Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Israel and Hamas Achieve Ceasefire

     Yesterday we had heard about a possible ceasefire, yet the day proceeded to be the bloodiest yet of this conflict. Today though it's now official: the parties have achieved a ceasefire agreed to by both sides. With the talk of a possible Israelis ground invasion, this news could not be more welcome:

       "Egypt announced a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas effective Wednesday evening local time, the Associated Press reported."

       "In details of the agreement obtained by news agency, Israel will cease all military activity against the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip at 9 p.m. local time (11 a.m. PST) and Palestinian militants will cease rocket attacks into Israel. After 24 hours of quiet, Gaza's border crossings with Israel will be opened further to allow freer movement of goods and people."

       "The announcement by Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton followed talks in Cairo between Clinton and Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi."

         It's also a good development that Egypt was able to contribute so much to the ceasefire as there was concern now with the new Muslim Brotherhood government that Egypt would no longer be the peacebroker it had been in the Middle East since the Camp David meeting with Carter in 1978.

         It certainly might suggest some effectiveness on the part of Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the diplomatic offensive they undertook the last few days. Egypt's participation certainly owes a good deal to U.S. pressure:

         "The accord says that “Israel shall stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip, land, sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals,” Egypt’s state-run Ahram Gate reported. It also says that “all Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and attacks along the border.”        

            “There was tremendous U.S. pressure on the Egyptians, who in turn pressured Hamas to accept terms which are not set in stone, including it seems regarding the Gaza blockade,” said Gerald Steinberg, political science professor at Bar Ilan University outside Tel Aviv."

             “The Obama administration has now placed itself as the guarantor of the agreement’s terms, including the halt in rocket attacks, and they are probably going to be tested very quickly,” he said.
Israel says any truce must guarantee the end of rocket attacks, while Hamas is demanding an end to the blockade of Gaza and the permanent opening of its border with Egypt."

              "Israel has massed armor on its border east of Gaza and is calling up 75,000 reservists for a possible ground operation. An incursion would be the first since December 2008, when fighting left more than 1,100 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead."


           In addition, we have this quote of a speech the President had with Prime Minister Netanhayu this morning. According to the White House this was how the conversation went:

           "President Obama spoke to Prime Minister Netanyahu today and reiterated his commitment to Israel’s security."

           "The President made clear that no country can be expected to tolerate rocket attacks against civilians."

            "The President expressed his appreciation for the Prime Minister’s efforts to work with the new Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable ceasefire and a more durable solution to this problem."

            "The President commended the Prime Minister for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal – which the President recommended the Prime Minster do – while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself."

             "The President said that the United States would use the opportunity offered by a ceasefire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza."

              "The President said that he was committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and other US-Israel missile defense programs."


                So this is what diplomacy sounds like. When you hear the GOP talk about a smaller foot print, what they mean is the U.S. should be in more wars. What we seem to be seeing here is a victory in stopping hostilities rather than intensifying them.

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