Fruits of victory
Palestinians in Gaza are celebrating coming out on top from Israel’s latest round of aggression on the Strip, writes Saleh Al-Naami in Gaza
Palestinian students going to their destroyed schools on their first day after closure for eight days due to cross border fighting with Israel (photo: AP)
Ghassan Abu Semha, 49, was surprised when he found large amounts of fresh fish for sale at the local market in Al-Maghazi Refugee Camp in central Gaza Sunday. For years there was never this much fish on sale. Before buying his stock of fish, he called his sister Nahla, 36, to tell her the news so she could go buy fish for her family since it was selling at a reasonable price.
The large amount of fish on sale in the Gaza Strip, the first in a decade, is the result of a ceasefire deal between Hamas and Israel under the auspices of Egypt. For the first time, the agreement included Israel allowing Palestinian fishermen in Gaza to sail six miles instead of three out to sea. Israel submitted to Hamas’s demands to increase the fishing zone, which the group insisted was a precondition for a ceasefire after recent confrontations.
This is a significant symbolic accomplishment for the Palestinian resistance. Talks began in Cairo Monday between representatives of the Hamas government in Gaza led by Ziad Al-Zaza, deputy prime minister, and an Israeli delegation headed by Ishak Molkho, political adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, on implementing the understandings reached for truce.
These include an end to assassinations by Israel of resistance members in the Gaza Strip; partially lifting the siege, including re-opening commercial border crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip, allowing Palestinian fishermen to go farther out into the Mediterranean Sea, ending the security belt Israel erected in the heart of the Gaza Strip that is 300-1000 metres deep and that prevents thousands of Palestinian farmers from reaching their fields near the border with Israel.
In return, Hamas is responsible for stopping all rocket attacks against settlements in southern Israel. Hamas intentionally sent a senior member of Haniyeh’s cabinet to discuss the implementation of understanding in an intense effort to curb the siege on Gaza, pave the way for reconstruction projects, build Gaza’s infrastructure and end power outages.
Unlike the war Israel waged at the end of 2008, this time it is clear that Palestinians feel they achieved an undeniable victory against Israel despite the deaths and destruction they suffered. The home of Ibrahim Diba, 53, a Fatah supporter in the northern region of the Gaza Strip, was destroyed by occupation missiles in the recent assault under the pretext that Palestinian resistance fighters fired a rocket at settlements from near there. Standing atop the rubble of what was once his home, Diba tells anyone who asks him— despite his loss — that he is very proud of the great achievements of the Palestinian resistance.
Many Gazans feel the same way, but in Israel the mood is sombre about the outcome of recent confrontations. After the assault stopped, the Israeli media reported on how the Israeli army purposely targeted Palestinian civilians. Israel’s Doctors for Human Rights issued a report in Yediot Aharonot condemning the army’s claims that operations in Gaza were objective and aimed to kill members of Palestinian resistance groups. The report noted that by inspecting the outcome of strikes it is apparent that the army did not hesitate to kill civilians.
Meanwhile, almost all Israeli commentators agreed that Hamas was the victor in recent battles, which increased demands by the street for dialogue with Hamas. Efraim Halevi, former Mossad chief, said so and added that Israel’s reliance on aggression has proven a bad choice in resolving Israel’s problems.
The internal debate in Israel after the assault revealed that some of the Israeli elite is calling for understanding Palestinian resistance against occupation. In an article published in Haaretz newspaper, Jewish thinker Shlomo Zand noted that Palestinians are resisting and firing rockets against occupation, and that the Zionist movement has stripped the Palestinians of their land and created its own political entity on top of it.
Many Israeli commentators recalled what Defence Minister Ehud Barak said in a television interview in 1991, as he ended his tenure as military chief of staff: “If I were a Palestinian I would naturally join one of the Palestinian groups that we view as terrorist.”
Israeli thinker Kobe Neff described calls by Israel’s right wing to eradicate the Palestinian resistance as illogical and unachievable. Neff said that the Israeli elite repeats the same slogans on the eve of every military assault on Gaza, and he urged Israel’s leaders to search for other solutions than bare military force.
The most powerful statements were made by former Minister of Defence Binyamin Ben Eliezer in interview with Israeli Channel 10 on 22 November. Ben Eliezer denounced that Ahmed Al-Jabari — the general commander of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, whom Israel assassinated at the onset of its military assault — be described as a “criminal”. “If Al-Jabari is a criminal then Rabin and Sharon are also criminals,” he declared.
Egypt’s role was decisive in forcing Netanyahu to stop its war. Udi Segal, a political commentator on Israeli Channel 2, revealed that after the truce was announced, Egyptian officials delivered a message from Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi to Mossad Chief Tamir Pardo, who was in Cairo three days after the assault started, that if Israel launched a ground war on the Gaza Strip, Egypt would cancel the Camp David Treaty. Segal said that Morsi’s threat terrified decision-makers in Tel Aviv and was one of the reasons Netanyahu halted the assault on Gaza.
Amnon Abramovich, a senior commentator on the same channel, said that US President Barack Obama communicated with Morsi twice and urged him to talk to Netanyahu, but the Egyptian president adamantly refused.
Meanwhile, Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was the laughing stock of Israeli media because he showered Morsi with praise about his role in reaching a truce although Lieberman had once called for the bombing of the High Dam in Aswan.
Shlomo Eldar, a commentator at Israel’s Channel 10, mocked: “Lieberman realised that after insulting former president [Hosni] Mubarak, who was viewed in Israel as a strategic treasure, he has no choice but to praise Morsi whose every move shows hostility towards Israel.”
Zivi Mazil, who served as Israeli ambassador to Cairo, refuted Lieberman’s claims that Morsi negotiated the ceasefire. Mazil countered that Morsi was very hostile and provided a political umbrella for Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip. He added that the president could never be fair to Israel because of his Muslim Brotherhood ideology.
Overall, the Palestinians are reaping the rewards of their steadfastness and success in confronting Israel’s assault. This resolve is augmented by the fruits of the Arab Spring, especially the transition to democracy in Egypt.