Almost two months after the beginning of escalated attacks in Gaza, a new truce has been effected, bringing a much-needed end to a tragic loss of life in the region. A deal brokered by Egypt was accepted by both Hamas and Israel, prompting declarations of victory from both sides, though it does not really qualify as such. In fact, the nw Gaza ceasefire, while hopefully more enduring than previous attempts at peace, merely delays an inevitable diplomatic clash between the two parties which will have to be resolved before any true progress can be claimed. On the table remains the issue of a seaport and airport for the Palestinians and the demilitarization of the coast as requested by Israel. Without a decision on key issues such as these, it is questionable whether a long-lasting and just arrangement can be reached.
The truce puts an end to the terrible loss of life occurring in the region. In total, over 2,000 Palestinians were killed, many of them civilians caught in air strikes from Israel. Only 68 Israelis were killed, the vast majority of which were soldiers. The inequality in death tolls tells quite a story, not just in the difference of experience of the two parties, but the reasons for the truce as well. While national interests are of key importance, the human factor of the conflict took precedence in the acceptance of the truce. The amount of deaths was simply unacceptable to both sides.
While the end of killing is duly lauded, however, looking ahead to the future reveals the huge scale of the challenges that remain. The ceasefire is not a solution, only a break, a deep breath before negotiations resume within a month’s time. American Secretary of State John Kerry noted this fact in a released statement when he said, “We are all aware that this is an opportunity, not a certainty.” For long-lasting resolution to Gaza’s conflict, certain benchmarks must be met. Unfortunately, the ceasefire agreement is rather vague on what those goals are, speaking only in general terms about the future.
Despite the delaying nature of the agreement’s wording, the Gaza ceasefire does leave the field open for a diplomatic clash that many see as inevitable for the future. In a way, the ceasefire is a sign of real progress, changing the conflict from the sphere of literal life-and-death to the negotiating table where the mortality rate is much lower. The vagueness of the agreement could be the opportunity needed for the Palestinians and Israelis to create a lasting peace. At the very least, it did not put too many constraints on either side, leading to the current ceasefire as it stands. That, in itself, is a reason to celebrate the agreement wholeheartedly.
Celebrating is exactly what the Palestinians are doing now that the cessation of hostilities has been announced. Now the gunfire in Gaza is from joy, not self-defense. According to reports, the mosques began playing “God is great!” from the loudspeakers as civilians crowded into the streets to cheer and congratulate each other on their survival. Official communications from Hamas proclaim that they got everything they wanted out of the negotiations, though the reality seems to be that they conceded much. Nevertheless, the Palestinian attitude is much brighter than that of the Israelis, who said that they did not give up much to their opponents and expressed relief that the fighting was over.
The inevitable public relations battle aside, the Gaza ceasefire is only a delay in a clash that now moves to diplomatic channels. Israel and Palestine will continue to be at odds until an acceptable agreement can be reached. With this success under their belt, the Egyptians look poised to effect a change that the United States and others have failed to create. Only time will tell, however, whether further progress will be made. With the previous history looming over them, Israel and Palestine are facing a dubious future in which many lives hang in the balance.
Opinion By Lydia Bradbury