Friday, January 16, 2009

Hamas Rejects Israeli Cease-Fire Terms

Curt Here...

The fighting in the Gaza Strip continues to rage as both the Israelis and the Palestinians have rejected the latest cease fire agreements. It appears as if Israel is very serious about not agreeing to a cease fire that returns things to the way they used to be before this latest conflict began. The Palestinians continue to talk tuff, but it is obvious that they are getting weaker by the day in Gaza.

It appears however, that negotiations for a cease fire continue, with Israel being more open to one if there are international monitors on the ground making sure that Hamas lives up to there side of the bargain. The EU has mentioned many times that they would be willing to be part of this monitoring. If this were to occur and the international monitors were actually able to keep Hamas from shooting rockets into Israel and able to stop the rearming of Hamas, then we may enter a period of time where a comprehensive Middle East peace treaty is possible.

That is a big if in my opinion, and in order for that to have any chance I believe Israel will have to inflict Hamas with additional crippling damage before they agree to a truce. Another important thing to remember, is that with Obama taking office next week along with his more sympathetic ear towards Hamas, Israel really one has a few more days to accomplish there mission in Gaza before the friendly tone from America changes. So I think the next few days will be very active, with a move towards a truce either right before Obama is sworn in or right after. It should be an interesting weekend.

Stay tuned.

Curt

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Hamas rejects Israeli cease-fire terms
By Michael Slackman and Isabel Kershner

Friday, January 16, 2009
CAIRO: As the war in Gaza entered its 21st day and the quest for a truce resumed here and in Washington, the senior leader in exile of Hamas rejected Israel's terms for a cease-fire and Israel rejected a call by the leader of the United Nations for Israel to stop its assault.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday in Washington that the United States had agreed to a range of measures, including providing international monitors, to help Israel stem the smuggling of weapons into the Gaza Strip, a step that could open the way for a cease-fire. A memorandum of understanding was hastily drafted for the signature of Rice and the Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who is visiting Washington.

The agreement will give the Israeli government confidence to agree to open border crossings in Gaza, a senior U.S. official said on condition of anonymity. That could allow both sides to sign on to an Egyptian-sponsored cease-fire proposal, the official said.

Under the agreement, the United States will provide technical assistance and monitors to crack down on the network of tunnels through which Hamas moves components for rockets and missiles from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza.

"The fighting must stop," Secretary General Ban Ki Moon of the United Nations said at a news conference in Ramallah, West Bank, calling for Israel to consider a unilateral cease-fire. "We have no time to lose."

Mark Regev, the spokesman for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, dismissed Ban's call, according to news reports.

"I don't believe that there's a logical expectation in the international community that Israel unilaterally cease fire while Hamas would continue to target cities, trying to kill our people," he said.

The Hamas leader, Khaled Meshal, told an unusual Arab gathering in Doha, Qatar, "I assure you, despite all the destruction in Gaza, we will not accept Israel's conditions for a cease-fire."

In a speech broadcast across the Arab world and widely followed in the Middle East and elsewhere, he said Hamas was not ready to quit, even though three weeks of fighting has claimed around 1,100 Palestinian lives.

"Resistance in Gaza has not been defeated," he said. "It has suffered harm but it has not been defeated."

Israel has long insisted that a cease-fire should be long-term and sustainable, preventing Hamas from firing rockets at Israel or rearming. Meshal, who is based in Damascus, told the meeting that Hamas would accept a cease-fire only if Israel withdrew its forces from the Gaza Strip, lifted its blockade and reopened border crossing points.

Meshal made the keynote address on Friday, securing a significant platform in his rivalry with Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank, while Hamas controls the Gaza Strip. In his speech, Meshal said settlements with Israel in the past had not brought solutions for Palestinians' problems.

According to Egyptian officials who know details of the cease-fire negotiations, Hamas has been plagued by internal bickering, with the Syria-based leadership hewing to a tougher line on concessions from Israel, while the Gaza-based leadership has been more eager to halt the fighting and more flexible in negotiations.

Gaza residents said Friday that the fighting seemed less intense than on the previous day, when Israeli forces shelled the headquarters of the UN Relief and Works Agency and other buildings in Gaza. Israel said the strike was in response to enemy fire.

Isabel Kershner reported from Jerusalem. Reporting was contributed by Taghreed El-Khodary from Gaza; Steven Erlanger and Ethan Bronner from Jerusalem; Neil MacFarquhar from the United Nations, New York; Mark Landler from Washington; and Alan Cowell from Paris.

http://www.iht.com/articles/2009/01/16/mideast/mideast.3-409386.php

1 comment:

the70thweek said...

This is an important article and appears to show the way towards a two state solution, which appears to be on the near horizon.

DW-WORLD.DE spoke to Israel's former ambassador to Germany, Avi Primor, about the reasons for the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip and how the EU can help bring about peace between the Jews and Palestinians.

