A Glance at Israel-Hamas Truce in Gaza Strip

Monday, June 30, 2008

Mohammad Khajouei

After many ups and downs, Israel and the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) representing the Palestinian groups, agreed on an Egyptian mediated truce in Gaza region for a period of six months.
The truce took effect as of Thursday, June 19 and would take place in two stage: In the first stage, clashes will stop and the Gaza Strip will be partially opened. The second stage will see the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in return for reopening of the main Rafah crossing which would facilitate travel to Egypt by Palestinians.

It is to be recalled that in June 2007 and following escalation of disputes between Hamas and Fatah, Gaza Strip came under the control of Hamas and the siege of this important region started. The inhabitants of Gaza were under the political and economic siege of Israel for 11 months. During this period, Israel killed and wounded

hundreds of Palestinians. In response, Hamas militants subjected Israeli towns to rocket attacks which caused Israel a significant security challenge.

But what was the force behind the sudden truce between Israel and Hamas? A look at the developments over the past 11 months will make it clear that the main reason for the agreement between the two sides was not a change of attitude towards one another but rather politico-security requirements.

Undoubtedly, the agreement between Hamas and the Zionist regime is different from the reconciliation talks between Israel and pro-Western Palestinian factions. Moreover, this agreement cannot be taken as a shift in the war policy of the Tel Aviv leaders.

The siege of Gaza and the economic, political and security pressures on the people of Gaza made the Hamas officials, particularly the pragmatist faction in the movement, to halt their clashes with Israel in a bid to uphold their status among the Palestinians, remain in the political scene and maintain unity in the ranks of Palestinians.

Voicing its firm commitment to the truce and readiness to contain those who may try to violate the ceasefire, the Islamic Resistance Movement intends to display a powerful presence and make all the parties to the Middle East conflict, including the United States to take Hamas as a reality.

Meanwhile, one of the important outcomes of the recent calm in the internal scene of Palestine is that it could prepare the ground for ending the war of attrition between the two groups of Hamas in Gaza Strip and Fatah in the West Bank.

On the other hand, the 11-month siege of Gaza Strip did not lead to tranquility and security in Israel. Because during this time, a big number of amateur but devastating rockets of "Al-Qassam" were fired at Israeli towns by Hamas militants, which badly outraged the Israelis. At the same time, growing pressures on and massacre of Palestinians by Israel sparked reactions from the international community against Tel Aviv. For the same reason, the Israeli officials preferred - at least on a temporary basis - to help establish calm in the hope that the internal developments in Palestine during this period of time would bring about some change in the behavior of Hamas and Israel could re-enter the field by making more precise calculations and reinforcements.

Although the truce between Hamas and Israel must be regarded an important development in the Middle East crisis, however it must be admitted that it is a fragile ceasefire. We should not ignore the fact that the two sides still hold a very suspicious attitude towards each other which alone could be a factor for termination of the agreement. In this respect, only few days after announcement of the truce, Israeli officials including Defense Minister Ehud Barak tried to play down the incident by saying that Hamas would not be committed to the agreement.

Hamas officials on the other hand have announced that they will never lay down arms because they cannot trust if Israel would remain committed to the ceasefire. Of course the possibility of violation of the truce by Israel is higher than the Palestinian side which badly needs peace and tranquility at this time. As it was said, the main reason for Israel's agreement to the truce originates from security necessities as well as its failures in countering the resistance movements such as Hamas and Hizbollah over the past couple of years. Therefore, one should not assume that the shift in Israeli policy is a genuine turn in its hostility towards Hamas and Hizbollah groups. This agreement is therefore not deeply rooted and could be easily broken at any time.

It is more true because extremist right factions who are the main opposition currents, have been putting a lot of pressure on the Israeli government specially after the defeat of the Olmert army at the hands of Hizbollah in the summer of two years ago. These currents are strongly opposed to any compromise with factions like Hamas and have always underlined the need for an "iron fist" policy in dealing the Palestinians.

At present, the internal situation in Israel is very disturbed and the Israeli government is faced with a severe crisis. The Israeli prime minister is facing interrogation regarding his financial corruption. For the same reason, under such an ambiguous and tense situation, the adoption of and commitment to decisions such as truce with Palestinians would certainly be fragile. With a change in internal conditions of Israel and the region and based on other requirements, Israel would have new pretexts to violate this already breakable truce.

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