Three conditions for a successful ceasefire

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Three conditions must obtain for ceasefire agreements to work. They need to be mutual, supervised by a neutral party and supported by continuous political negotiations. Only the first condition seems to have been met this time around, and for the fire to cease we need to work on the remaining two conditions.

Although nothing has been signed by the conflicting parties, the condition of mutuality seems to have been fulfilled by an Israeli willingness to be involved in what amounts to an understanding rather than an agreement. As such, this ceasefire seems closer to the understandings reached in Lebanon or with the Syrians that have worked even though they were not put on paper by the parties to the conflict. It therefore bodes well that we seem to have overcome the initial hurdle that has been delaying movement on this front.

The lack of a signed agreement, however, has unfortunately left the larger part of the Palestinian territories outside the understanding. Without including the West Bank, Israel will get what it wants, i.e., an end to the Qassam fire without Palestinians getting what they need, i.e., an end to the continuous Israeli incursions and assassinations in the West Bank. If these continue, they would be a clear invitation to West Bank Palestinians to use the same tactic that forced the Israelis to accept a ceasefire with their Gazan brethren. That would be unfortunate.

But this is not enough. Both sides need to agree on a mechanism to put an end to violations through a clear monitoring scheme that is operated by a genuinely neutral party. To be effective, such neutral monitors must be allowed to name and shame the guilty party. Too much politics has been exerted in the past to prevent the naming of the parties that have violated previous ceasefire attempts.

Naturally, the most important component to give any ceasefire longevity is to reach a political agreement. Individuals and groups shoot at each other because of a feeling of injustice and because of the absence of a political agreement that addresses their demands. In this regard, the most obvious political agreement begins with the recognition of the basics: that each side accepts the other and its right to self-determination. This applies as much to Israel accepting Hamas as to Hamas accepting Israel.

The issue of Palestinian statehood is no longer in question, but in addition to the geography of this state (especially as regards East Jerusalem), the problems of viability and contiguity are not to be minimized. The contiguity issue is now a major problem because the Israelis are unilaterally building tunnels and alternate roads without coordinating with the Palestinians and without including East Jerusalem or even Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem as part of this complex road system.

The peace that both sides require needs to be built on trust and respect. Attempts to impose solutions based on the needs of the strong party will fail. They may bring temporary ceasefire understandings, but true peace and security can only be achieved when both sides are willing to address some of the most important needs of the other. This means security for Israel and sovereignty for Palestinians. Such agreements begin with respect and are concluded on the negotiating table.

Ending the shooting is important. But unless this is widened to include all Palestinian territories, is monitored by a neutral party and followed directly with substantive talks, it is unlikely to last very long.

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