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Monday 22nd September 2014
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Gaza Ceasefire: A Truce, Not A Peace

Wednesday, 27th August 2014 13:42

The phrase 'open-ended ceasefire' suggests a lasting end to the fighting in Gaza.

But this is a truce, not a peace ? and few would say with confidence this arrangement prevents, rather than simply delays, the next round of violence.

After 50 days of extraordinary bloodshed, the halt in fighting is no doubt welcome by all sides.

But the discussion of how to resolve the core issues have been pushed down the road, for renewed talks in Cairo in a month?s time.

For now, the immediate ceasefire rests on agreements that effectively replicate the last ceasefire arrived at in November 2012.

These are a halt to rocket and mortar fire from Gaza, and an end to Israeli military action; the relaxation of border restrictions to allow passage of humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment into Gaza, and an extension of the fishing limit off the Gaza coast from three to six nautical miles.

If the current ceasefire holds for a month, there are some low-hanging fruit that may also start to be introduced.

The possible extension of the fishing limit to 12 nautical miles; the transfer of responsibility for Gaza?s borders with Egypt and Israel from Hamas to the Palestinian Authority, and a narrowing of Israel?s 'no-go zone' within Gaza?s borders from 300 to 100m ? allowing farmers access to their land.

But these are all secondary to the thorny issues that will need addressing if another cycle of war is to be avoided.

Hamas, and the wider Palestinian leadership, want an end to Israel?s blockade of Gaza ? the opening of border crossings so that Gazans may travel, the creation of an airport and the creation of a seaport.

They want the block on the transfer of wages to officials in Gaza to be removed, and the release of what they see as political prisoners in Israeli jails ? both long-serving and those rounded up in the West Bank following the murder of three Israeli teenagers in June.

A possible exchange may be in the offing that would see Hamas hand over the bodily remains and personal effects of two Israeli soldiers killed in the ground operation.

For Israel?s part, it is demanding any concessions be in exchange for demilitarisation in Gaza and steps towards Hamas recognising Israel?s right to exist.

There is international pressure for these issues to be resolved, but no illusions about how difficult it is going to be.

There is scepticism amongst some western diplomats that the Egyptian mediation which brought about the ceasefire, has the capacity to get firm agreements on these points.

So there's likely to be a significant push ? led by the US, but based upon a European initiative ? at the UN Security Council to try and impose a resolution dealing with these issues.

But imposing external solutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a far from successful track record.

While the bombs and rockets may have been put on hold, the belligerent positions have not ? which doesn?t bode well for prospects this truce might lead to peace.