Neither Israel nor Hamas were represented at the press conference on Wednesday evening in Cairo, during which Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared the truce agreement between the two that ends a week of fighting. However, the ceasefire and press conference vindicated Hamas’ understanding that the only path to Palestinian independence is resistance. Negotiations with Israel will render Palestinian independence but a dream.
Izzat Al-Rishak, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, posted details of the Egypt- brokered understandings between Israel and the Palestinian organizations on his Facebook page. Al Rishak claims that Israel agreed to cease all its military activities against the Gaza Strip, including incursions and assassinations. In addition, border crossings to Gaza will be opened to facilitate movement of people and the transfer of goods. In exchange, Palestinian organizations agreed to cease their activity from Gaza against Israel, including rocket firing and border attacks.
A similar text was published by jadaliyya.com, a news website produced by the Arab Studies Institute (ASI), a nonprofit organization based in Washington DC and Beirut.
Khaled Mashal, head of the Hamas political bureau, said at the beginning of the ceasefire negotiations that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked for a truce. He added then that Hamas would not agree to a ceasefire unless its demands are fulfilled. This claim is confirmed by the Al Arabiya news channel, which cites Egyptian sources claiming that Israel proposed an immediate ceasefire and lifting of the siege on Gaza just days after it began the operation.
Israeli Minister of Defence Ehud Barak claims that the ceasefire is not an agreement with Hamas, but rather a document of understandings between Israel and Egypt and between Egypt and Hamas.
Mediated by Egypt, the ceasefire reached Wednesday night brought an end to eight days of Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip, as thousands of rockets and shells were fired back at Israel from Gaza. This confrontation started on November 14 when Israel assassinated Ahmed Jabari, commander in chief of the Hamas military wing, the Az-A-Din el Qassam Brigades, breaking a calm previously brokered by Egypt.
According to senior Israeli defense sources quoted by the Jerusalem Post on Thursday, Israel’s major achievement during the week-long operation was the damage inflicted by Israeli airstrikes. The Jerusalem Post also claims that the Israeli army believes the Gaza regime is privately shocked by the level of damage it sustained.
However, according to Israeli financial sources, the economic damage to Israel so far approaches US $1 billion in direct and indirect costs. TheMarker economic review claims that in direct costs the Ministry of Defense expended NIS 2 billion during the operation, an additional billion was spent by other government ministries and Israel budgeted an additional NIS 750 million for the Iron Dome defence system. In indirect costs Israeli economic analysts cites the loss of working days and a reduction of income from tourism.
According to Moti Basuk of TheMarker, the government elected after the January 2013 elections will have to find resources to finance the operation’s deficit in the midst of a major budgetary crisis. Basuk believes that the new government will be forced to raise the value added tax (VAT), which was raised already in 2012.
Politically, Netanyahu’s decision to accept a truce was harshly criticized by the Israeli opposition, apart from Shelly Yachimovich of the Labor Party, who was the only exception. Labor Party Chairwoman Shelly Yachimovich, who backed Operation Pillar of Defense, expressed her support for the ceasefire. “Let’s hope that the justified goals that were set before the operation have actually been achieved,” she said.
However, several opposition politicians criticized the government’s decision to agree to a ceasefire. Haim Ramon, who served as vice prime minister during Operation Cast Lead some four years ago, said “it is obvious that this operation did not achieve its goals.” Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz blasted the decision, claiming that “the operation’s goals haven’t been met.” National Union Chairman Uri Ariel added that the Israeli ceasefire announcement “unsuccessfully attempted to excuse the embarrassing capitulation of the Netanyahu-Lieberman government.”
On the other hand, Operation Pillar of Defense had major achievements for both Egypt and Hamas.
Egypt reclaimed its place as a major political actor in the Middle East turmoil. Not only was it paired with the U.S. as a peace broker, but Morsi’s team appeared as capable of reaching a truce while also defending Arab interests. This is the complete opposite of Husni Mubarak’s regime, which appeared as an imperialist puppet. Moreover, in the international arena Egypt can claim the place of the responsible adult capable of taking responsibility over Middle East trouble makers, such as Hamas and Israel.
Hamas gained a standing parallel to Israel during the truce negotiations, thereby reducing the standing of Israel to something akin to a violent gang that must be confronted. However, Hamas’ impressive steadfastness when confronting Israel’s cutting edge destruction technologies,make it the forefront of Arab resistance, a place guarded for Hezbollah since 2006.
Moreover in the internal Palestinian front, Hamas rightfully became the leading force of Palestinian liberation, rendering Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas irrelevant and incapable of offering a path to the future.
Abbas choose the path of political negotiations over resistance, fulfilling all the requests imposed by Israel, the United States and Europe. Israel’s intransigency, however, made him incapable of displaying minimal achievements. His only possible accomplishment, making the PLO a non-state member of the United Nations, is frustrated by the U.S.
Israel also threatens Abbas that it will consider it an act of aggression if he applies to the United Nations General Assembly on November 29 to upgrade the Palestinian membership status.
Perhaps the truce agreed yesterday in Egypt will be maintained. However, Israel’s message during the last week was that the only path open for the Palestinians is that of resistance. The cost of resistance may be extremely high, but the November Gaza experience showed it may pay off. On the other hand, negotiations with Israel, Europe and the United States may have a less violent outcome, but then Palestinians can only dream of achieving independence.
This article was published by the Alternative Information Center (AIC)