Jan 19 2009

It takes two to cease fire

Published by at 1:21 pm under Articles,Palestinian politics

It takes two to cease fire

by Daoud Kuttab

The decision by the Israeli cabinet to declare a unilateral cease-fire lacks three basic components: a partner, a monitor and a political process.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak is famous for his saying that when talking about peace negotiations, it takes two to tango. The same principle applies to the cessation of violence. Israel might think that since it began the attack on its own, it can end it on its own. But the “durable and lasting” cease-fire that the White House has called for requires an Arab partner which has the ability to make it work. Israel’s blind refusal to recognize Hamas has forced it to carry out the unusual step of declaring a unilateral cease-fire with the hope that others can help encourage Hamas to abide by it. The Islamic movement says it is not bound by an agreement which doesn’t include it. Egyptian officials have been saying that both sides need face saving. Incentive is needed to help each down from the tree upon which it has climbed.

LASTING CEASE-FIRE agreements also require monitoring. In the past the Egyptian government has sponsored a tahdiya [truce] between Israel and Hamas, but this six-month truce has been regularly violated by Israel and Hamas. Israel refused to open the borders or stop its assassinations of Hamas leaders. Hamas, claiming their actions were in response to assassination, also fired their Kassam rockets into Israel. After time it becomes useless to try and figure out who started attacking. With the international press left out, the current Israeli declaration leaves out this important monitoring component out, and in that it allows the Israelis to write the narrative it wants.

Historically, cease-fires have never succeeded unless a vigorous political discussion was initiated in parallel. Without a political solution, the root problems that caused the violence will insure its return. The blockade on Gaza and the status of the Strip and eventually the West Bank need to be resolved. Some of the latter requires Palestinian, Arab and international solutions. But absent a political process, this will be yet another failed cease-fire.

Israel was able to start the war on Gaza and has decided to unilaterally end its offensive attacks without withdrawing its troops from Palestinian territories.

Without a partner on the Arab side, neutral monitors and a robust political process, this cease-fire will not last very long.

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