The need for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza becomes more urgent every day. However, even after the guns and rockets– and Israel’s warplanes, naval guns, and precision-guided missiles– all fall silent, there will remain numerous very important details of the ceasefire agreement to be worked out.
These “modalities” constitute the difference between a “raw” ceasefire (the guns fall silent, but there is little assurance this will last) and a more robust ceasefire agreement. The modalities include items like:
- 1. The precise plan for the withdrawal of the IDF troops currently on the ground in Gaza;
2. The access agreements between Gaza and the outside world– including both immediate access for urgent humanitarian relief and longer-term access for the rebuilding, reconstruction and hopefully also economic development programs in Gaza;
3. The need for arms control provisions;
4. Monitoring mechanisms for the ceasefire and for the above three agreements that are credible, inclusive, effective, and therefore robust;
5. Other items like the release of detainees related to the current fighting.
These are not easy items to reach agreement on quickly, even though Israel and Hamas have previously built up some level of trust and understanding around the June 2008 ceasefire. Negotiating these modalities must not stand in the way of concluding a speedy ceasefire. But we need to understand that one of the major reasons both sides continue to fight is because each wants to win the optimal terms regarding these modalities. (Another is that neither side wants to ‘back down’ first.)
However, looking at the above list of the ceasefire-related modalities that need to negotiated, it is clear that they provide a key segue between what needs to be done for this ceasefire and some of the continuing items on the final-peace agenda.
Besides, if a final peace agreement between Israel and all of its Arab neighbors is not secured well before the end of this year, then we can expect further extremely damaging crises in Gaza or elsewhere in the region at any time over the coming years.
The momentum of this crisis needs to be seized and exploited for a comprehensive final peace effort.
I was encouraged by the statements Obama made a number of times this week to the effect that he intends to start working for an inclusive final peace agreement “from Day One.”
Day One is now three days away. Even if there’s a “raw” ceasefire in Gaza before then, the modalities to make the ceasefire more robust will remain to be worked out. Obama should start spelling out the urgency– and the huge benefits– of a comprehensive final peace. From Day One.
(Note: Sorry that I earlier published two versions of this same post under different headlines. The vagaries of trying to blog while traveling… ~HC)