ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Cease-Fire Possibilities 29.1.05

Cease-Fire Possibilities

29 January 2005

By Yisrael Ne'eman

The unofficial cease-fire between Israel and the Palestinians is in operation for five days now and although not complete (4 mortar shells landed in the Katif Bloc yesterday), it has not been this quiet since the summer of 2003 when Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) was prime minister under Yasser Arafat. If the cease-fire fails, then all will return to "Go", Israel will shift strategies and a major incursion into the Gaza Strip will commence.

But figuring even should the Palestinians keep it quiet, new complications will arise. At first glance the "pragmatic" Israeli center led by PM Ariel Sharon and Labor's Shimon Peres will be strengthened, but only momentarily. In traditional "hudna" (Islamic cease-fire) style the Palestinians will use the respite to train and rearm. The terrorists will obtain the breather they so badly need in the face of the successful anti-terror campaign waged by the IDF. Only unrelenting military and economic pressure over the past four and a half years convinced the Palestinians that terrorism has gained them no benefits. Many are depending on Egyptian guarantees and coordination with Israel to halt the flow of weapons through the Sinai-Gaza tunnels. These guarantees can be expected to prove useless as the Palestinians will rearm.

With the renewed influx of arms and terrorists into Gaza, Israel will be in a quandary as whether to engage in a pre-emptive attack before the terrorists open fire. The pragmatists may very well be caught in a vise of conflicting projections of a continued cease-fire or a massive terror offensive.

But assuming all goes well, which it probably will not, those in power will be in for a rough ride when Abbas echoes the "Saudi Initiative" of 2002 and demands a full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 boundaries and the return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendents. Although considered "only" an opening position by many, this is a demand for the destruction of the Jewish State militarily and demographically. Most negotiations do not begin by demanding the demise of the other side. Let us recall that this position (including the demand for recognition of full Israeli culpability for the conflict) was Arafat's opening and closing negotiating stance at Camp David 2000. Abbas will further declare that he implemented his side of the bargain by enforcing a cease-fire. In truth however, Abbas will only have fulfilled the prerequisite for negotiations.

Two questions will remain provided Abbas has control over the Palestinian street:

* Is his final objective a two-state solution with Israel and Palestine as neighbors?

* Will the US continue to stand by its letter of commitment to Israel from last April when President Bush promised there will be no Palestinian refugee return and no withdrawal to the 1967 borders?

If the answer to both is "Yes," than long shot that it may be, there will be a chance for conflict resolution between Israel and the Palestinians. But please, refrain from placing any bets.