Thursday 22 November 2012

Gaza crisis: The winners and losers

Hamas' Khaled Meshaal (top) and Hillary Clinton with Amr (center), Abbas (left) and Netanyahu 
Political analysts and commentators in today’s Arab press concentrate on naming winners and losers in the eight-day clash between Israel and the Islamist Hamas movement that runs the Gaza Strip.
An Egypt-brokered ceasefire between the two sides, which went into effect overnight, appears to be holding.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr announced the truce in Cairo Wednesday evening in the presence of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who had taken part in the negotiations, first in Jerusalem and Ramallah and later in Cairo.
Five Israelis and 162 Palestinians were killed in the flare-up. Health authorities in Gaza say the dead Palestinians included 42 children, 11 women and 18 elderly. They also put the number of injured at 1,222, more than half of them women and children.
Under the deal (see below), Israel agreed to end all hostilities and targeted killings, while all Palestinian factions undertook to stop firing rockets into Israel and staging border attacks. Israel must also begin talks about opening Gaza's border crossings and easing restrictions on the movement of people and goods.
Following is the verbatim English text of the deal as released by Egypt:
Understanding Regarding Ceasefire in Gaza Strip
1. a. Israel shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.
b. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.
c. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods, and refraining from restricting residents' free movements, and targeting residents in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire.
d. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.
2. Implementation Mechanism:
a. Setting up the zero hour for the Ceasefire Understanding to enter into effect.
b. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.
c. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations, Egypt -- as the sponsor of this understanding -- shall be informed to follow up.
An article by Ali Derbaj on Hezbollah’s Almanar portal features three learned opinions on the denouement of the Gaza crisis:
-- Strategy consultant Anis Naccache, a Lebanese militant who spent 10 years in a French jail and now lives between Beirut and Tehran, says the eight days of violence exposed serious flaws in Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile interceptor. This means the whole of Mandatory Palestine is from this day forward “in the gunsight of the Resistance camp’s missiles.”
-- Hilal Khashan, a leading Palestinian-American scholar of the Middle East and a professor of political science at the American University of Beirut, believes “Iran proved to be a key player in the Gaza battle. Her Fajr-5 missile was the star of the face-off.”
-- Retired Gen. Elias Hanna names Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas as the primary loser and Egypt as the most embarrassed. Abbas was shown to be “a figurehead. The real combat and effective negotiation capabilities will be shifting to Gaza.”
Abdelbari Atwan, publisher/editor of the London-based daily al-Quds al-Arabi, says, “I was greatly disappointed when I did not find the lifting of the Gaza siege one of the main provisions of the truce agreement announced in Cairo.”
But the following heartens Atwan:
-- Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proved to be a political novice. Instead of Gazans fleeing en masse as he expected, they stood their ground and fought him back.
-- West Bankers defied the “state of paralysis” embraced by the Palestinian Authority and marched in solidarity with their kinsfolk in the Strip.
-- New life was breathed into the Palestine Question, which had been eclipsed by the Arab Spring.
-- The restart of attacks in the heart of Tel Aviv and maybe elsewhere in Israel.
-- Restoration of the “balance of terror” between Israel and the Palestinian people.
Walid Abi-Mershed, writing for the leading Saudi daily Asharq Alawsat, says, “It is true the latest Israeli blitz on Gaza was another episode in the lopsided confrontation between an eye and an awl. What changed is that Israel is no more able of confining the conflict to a strip of land or to some adjoining kilometers. The ‘eye versus an awl’ war has now transformed into a missiles war on the Tel-Aviv front.”
Rajeh el-Khoury, in his daily column for the independent Beirut daily an-Nahar, believes “the ceasefire agreement secured advantages to all the parties concerned except the Palestinian Authority.”
Proof is that “America gained the commitment of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Egypt to the existing [Camp David] agreements and to Egypt’s assigned task as appeaser; Egypt recouped its regional role; Israel walked away with the destruction of what remains of Gaza and consolidated ties with Egypt as the guarantor of calm; and Hamas prevailed as the Palestinian Authority’s domineering partner. As usual, Palestine ended the biggest loser.”
Jordan’s one-time information minister Saleh Qallab, writing for Saudi Asharq Alawsat, suggests “the major and most serious gain bagged by Israel is telling the West and the United States on the eve of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ trip to New York to address the UN General Assembly and ask for an upgrade of the Palestinians’ status there to a non-member state: The Hamas missiles fired on Israeli townships and cities testify that creation of a Palestinian state in Gaza, on the West Bank or in both areas would be tantamount to placing a primed time-bomb on Israel’s doorstep.”