The 50-day war waged between the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and Israel is once again on hold, as the latest cease-fire – there have already been more than a dozen – began at 7:00 p.m. IST, on Tuesday, Aug. 26.
So what are the terms of this cease-fire? What was gained, and what was lost, during the War of the Summer of ’14?
First, the terms:
As of 7:00 p.m. local time, all violence on the part of Israel and of Gazans had to cease. In addition, closed border crossings between Israel and Egypt and the Gaza Strip were reopened, and the distance from the shore in which Gazans are permitted to fish was expanded.
It also appears, although this is not entirely clear, that Hamas has agreed to allow the Palestinian Authority to assume responsibility for overseeing the passage of people and goods in and out of Gaza.
The second stage of activity is intended to take place in a month, if the first set of conditions hold. These include discussions between the parties about the construction of a sea port in Gaza, and, ultimately, the rebuilding of a Gaza airport which was destroyed years ago following terrorist acts by Gazans.
In addition, the parties are to discuss Israel’s release of Hamas members who had been imprisoned during the search for the three kidnapped and murdered Israeli teens. This term may constitute an exchange for body parts and personal belongings of two Israeli soldiers who were killed in Gaza and which are believed to be held by Hamas.
So, who won? Or, to put it more accurately, who lost the least?
Hamas accepted terms that it rejected during earlier cease-fire discussions, and it essentially returned to the status quo reached in a 2012 ceasefire. On its major points, all it won was the agreement to have discussions about the items, such as the rebuilding of an airport and the creation of a seaport.
The number one goal of Hamas: a complete lifting of the blockade over the Gaza Strip, is not even on the agenda as a talking point. Plus, a few thousand Gazans are dead, and some neighborhoods are in ruins.
Israel was able to destroy at least the vast majority of the terror tunnels into Israel and to eliminate several senior members of the terrorist leadership. But Israel lost more than 60 soldiers and six civilians, including a four year old boy. And the trauma to its southern border communities and lost sense of security across huge swathes of Israel is an inestimable loss. What’s more, it’s number one stated goal was to disarm Hamas, and that talking point is glaringly absent from this truce agreement.
Even the United States finally seemed to have received the memo: there is no complete end in sight.
In his press release about the ceasefire, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed his support and his hope that it will be “durable and sustainable.” He also included such cautionary terms for the effort as “an opportunity and not a certainty.”
But here’s the best part of Kerry’s statement. He talks about what he sees as the true goals of the people of Israel and the people of Gaza. And he talks about a path to meet those goals. And he does not mention the loathsome, until now inexorable three word incantation: two state solution.
We are approaching the next phase with our eyes wide open. We have been down this road before and we are all aware of the challenges ahead. Both the Israelis and the Palestinians have strong views about their needs and the future of the region. Certain bedrock outcomes, though, are essential if there is to be long term solution for Gaza. Israelis have to be able to live in peace and security, without terrorist attacks, without rockets, without tunnels, without sirens going off and families scrambling to bomb shelters. Palestinians also need to be able to live in peace and security and have full economic and social opportunities to build better lives for themselves and for their children. Getting there will not be easy, but it is the only path to a future that the people on both sides deserve.
The absence of that three word absurdity is certainly welcome. Even if the reason for its absence is that it is Hamas and Gaza, rather than the “West Bank” and the PA that are being discussed, it is still a step forward, for it was not long ago that Kerry and other U.S. officials were talking about the future Palestinian State being “contiguous,” meaning, the West Bankistan and Hamasistan would be conjoined.
That single step forward may be what constitutes a victory for Israel, one dearly bought, to be sure, but important nonetheless.