Ceasefire stabilization agreement close?

The Egyptian-mediated negotiations between Hamas and the outgoing government of Israel now seem close to achieving agreements on (a) stabilizing the Gaza ceasefire, and possibly also (b) a prisoner exchange involving Hamas-held Israeli POW Gilad Shait and perhaps 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners.
The ceasefire-stabilization agreement seems closer. The pro-Hamas PIC website reported today that,

    Dr. Salah Al-Bardawil, a senior Hamas leader, announced Friday that a ceasefire agreement was reached with Israel and would take effect as of Sunday, but he said that there was a technical problem that emerged in the last hours when Israel demanded a permanent calm agreement.
    Dr. Bardawil explained that the agreement provides for a mutual 18-month truce, during which Israel is bound to lift the siege, open the crossings and allow in 80 percent of goods and building materials.
    The Hamas leader underscored that Hamas and Egypt rejected the Israeli demand of having a permanent calm, noting that this obstacle would be eliminated in the coming hours.

The “80 percent” of goods relates, I think, to the pre-2006 rate of passage across the Israeli-controlled freight crossing points, which was 750 trucks a day.
Bardawil also gave some details I hadn’t seen before about the guaranteeing and monitoring mechanism associated with this truce-stabilization agreement:

    Bardawil also pointed out that it was agreed that Egypt would guarantee the Israeli implementation of this agreement. He added that there would be a specific mechanism to oversee the Israeli commitment to the [crossings-opening aspects] truce whereby a tripartite committee of Egypt, the UNRWA and Hamas would be formed to supervise Israel’s abidance by opening of crossings.
    As for the Rafah border crossing [the Strip’s main people-crossing point, which is between Egypt and Gaza], the Hamas leader asserted that Hamas had received a promise from Cairo to reach another agreement guaranteeing the opening of this crossing as of next March.

Today, however, some additional last-minute obstacles seemed to arise in the negotiations. AP reported from Gaza this afternoon that,

    Hamas official said Saturday that new problems have come up. Hamas wants an 18-month cease-fire. Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum says Israel created new obstacles by seeking an open-ended cease-fire.
    Israel sought an unlimited truce in the past. A senior Israeli official said Saturday that a cease-fire would also have to be linked to a prisoner swap that frees an Israeli soldier held in Gaza.

Having a ceasefire whose terms have been explicitly agreed to by both fighting parties is obviously a lot better than the present situation of having two parallel, un-negotiated and unilateral ceasefires. Having the ceasefire text explicitly attested to by a respected governmental third party (Egypt) is also an improvement on the June 2008 agreement, of which there was never an explicitly agreed and third-party-attested text. Having a mechanism to monitor compliance with the urgent matter of crossings openings is good.
However, this agreement could be weak indeed if there is no provision for monitoring of the ceasefire aspects– which should be applied to both fighting parties.
Also, I am pretty sure the administration of the border crossings from the Palestinian side requires some sort of PA framework within which Fateh and Hamas would work together.
Israeli PM Olmert’s office, meanwhile, has said that he will not sign off on the ceasefire agreement unless the release of Shalit is also part of the deal. Hamas has until now remained adamant that it wants to keep that negotiation– which also involves the release of many Palestinian prisoners– separate from the ceasefire agreement. But if Egyptian diplomacy is good for anything, then surely it should be able to find a way to sequence and/or finesse this issue.
Olmert is said to have a very strong desire to see Shalit freed before he leaves office.
A Palestinian prisoner release on the scale that I heard talked about in Egypt (roughly 1,000 of the 12,000 or so Palestinian political prisoners whom Israel now holds) could, if done right, have the potential for helping smooth the way to the intra-Palestinian reconciliation that is so desperately needed at this point. That’s because inside the Israel’s walled prisons and detention centers (as opposed to in the open-air prisons that all parts of the occupied territories have become), the prisoners from all different factions have found better ways to get along, and to manage the political differences among them, than the people in the wider open-air prisons have.
In particular, in May 2006, prisoner leaders from all the main factions came together and produced the “National Conciliation Document of the Prisoners” which set out what still today looks like an excellent plan for reunifying the Palestinian people around a workable and broad-based plan of political and popular action.
Egypt will also be hosting/mediating the top-level Palestinian reunification negotiation, which is scheduled to start on February 22 in Cairo.
Let’s hope and pray that all these important de-escalation moves succeed. Those of us who are citizens of the US, the EU, and other powerful nations have a special responsibility to make sure our governments allow the Palestinian reconciliation to proceed on terms agreed in a fair manner among the Palestinians themselves, without outside interference.
The project the US government, in particular, has pursued since 2006 to incite, arm, and support one portion of the Palestinian people to fight, Contra-like, against the portion that won the free and fair legislative elections of January 2006 must be ended. That campaign has already inflicted far too much damage on the long-suffering Palestinian people. It did not “succeed” in replacing Hamas in the affections and loyalties of many Palestinians with affection for Fateh. Just the opposite. The support for Fateh is now considerably lower than it was when Bush aide Elliott Abrams launched his highly immoral “Fateh as Contras” project back in 2006.
Meantime, let’s hope the ceasefire-stabilization and prisoner-exchange negotiations achieve success as quickly as possible.

