Winners or losers?
Palestinians celebrated Wednesday night with gunshots, sweets, cries of victory and screams of “God is great” in celebration of Israel agreeing to an Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that brought an end the Jewish state’s indiscriminate aerial bombing of the Gaza Strip amid, of course, home-made rockets being fired from the besieged territory toward Israeli territories, as deep as Tel Aviv.
Was there a victory to celebrate? Was there any winner in this latest flare-up of aggression or Hamas-provoked Israeli carpet bombing of the Gaza Strip, an eight-day ordeal which killed at least 162 Palestinians, many of them women and children, and four Israelis, one of them a soldier?
It was, of course, natural for people under heavy bombardment for so many days to celebrate in the streets with joy any cease-fire arrangement that will last until the next flare-up of confrontation.
Indeed, the terms of the present cease-fire arrangement differ considerably from previous truce deals.
Under the truce package, Hamas pledged not to fire its home-made rockets at Israeli territory, while Israel agreed to cease its targeted killings of Palestinians and ease the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza. The easing of the blockade – which has indeed turned Gaza into an open-air prison for the past number of years – would of course be something tangible that is definitely worth celebrating if it can be sustained.
Last week, Nabil Maarouf, the Palestinian ambassador in Ankara, wholeheartedly supported a suggestion by a journalist that for a sustainable cease-fire arrangement, Turkey and Egypt should perhaps deploy peacekeepers in Gaza – naturally with Israeli and Palestinian consent. Such a Turkish-Egyptian joint military enforcement of a cease-fire would naturally guarantee Israel that no rockets would be fired from the territory on Israeli settlements. Similarly, Israel would not dare to attack the territory while Turks and Egyptians are there.
Can it be done? Would it indeed serve the stated aims or if, for example, a stray group fires on Israel or somehow a stray bomb falls on Turkish or Egyptian barracks, what would the consequences be? Obviously such a force would also require a U.N. mandate but pros and cons must be evaluated before any move can be taken.
Naturally, Gaza is not separate from the Palestine-Israel problem. Gaza cannot and should not be treated separately from the West Bank as such a development would mean adding a mental dimension to the already territorially divided situation of the remaining Palestinian land. For the sake of some palliative gains, Palestinians should not endanger their much-troubled unity as people and as a state.
As long as guns are not totally silenced and a comprehensive and inclusive peace accord based on the two-state reality doesn’t replace all the cease-fire arrangements, there will never be winners in this oldest quagmire of the world: Everyone is condemned to be a loser. The task has to be to concentrate and commit more to peacemaking.