government, the outlook is grim. If Obama needed a reason not to get involved,that would be it.
Yesterday, MK Binyamin Ben Eliezer, a defense minister in past governments, gave a TV interview that was remarkably candid, truthful, and contrarian in the way that some maverick Israeli politicians used to be (Fuad is 76 and of the older, shoot from the hip generation). Asked about Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military chief assassinated by Israel, he replied:
I knew him. A real man. He was a real man. If you ask my opinion, he was one of those for whom his word was trustworthy. That is, if he said: “I’ll give you this,” he gave it to you.
You’ve heard me say many times: “Free Barghouti.” Why? Because you could do a deal with him. You only do deals with killers. Learn this truth. Only with killers. Hafez al-Assad was a killer. Sadat was a killer. Rabin was a killer. Arik [Sharon] was a killer. [King] Hussein was a killer [a reference to Black September]. Am I right or wrong?
After the interview, he was taken to task by those in Labor who don’t want to be labeled “leftist,” and he bowdlerized his statement, saying:
I meant to say that Arik and Rabin were strong men [not killers].
It shouldn’t be lost on any of us that the Labor Party primaries are next week. Any candidate who’s too outspoken or appears too soft on Palestinians may poll lower and lose his chance of entering the next Knesset.
So while most of Israel felt well rid of a Jew killer when he was murdered, pragmatic Israeli security officials and generals know that killing Jabari killed yet another opportunity for a future peace. As I’ve argued here, the current Israeli government doesn’t just want to murder killers, it wants to murder peace. It’s succeeded in this.
Bibi has “his” war. He can ride it into the next elections like a golden Palomino. He’s given Israelis enough of a reason to vote for him, though most dislike him intensely. He’s made a viable Palestine recede even farther into the distance. And he’s allowed himself a chance to pivot to deal with Iran, if he chooses.