2 thoughts on “Ceasefire stabilization agreement close?”

  1. The Prisoners Conciliation Document of May 2006?
    Those were the days, Helena! You were writing that the newly formed Kadima government would pressure the US to allow funds be transferred to the new Hamas Government. The prisoners document led to Egypt conducting high level reconciliation agreements between Abbas and Hamas. These agreements were reportedly just awaiting signature when …
    Hamas tunnelled into Israel itself, killed two soldiers and kidnapped Galid Shalit. Then within two weeks, Hizbullah had also entered Israel itself from the north, thus sparking the Kadima led 33 day war!
    Why am I feeling deja vu? Still, if we are to believe that Israel will accept “monitoring” by Egypt, UNRWA and Hamas I guess we an belkieve anything.

  2. On the US-Israeli Invasion of Lebanon
    The standard Western version is that the July 2006 invasion [of Lebanon] was justified by legitimate outrage over capture of two Israeli soldiers at the border. The posture is cynical fraud.
    The US and Israel, and the West generally, have little objection to capture of soldiers, or even to the far more severe crime of kidnapping civilians (or of course to killing civilians). That had been Israeli practice in Lebanon for many years, and no one ever suggested that Israel should therefore be invaded and largely destroyed.
    Western cynicism was revealed with even more dramatic clarity as the current [2006] upsurge of violence erupted after Palestinian militants captured an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, on June 25. That too elicited huge outrage, and support for Israel’s sharp escalation of its murderous assault on Gaza. The scale is reflected in casualties: in June, 36 Palestinian civilians were killed in Gaza; in July, the numbers more than quadrupled to over 170, dozens of them children.
    The posture of outrage was, again, cynical fraud, as demonstrated dramatically, and conclusively, by the reaction to Israel’s kidnapping of two Gaza civilians, the Muamar brothers, one day before, on June 24.
    They disappeared into Israel’s prison system, joining the hundreds of others imprisoned without charge — hence kidnapped, as are many of those sentenced on dubious charges.
    There was some brief and dismissive mention of the kidnapping of the Muamar brothers, but no reaction, because such crimes are considered legitimate when carried out by “our side.” The idea that this crime would justify a murderous assault on Israel would have been regarded as a reversion to Nazism.
    The invasions of Lebanon and of Gaza in 2006 and the invasion of Gaza in 2009 were all planned well in advance. Then at an apropos moment an incident specified as the trigger, dutifully promoted as such by the FCN… and the blitzkriegs raged and the bodies stank.
    There is no question who is the perennial aggressor in the Middle East and who the resistor of the aggression. The aggression must end if there is to be peace in the Middle East.
    During the Nuremberg trial the chief American prosecutor, Robert H. Jackson, stated:
    To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.
    And the evil of the invasions of Palestine and Lebanon, of Afghanistan and Iraq, continue to accumulate. Year in and year out.
    It could all be changed in a moment by an American president dedicated to change.
    Perhaps instead it will be ended by an American president who, dedicated to the status quo, finally does bankrupt the nation trying simultaneously to preserve the “entitlements” of both Wall Street and the Wehrmacht.

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