Khalid Amayreh: Truce at last
- Truce at last: The Israelis lost by not winning whereas the
Palestinians won by not losing
By Khalid Amayreh
July 1, 2003 (IAP News)
After months of intensive and often acrimonious deliberations, the
main Palestinian resistance groups have declared a 3-month truce with
the Israeli occupation army.
Hamas, the Islamic Resistance Movement, and its junior sister, the
Islamic Jihad, declared the truce jointly on Sunday, 29 June, with
Fatah's military wing, the Aqsa Martyrs' brigades, simultaneously
making a separate but similar truce declaration.
The truce stipulated a halt to all resistance attacks on Israeli
targets both in the occupied territories and inside Israel proper in
return for ending "all aspects of Israeli repression against the
This includes ending Israeli incursions, assassinations, atrocities
against civilians as well as home demolitions, curfews, tree-
uprooting, and destruction of private and public infrastructure
throughout the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Hamas also highlighted another key demand namely the release of
thousands of Palestinian political and resistance activists detained
in Israeli internment camps, many without charge or trial.
In its truce declaration, Fatah also demanded the immediate lifting
of the Israeli siege on PA chairman Yasser Arafat, now confined to his
thoroughly-battled Ramallah headquarters for the past 18 months.
The decision to accept the truce emanated from a confluence of
factors, including intensive behind-the-curtain efforts by the
However, the finalization of the truce was meticulously negotiated
between the imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi and the head
of Hamas politburo Khalid Masha'al.
Contacts between the leaders of the two main Palestinian resistance
groups were conducted via Barghouthi's lawyer Khader Shkeirat and
Palestinian Legislative Council member Qaddura Faris.
Shkeirat and Faris traveled to Damascus and Beirut several times for
the crucial discussions with Miasha'al and Islamic Jihad Leader
Eventually, these efforts, conducted in coordination with PA leader
Yasser Arafat, and apparently with Israel's knowledge and tacit
approval, yielded the long-awaited truce.
Many Palestinians are viewing the declaration of the truce as a
brilliant step on Hamas's part since it would arguably shoot the
political ball into the Israeli court and alleviate international
pressure on the Palestinians.
In fact, Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian resistance groups had
realized for some time that Israel was not really interested in
reaching a dignified cease-fire with the Palestinians whereby the
resistance movement would acquire a semblance of parity with Israel,
despite the nearly totally oblique balance of power in Israel's
This realization made the resistance groups reason that they would
have nothing to lose by declaring unilaterally declare a truce since
Israel, not the Palestinians, would be held responsible for breaching
Moreover, the truce declaration has effectively desensitized the
tension within the Palestinian arena, particularly between the Abu
Mazen government and the Islamic resistance groups.
This, say many Palestinians, grants Hamas a certain certificate of
good conduct and enabling it to enforce its status as an original,
authentic and integral part of the Palestinian political fabric.
More importantly, the truce would make it harder for the Palestinian
government to hound and persecute Hamas or indeed dismantle
its "infrastructure" as incessantly demanded by the Israel and the
Finally, the Palestinian masses are lauding the truce since it would
give them a respite from a thousand days of unprecedented Israeli
repression which in some cases assumed genocidal proportions.
The wanton killings, destruction of homes, farms, orchards, as well
the reduction of their towns, villages and refugee camps into virtual
concentration camps, exhausted the Palestinian people as never
before. Consequently, many Palestinians have come to realize that
the conflict will not be resolved through armed struggle, given the
utter imbalance of power with Israel and the conspicuous absence of
any effective Arab or international support.
More to the point, the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has
forced Palestinians, including Hamas, to change tactics and "bow in
the face of the storm," but without sacrificing Palestinian goals
for freedom and self determination.
For its part, Israel dismissed the truce as "a time bomb" and " a
poison covered in honey." Israel's hawkish leadership, it is well
known, had hoped the truce would never have materialized in the form
it did in order to not to "fetter Israel's hands," an allusion to
Israel's policy of assassinating Palestinian leaders.
Indeed, Sharon had always sought to defeat the Palestinians and
impose on them an unconditional capitulation, particularly after the
Anglo-American occupation of Iraq.
Having failed to achieve this goal, Sharon must have felt greatly
disappointed by the truce, which he views as a skillful propaganda
feat rather than constituting a form of Palestinian capitulation.
Hence, the truce seems to have disrupted or even corroded Israeli
designs vis-à-vis the Palestinians which found expression in the
slogan "let the army achieve victory."
But the army, in nearly three years of Nazi-like repression, during
which over 2500 Palestinian men, women and children were killed and
tens of thousands others injured and maimed, failed to achieve a
decisive victory over the Palestinians. This failure found a stark
expression in the continuation of Palestinian bombings inside Israel
and other guerilla attacks against Israeli targets which killed as
many as 800 Israeli soldiers, settlers and civilians. Needless to
say, this enabled the Palestinians to achieve a modicum of a balance
of terror with Israel.
This balance of terror, however oblique, meant that the Israelis lost
by not winning whereas the Palestinians won by not losing.
Obviously, this is unsettling the Israeli government and fostering a
collective feeling among many Israelis that Israel was duped into an
unfair deal that is disproportionate to her absolute military
superiority and political vis-a-vis the Palestinians.
But Israel, while insisting publicly that it has nothing to do with
the truce, which it says, rather rightly, that it is an internal
Palestinian agreement, can't escape its ramifications.
Indeed, on the same day the truce was announced, Israel and the
Palestinian Authority agreed to effect an Israeli army withdrawal
from Northern Gaza and Bethlehem.
The pull-out of the Beit Hanun and Beit Lahya in Northern Gaza was
carried out smoothly on 29 June, enabling Palestinian police to
assume "security responsibility" roughly along the same lines of the
The Israeli army left an utterly destroyed neighborhoods, roads,
bridges and monumental desolation.
With the partial Israeli withdrawal from Gaza concluded, a semblance
of normalcy has now returned to tormented Gazans whose daily life
was almost completely paralyzed in the past three years.
Now, at least, Gazans would be able to travel, somewhat freely,
between their prison-like towns and refugee camps, without being
summarily shot dead by Israeli soldiers manning ubiquitous
roadblocks dotting Gaza from south to north.
The Palestinian Authority hopes the partial withdrawal from northern
Gaza and the expected withdrawal from Bethlehem, slated for Wednesday
2 July, would create a momentum leading to a complete Israeli
withdrawal to the pre-intifada lines, e.g. from the erstwhile towns
and autonomous enclaves.
This arguably would constitute a significant step toward the
implementation of the American-backed "roadmap" to resolving the
This week, US National Security Advisor Condaleeza Rice sought to
push toward this end during her visit to Israel and Jericho.
Rice, who reportedly had a chummy chat with Sharon, criticized the
apartheid wall and de facto borders being built by Israel well
inside the West Bank.
The criticism had little bearing on Sharon who argued in his
characteristic insolence that Israel's security has no boundaries.
Meanwhile, Sharon and PA premier Mahmoud Abbas were due to meet in
Jerusalem Tuesday evening for further talks aimed at effecting more
Israeli withdrawals in implementation of the roadmap.
Sharon is likely to press Abbas for "dismantling the infrastructure"
of Palestinian resistance groups, an incessant demand that
Palestinians view as a red herring, which could lead to civil war.
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