Ceasefire: Egypt Manages the Crisis; More US Arms for Israel
Vijay Prashad: Egypt brokers Gaza crisis working with US; Palestinians won’t give up their struggle; There will be no accountability for Israel’s illegal war
VIJAY PRASHAD, PROF. INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, TRINITY COLLEGE: Welcome to The Real News Network. This is Vijay Prashad.
It is now 5:30 a.m. in Gaza, and the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas has come into effect. The ceasefire agreement was inked in Cairo, Egypt, under the aegis of the Egyptian government, with the United States government overseeing the final wording.
It’s a very strange moment that after eight days of sustained bombardment, with over 100 people dead and counting in Gaza, with untold millions of dollars of infrastructural destruction, on the surface it appears that a ceasefire that was there eight days ago is now once more back. It’s not clear on the surface if anybody has made any gains. What’s very clear is that Gaza is destroyed, that vast amounts of the civilian infrastructure are no longer useable, and even the UN properties have been very badly struck by the Israeli air strikes.
But underneath the surface, there are some interesting things to keep in mind. The first thing that’s very interesting is that it has revealed that despite the attempts by the Israeli government to bomb Gaza into submission, that there has been a resilient spirit in Gaza, which came out in the very strong statement made by Hamas leader Khaled Mashal in Cairo, where he said, essentially, that the spirit of the Palestinian people could not be broken. This is true to one important extent. The first draft of the Israeli ceasefire agreement asks for a 15-year hudna, or 15-year truce. That did not make the final version. In other words, despite taking eight days of very hard bombing, the Palestinians did not accept a 15-year ceasefire. The ceasefire that they have accepted is essentially a rolling ceasefire. That’s a symbolic thing, but it says something.
A second important thing about the statement that was signed was that it tacitly criticizes the embargo or the blockade of Gaza. It talks about the importance of free movement of people. It talks about the importance of opening up Gaza to the outside world. Now, this is all written very vaguely. It can mean really just about anything. But at least there is an indication here that Gaza has been suffocated, you know, at least over the last five years. So that is the second thing that’s important.
The third very important thing is the role that Egypt has played here. And, you know, the fourth is Hamas’s own role, which I’ll come to, but they’re related.
The role of Egypt is important. At the signing ceremony, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal said that essentially the blood of the Egyptian martyrs is all over the ceasefire agreement. And I think what Mashal was indicating was that the Egyptian leadership would not have been able to, you know, deal with its own contradictions if it had not had this strong pressure from the Arab street, from the Egyptian street, on Mohamed Morsi. You know, the Egyptian military is still very close to the United States. The Morsi government on economic terms has just signed a big IMF treaty. So there’s no direct surface indication of major differences in Egypt’s power establishment. On the other hand, that big pressure from below, on the one side the Tahrir pressure, as it were, secondly the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood, which has ties to Hamas, is in government, put a different kind of pressure on Mr. Morsi’s government. You know, this deal was not signed in Doha, Qatar. It was not signed in Washington, D.C. It was not signed, you know, in some out-of-the-way Midwestern town. It was signed in Egypt. And I think that’s very important.
Coming to the question of Hamas, you know, every time Israel has bombed Gaza, whether it’s Cast Lead in 2009 or just now this Operation Pillar of Defense, every time it’s bombed Gaza, Hamas has come out of the other end strengthened, not weakened. You know, in a sense the Palestinian resistance has gone behind Hamas and not away from it. The illustration of that comes in the ceasefire agreement.
After Operation Cast Lead in 2009, the ceasefire agreement came with the provision that aid to Gaza would go through the Palestinian Authority. In other words, the Palestinian Authority was to be the privileged interlocutor for the international community vis-Ã -vis Gaza.
No longer is that the case. You know, now there is an understanding that Hamas, as a legitimate organization, has to be dealt with legitimately. And this comes out as well when the Israeli government said that we don’t negotiate with Hamas; we negotiate with the Egyptians. Well, you know, Hamas is right there inking the agreement with you. You can make as many, you know, comments like that, rhetorical comments about not talking to Hamas, but they are in fact directly engaging with Hamas.
To finally come to the point of Hamas’s own strength, again, you know, Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) was isolated in the West Bank. He was unable to create big protests in solidarity with what was going on in Gaza. You know. And the piece of the cake for him was when Hillary Clinton came and stood beside him. You know, that’s the kiss of death for a Palestinian leader. He looked very much like a weakened leader, not like Khalid Mashal, who yoked himself with the Tahrir uprising, with the Arab Spring, had a much more forceful speech in Cairo than Mahmoud Abbas standing next to Hillary Clinton, essentially putting the anger of the Palestinians at mute.
The tragedy of the ceasefire agreement is that it repeats one of the cardinal errors of Cast Lead, which is that despite the fact that the Israelis bombed so ferociously, despite the fact that there was such damage to the infrastructure, there will be no calling to account of anybody in Israel for this bombardment, and there will be no call for reparations, to rebuild Gaza from Israel.
You know, after Cast Lead, Navi Pillay at the UN Human Rights Council created the Goldstone Commission. They produced the Goldstone Report in 2010. It’s very unlikely that she will be allowed to have any kind of report this time, and it’s very unlikely, therefore, that the Israelis will be brought to any account for their actions.
Well, finally, what does one say to the Israelis themselves? You know, on the one hand, we have Mr. Netanyahu making a speech to the Israeli people where he moans for the loss of Israeli life, where he thanks his military, he thanks his cabinet. But he doesn’t say anything at all about the grave loss of life in Palestine, the injuries, the destruction of the life world of Gaza. But the same thing comes from the United States. The Obama administration essentially thanked Netanyahu for coming to the ceasefire, very little about the destruction of the Palestinian life world, and finally, a tacit agreement between the United States and Israel that the U.S. is going to, you know, essentially re-up the Iron Dome missile defense system and is going to increase the arms sales to Israel.
So instead of any sanctions on Israel for an illegal war, we’re going to see in fact Israel rewarded. There’ll be no calling to account, and there’ll be new arms deals. This is really going to damage the credibility not only of Israel, which has a credibility at a veryâ€”all-time low. It damages greatly the credibility of the Obama administration.
This is Vijay Prashad for The Real News Network.
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