The decisions of Israel’s commanders continue to perplex, as the disastrously inconclusive end of the Second Lebanon War casts doubt on whether this truce is a tactical move in a broader plan to isolate and dislodge Hamas, or another study in half-measures under international pressure to negotiate with a party committed to Israel’s destruction.
Granted, among media conditioned to root for the “underdog” at any cost (alongside deeper ideological issues), all Hamas had to do to claim “victory” is to continue to exist, and retain control of the Gaza Strip. But following the Second Lebanon War, expectations for Israel were also arguably lower, and this was to Israel’s advantage: Not even Hamas was expecting Operation Cast Lead when it began last month. Time will tell what consequences the current cease-fire holds for the security of southern Israel.
“Hamas Claims ‘Great Victory’,” from Sky News, January 18:
In a televised speech Ismail Haniya, the Prime Minister appointed by Hamas in Gaza, said: “God has granted us a great victory, not for one faction, or party, or area, but for our entire people.
“We have stopped the aggression and the enemy has failed to achieve any of its goals.”
His comments came as Israel began withdrawing troops from the Gaza strip.
Hamas has joined the ceasefire in Gaza – but said it will resume hostilities unless Israel withdraws all its troops from the area within a week.
The truce ends three weeks of bloodshed which has claimed the lives of more than 1,200 people – half of them civilians.
It has been welcomed by US President-elect Barack Obama, who takes office on Tuesday.
A spokesman said: “President-elect Obama is committed to working to help achieve lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.
“(He) will have more to say on these issues after January 20th.”
Hamas militants have carried out several rocket attacks on Israel since the ceasefire came into effect.
Israeli forces responded to the first with an airstrike on the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun in which a woman and child were reportedly wounded.
Israel’s war cabinet – led by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert – voted unanimously to back the ceasefire deal brokered by Egypt.
But he said Israeli troops would remain in Gaza and hit back if the militants launched further attacks.
He described the truce as “fragile” and said it would be reviewed on a “minute to minute” and “hour to hour” basis.
Hamas has said there cannot be a lasting peace until Israel pulls its troops out of Gaza and lifts a trade blockade.
A break from the aerial bombing is not a ceasefire. Israel has to withdraw from Gaza and stop fighting. – Source close to Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal
Following talks in Jerusalem between the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and European leaders, Gordon Brown urged the Israelis to pull all their troops out of Gaza as soon as possible and open up border crossings.
Mr Brown said: “I believe that that would constitute the next stage following the ceasefire that will make possible the resumption of talks that are necessary for a permanent peace.”…
Both Brown and Obama, among others, would do well to examine the parameters of cease-fires and peace treaties under Islamic law. For example, below is a passage from Umdat al-Salik (Reliance of the Traveler), a Shafi’i Islamic jurisprudence manual certified as “reliable” by Egypt’s Al-Azhar University:
Truces are permissible, not obligatory….Interests that justify making a truce are such things as Muslim weakness because of lack of numbers or materiel, or the hope of an enemy becoming Muslim…If the Muslims are weak, a truce may be made for ten years if necessary, for the Prophet (may Allah bless him and give him peace) made a truce with the Quraysh for that long, as is related by Abu Dawud….The rulings of such a truce are inferable from those of the non-Muslim poll tax; namely, that when a valid truce has been effected, no harm may be done to non-Muslims until it expires. o9.16