Avi Primor, who was Israel's ambassador to Germany from 1993 to 1999, is head of the Center for European Studies in Herzliya.

DW-WORLD.DE: The numbers speak for themselves in Gaza. Over 1,000 casualties on the Palestinian side: Civilians and children killed or maimed by Israeli fire, whereas Hamas' hand-made rockets have killed only a handful of soldiers in Israel. This lopsided war is damaging to Israel's international reputation and drawing bad blood among young Palestinians. Why has Israel's response been so "disproportionate"?

Avi Primor: I agree with your assumptions, but we didn't have a choice. We're trying to fight a terrorist organization, which claims its aim is to destroy the state of Israel. We had a ceasefire agreement last year and on the 19th of December, Hamas unilaterally declared the end of it and started bombarding our towns with as many as 80 rockets a day.

Look at it like this: you live in a town in which an alarm goes off every five minutes, you keep hearing rockets exploding and you can't have a normal life. Even if you are not directly hit, you live in fear and you don't see any reason to be fired at.

I agree that the casualties are far higher on the Palestinian side, but that is because Hamas first of all, hides behind the civilian population, using people as a human shield. Secondly, our fire power is much stronger than theirs. In war, you use all the means at your disposal to enforce a ceasefire. It's a horrible tragedy, but this is not a circus game in which you have to use the same amount of power as the other side.


Bildunterschrift: Gro├čansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: Avi Primor
And Hamas knows all that. The Egyptians kept telling them, "We told you to stop provoking Israel. Because when Israel hits back with all its firepower, it's not going to be in your favor".

Keep in mind: Israel didn't react for a whole week, hoping to restore the ceasefire, but that didn't work. In the meantime, the Israelis living in those towns and villages that were bombarded, demanded that the government to do something.

Our aim is not a re-conquest of the Gaza Strip, not even the destruction of Hamas. We just want to impose a viable ceasefire.

Hamas argues that it terminated the ceasefire because Israel didn't keep to its end of the deal by lifting the blockade that was a part of the agreement …

Israel lifted the blockade partially. But every once in a while when we opened the Gaza-Israeli border and let trucks go by, Hamas would shoot at the passengers. Why? Because their real interest is to let the civilian population suffer. Then the bad blood the Palestinians have against the Israelis rises, so the population supports the one and only fighter against the Israeli enemy, which is Hamas.

Besides when Hamas speaks about the blockade they don't mean just Israel, but the border with Egypt too. The Egyptians fear the fundamentalists even more than we do, so they've closed their border with Gaza.

We are not against lifting the blockade, but we want to be sure that once we do so, it will be for transporting civilian supplies and not for rearmament. We will not allow the passage of Iranian weapons assistance and possibly more modern rockets with greater firing range.

Why don't you just bomb the underground tunnels that transport weapons instead of resorting to air strikes at the civilian population then?

Our targets are the tunnels, the militants, the factories that produce arms, not the civilian population, but we cannot avoid mistakes in war.

There are Middle East experts who say that Hamas is not all out to destroy Israel even though that's what their charter says. It's just rhetoric and that it is possible to engage Hamas in reinforcing the ceasefire. Do you agree?

I partially agree. We've already talked to Hamas using Egyptian mediation to evacuate Jewish settlements in the Gaza Strip peacefully. You can negotiate with Hamas when there is a common interest involved.

My suggestion is to let the Palestinian government in Ramallah (led by the moderate President Mahmoud Abbas on the West Bank) come to terms with the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip to create a federation in which Hamas would empower Ramallah to negotiate with Israel in the name of all Palestinians.


Bildunterschrift: Gro├čansicht des Bildes mit der Bildunterschrift: A two-state solution is the only solution, says Primor
Are you suggesting a two-state solution?

It's the only solution. We have to end all occupation and evacuate the West Bank colonies, but we don't want a repeat of Gaza. When we did evacuate the settlements and pull our troops out, what we got were rocket attacks. So if we sign a peace agreement with the Ramallah government and this is perfectly possible, then we need somebody who could guarantee the security of Israel.

Who would that be?

I see the Europeans doing that. The EU would not just be helpful, but essential. I don't see the Americans doing that.

Why not?

The vast majority of American public opinion supports Israel blindly and has a hatred of Palestinians, who are viewed as part of world Arab fanaticism.

But there's a new US administration coming in next week…

Maybe, but public opinion won't change. What could happen is that (President-elect Barack) Obama would actively support a European initiative. The EU needs to give Israel security guarantees after the pull out of Israeli occupational forces from the West Bank. That means the Europeans should send in an international army to replace the Israelis and impose a security force in cooperation with the Palestinians. That does not mean the troops all have to be European. I would recommend Turkish troops, who are Muslim and others too. It is essential to have first and foremost the political will, then the financial support behind such a mission


http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,3945972,00.html

Curt