News / Middle East

Column: Epitaph for Gaza: Just Another Cease-fire?

A Palestinian man reacts as he stands next to the wreckage of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike that killed at least nine members from the al-Ghol family, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014.
A Palestinian man reacts as he stands next to the wreckage of a house, which witnesses said was destroyed in an Israeli air strike that killed at least nine members from the al-Ghol family, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, August 3, 2014.

Among the casualties of the latest Gaza war were nine relatives of a journalist colleague of mine, Asmaa al-Ghoul.  They died Sunday, just a day before Israel and Hamas finally accepted a three-day truce.

Two missiles fired by a U.S.-supplied Israeli F-16 collapsed their one-story house in the Rafah refugee camp, killing Asmaa’s uncle, Ismail, his wife, Khadra, their two sons, Wael and Mohammed, their two daughters, Hanadi and Asmaa, and Wael’s three children, Ismail, Malik and Mustafa, the last only 24 days old. According to my colleague, none of them were members of Hamas or any other Palestinian political faction.

It is easy to be cynical about this latest orgy of Middle Eastern violence. Why single out nine deaths when more than 1,800 other Palestinians – and more than 60 Israelis – also died in the last month, and scores of noncombatants are still perishing every day in Syria, Iraq and Libya?

Yet this Gaza war – the third in six years – could have a broader meaning and not just lead to another short period of relative calm followed by a new conflagration.

There are major dangers for Israel in continuing a lopsided conflict that dehumanizes Palestinians, distorts Israeli democracy and alienates even traditional friends. A collective online gasp greeted the blog post of an Israeli writer, Yochanan Gordon, who actually suggested that “genocide” of Palestinians was a possible solution to the conflict. Meanwhile, Nazi swastikas are popping up with increasing frequency in Europe.

While the U.S. Congress, in one of its last acts before going off on a month-long vacation, dutifully approved an extra $225 million for Israel’s “Iron Dome” anti-missile system that protected most Israelis from Hamas rockets, a poll taken by a pro-Israel group of young Congressional staffers showed waning support for the actions of the Jewish state. Other polls have shown that only a quarter of Americans aged 18 to 29 backed Israel in this Gaza conflict.  

If Israel is to avoid further de-legitimization, it should begin a new and more sincere effort to reach a peace agreement with Hamas’s political rival, the Palestinian Authority (PA). Salam Fayyad, the respected former Palestinian finance and prime minister, suggested in a speech in Washington last week that the two sides actually set a date for the Israeli occupation to end and work backwards from there.

As radical and unrealistic as that might sound, “a date certain” for the end of occupation, as Fayyad put it, would push Israel and the PA to finally reach understandings about territory and security that have so far eluded them despite intensive U.S. mediation.

A first step would be to solidify the latest cease-fire by transferring as much responsibility as possible for Gaza back to the PA under the leadership of President Mahmoud Abbas. Egypt, now ruled by a tough, anti-Hamas government, is in favor of the PA taking over security at the Rafah checkpoint. Egypt can provide additional assurances to Israel that it will not permit Hamas to smuggle in materials to rearm.

The Israelis should recognize the technocratic unity government created by the PA and Hamas before the latest fighting and resume financial aid to the West Bank. With Abbas on top of this arrangement, the PA can expand its presence in Gaza and seek to prolong the cease-fire.  That would enable international organizations and other foreign donors to begin providing the resources needed to rebuild Gaza’s shattered infrastructure, including homes for more than 200,000 people displaced by the fighting.

Fayyad also suggested further broadening the political base of the PA by reviving something called the Unified Leadership Framework, which includes all the factions of the old Palestine Liberation Organization. This would be a prelude, he said, to parliamentary and presidential elections, which are long overdue.  

The Barack Obama administration also needs to play a role in brokering a longer-lasting cease-fire and ultimately a political solution, despite the hard knocks it has taken from Israel for its efforts over the past month. 

The F-16s that killed Asmaa al-Ghoul’s relatives were supplied by the United States along with other military hardware worth more than $3 billion a year. It is not enough for the State Department to condemn Israel’s killing of civilians as “disgraceful” – as it did a few days ago when Israeli rockets killed 10 people at a U.N. school sheltering displaced Palestinians. Obama should do more than just have the State Department press office shake a rhetorical fist; he should table a U.S. framework for a comprehensive peace agreement.

