Good News: Israeli-Hamas truce
We start, as I always like to do when I can, with Good News and this week we're going to go with the real big good news.
Israel and Hamas have agreed to what an Israeli government official called an "unlimited" ceasefire, putting an end, at least for now, to the 50-day slaughter in Gaza.
According to one source, the deal supposedly includes opening of the blockaded border crossings and a widening of the area of the Mediterranean where residents of Gaza can go to fish without worrying about being attacked by Israeli gunboats, but the Israeli daily newspaper Ha'aretz says Hamas gets no immediate gains from the ceasefire. So that point is unclear. Negotiations are to resume next month in Cairo on a long-term agreement involving a permanent re-opening of the border crossings, a prisoner exchange, and the construction of a Gaza seaport. Those talks are where the real test of the "unlimited" ceasefire will arise.
But for the moment, Ha'aretz says that the sense is that this time, the truce will hold because "both sides seem interested at putting an end to this terrible summer." Still, the paper says, the feeling among Israelis and Palestinians as well is that "the war did not end in victory or failure, but rather in a somewhat doleful tie." That does not bode well for the future because it could lead each side to settle into a sort of sullen determination to achieve at the negotiating table what they did not achieve in the fighting.
There is, however, one note, one little ding, of hope that I see: Another report in Ha'artez says that "the significance of the cease-fire is that Israel has recognized militant groups as an inseparable part of the Palestinian polity." That is, Israel is coming to admit that it cannot simply dismiss groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad as having no role in the future of a Palestinian state.
Since, as is too often forgotten, a possibility of a more-complete settlement several years ago broke down because Israel and the US refused to recognize a coalition government of Hamas and Fatah, even though Hamas had won the right to help govern by doing well in the very elections which the US and Israel demanded take place, the fact that Israel may finally be coming to accept the political realities involved is a good thing.
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