Early Tuesday morning, a 72-hour cease-fire began between Israel and Gaza.
Now, at this point, another break in the fighting is barely even news-worthy… except that this pause feels different. Unlike past truces, which have collapsed within hours, this one may actually hold.
The reason is that Israel has essentially declared “Mission Accomplished,” saying that they’ve destroyed all 32 known tunnels used by Hamas to attack across the border.
Army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner later confirmed that Israeli troops had completely retreated from the Gaza Strip.
Thus, for the first time in a month, it appears that there’s an opportunity to broker a lasting truce between Gaza and Israel.
A Humongous Gap to Bridge
The current cease-fire has been hailed by U.S. and EU officials alike.
General Ban Ki-moon, the U.N. Secretary General, said truce talks should commence “as soon as possible,” and stressed the need to address the underlying issues that have plagued Israeli-Palestinian tensions for years.
U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the United States would “continue to help the sides achieve a durable, sustainable solution for the long term.”
Meanwhile, her department urged both parties to respect the latest truce.
Now the pressure is on leaders from both sides (as well as Cairo, which is moderating the upcoming talks) to reach an agreement that will end the bloodshed and hopefully prevent future conflicts.
The problem will be finding a way to appease both the Israelis and the Palestinians. As the Financial Times noted, the “level of hatred and mistrust on both sides” will make negotiating such a deal “extremely difficult.”
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And even though the fighting has stopped, both sides remain far apart.
On one end, Israel insists that Hamas be disarmed. The country is, of course, tired of being targeted by rockets from the Gaza Strip.
On the other side, Hamas wishes for Israel and Egypt to remove the border blockade that has crippled Gaza’s economy and restricted people from entering and leaving the Strip. The Palestinian government also called for internationally funded reconstruction and for Israel to release Palestinian prisoners.
The blockade is of particular concern to the Israeli government, as it worries that Gaza would use the loosened border restrictions to re-arm itself.
Yossi Kuperwasser, the Director General of the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, said, “We have to come out of these negotiations with arrangements that assure us the cease-fire will be different from previous ones. That Hamas won’t be able to re-arm.”
If Israeli leaders can somehow be convinced of this, it’s at least possible that a mutually beneficial truce could arise in the next 72 hours.
At the same time, everything is riding on a very shaky cease-fire… and if relations break down along the border at any point in the next few days, it would put a swift end to any progress being made in Egypt.
For the sake of everyone involved, we can only hope that the cease-fire holds and that both sides can come to some sort of agreement.
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