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Khalid Amayreh: Truce at last

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  • ummyakoub
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 1, 2003
      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
      Palestinian people."

      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
      Egyptian government.

      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
      Ramadan Shallah.

      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
      United States.

      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
      pre-intifada arrangements.

      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
      Palestinian Israeli-conflict.

      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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