End of Another Ceasefire
The Hamas ultimatum not to extend the six-month old ceasefire with Israel comes at a time when Gaza is locked down once again and a humanitarian catastrophe looms large for the Palestinian people.
The uneasy truce has already been plagued by persistent tit-for-tat violence in recent weeks. Though Hamas has kept its commitment thus far, there are too many other cooks to spoil the broth. Islamic Jihad and other outfits continue to operate independent of Hamas influence, and have enough reasons to cite for their retaliatory activities.
In any case, the failure of the Israeli leadership to engage the Palestinians in a fruitful dialogue and the continued economic embargo of Gaza makes all ceasefires meaningless.
As Hamas walks out of truce, Israel’s leaders need to stand back and study the situation with all the seriousness and sincerity it demands. Eagerness on the part of the Palestinian leadership, especially Hamas, to engage Israel in dialogue has not been reciprocated by Tel Aviv. Hamas voluntarily enforced the ceasefire agreement on the precondition that Israel would open the crossings into Gaza Strip to supplies. But that was not forthcoming. Earlier this year, the Islamists who control Gaza went out of their way to offer a long-term ceasefire as a quid pro quo for peace. The offer, promised Hamas, will hold for 20 long years, in return for an Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands captured in 1967 Six-Day war. All that is history now.
In such a scenario, rhetoric and agreements on paper will be of no significance. Personal security, the main objective of the ceasefire, has been lacking as far as Palestinians are concerned. Israel which controls almost all the access points to Gaza is obliged under international law to maintain essential services for civilians. The earlier Israel realises that responsibility, the better. The inhuman Gaza siege should be lifted at once, and aid agencies be allowed to reach the 1.4 million residents of the enclave. It is not only the ceasefire that should get a new lease of life but the rights of Palestinians as well.