There are many doubts about whether Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has the desire and courage to conclude an agreement. But to paraphrase former U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, you make peace with the leaders you have, not the ones you wish you had. The U.S. has the leverage to prod Netanyahu back to the negotiating table. Obama cannot run for re-election and after this fall’s midterms, has nothing to lose in domestic politics by standing up to Israel. Netanyahu, already Israel’s longest serving prime minister, should be thinking about his legacy, too.

The regional environment also offers possibilities. Two major Arab states – Saudi Arabia and Egypt – support Abbas and are eager to further isolate Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood that both have banned. Syria and Lebanon – and Iran’s ally, Hezbollah – are preoccupied with sectarian battles; Iran is more worried about Iraq and Syria than shoring up Hamas. Israel should take advantage of this period while it lasts.

Asmaa Al-Ghoul writes in her tribute to her slain relatives, “Never ask me about peace again.” But given the alternatives, a better question is: How can you not seek peace again?


Barbara Slavin

Barbara Slavin is a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center and a correspondent for Al-Monitor.com, a website specializing in the Middle East. She is the author of a 2007 book, Bitter Friends, Bosom Enemies: Iran, the US and the Twisted Path to Confrontation, and is a regular commentator on U.S. foreign policy and Iran on NPR, PBS, C-SPAN and the Voice of America.

You May Like

Brutality Eroding IS Financial Support

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says IS's penchant for publicizing beheadings, other brutal forms of punishment hurts group’s bottom line More

Studies: Climate Change a Factor in Disasters in Syria, California

The studies point to the possibility of clear and present dangers from a threat often considered to be far in the future More

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Walter from: Florida, U.S.A.
August 09, 2014 12:16 PM
You put the death toll of Palestinians down as if that is hard proven facts, which is absurd. You get the number of deaths from...hold on...HAMAS. Do you really believe their numbers? Are you really that naïve? Give authority to the Palestine Authority and Abbas? Isn't he the one the helped plan the massacre of the Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics? Isn't he the one that along with Biscuit Lips Arafat reject every peace proposal put forth by the Israelis? You cas numbers of 'family' members killed. Those people breed like rats. They have no money, no industry, no way to make a living, but they have kids. Eight and Ten kids seems to be the norm for those welfare recipients. Why don't they try some 'keeping the legs closed' and 'their pecker in the pocket' and maybe they could help with the number of unemployed youth over there. They could have peace today if they wanted it. All they have to do is git rid of Hamas and life would become much better for those huge families.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukrainei
X
March 03, 2015 3:11 AM
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Kerry Seeks Assurances of Russian Non-Interference in Ukraine

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has told his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, that his country could face further consequences to what he called its “already strained economy” if Moscow does not fully comply with a cease-fire in Ukraine. The two met, on Monday, on the sidelines of a U.N. Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva, where Kerry outlined human rights violations in Russian-annexed Crimea and eastern Ukraine. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports from Geneva.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video US, Cuba Report Progress in Latest Talks to Restore Ties

The United States and Cuba say they have made progress in the second round of talks on restoring diplomatic relations more than 50 years after breaking off ties. Delegations from both sides met in Washington on Friday to work on opening embassies in Havana and Washington and iron out key obstacles to historic change. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas reports from the State Department.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video NYC's Restaurant Week: An Economic Boom in Fine Dining

New Yorkers take pride in setting world trends — in fashion, the arts and fine dining. The city’s famous biannual Restaurant Week plays a significant role in a booming tourism industry that sustains 359,000 jobs and generates $61 billion in yearly revenue. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports.
Video

Video Brookhaven at Cutting Edge of US Energy Research

Issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, fracking and instability in the Middle East are driving debate in the U.S. about making America energy independent. Recently, the American Energy Innovation Council urged Congress and the White House to make expanded energy research a priority. One beneficiary of increased energy spending would be the Brookhaven National Lab, where clean, renewable, efficient energy is the goal. VOA's Bernard Shusman reports.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More