Ceasefire Ends Bombing of Gaza, But Lasting Peace Has Larger Demands
Oxfam report calls for Israel to 'permanently lift its restrictions on Palestinian development and allow freedom of movement'
The indefinite ceasefire between representatives from Israel and Palestine announced Tuesday brought an immediate relief from the Israeli military operation dubbed Operation Protective Edge. However, it raised many questions regarding the future for the Gaza Strip following the 50-day assault that left roughly 2,200 people, over 95 percent Palestinians, dead.
"Unless long-term solutions are found to ensure economic growth and sustainable development in Gaza, frequent military escalations will only continue, increasing insecurity for Israelis and Palestinians alike," said international aid organization Oxfam in a report published Wednesday.
The report, Cease Failure: Rethinking seven years of failed policies in Gaza (pdf), lists a number of recommendations that, according to Oxfam, must be immediately implemented to ensure a just and lasting peace. Among those actions, the group says that Israel must "permanently lift its restrictions on Palestinian development and allow freedom of movement," including the re-establishment of permanent and open connections through the Erez and Rafah crossings.
Oxfam warns that this moment may be the "last opportunity to implement lasting solutions."
The terms of the current ceasefire, brokered by Egypt, are similar to those following the 2012 conflict, which many believe was a missed opportunity to implement more lasting, structural changes.
Israel has agreed to ease some of the restrictions on border crossings ("something it does intermittently anyway," the Associated Press notes), and increase access for Gaza fisherman in the Mediterranean to 12 nautical miles by the end of the year. Hamas' other demands—which include opening an airport and seaport, prisoner releases, salaries for civil servants and the opening of the Rafah crossing to Egypt—are to be discussed in a month's time, as is Israel's demand for Gaza to become a demilitarized zone.
Regarding those long-term issues, AP notes that "little is likely to be resolved anytime soon."
In a blog post published on Wednesday, Middle East historian Juan Cole notes: "If the Palestinian side really does get the things it is asking for [...] then the struggle will have been a big win for them."
Following the ceasefire announcement, there were reports of celebrations across Gaza. However, as Gaza writer Omar Ghraieb told Ali Abunimah, co-founder of the Electronic Intifada, “I do not feel in a rejoicing mood, only glad that no more people and children will die.”
“So many people got injured, houses got bombed, towers got leveled and life got deformed,” Ghraieb continued. “I would rather just watch closely what awaits Gaza.”
The latest attack on Gaza has resulted in a total of 2,127 Palestinian lives lost, 85 percent of which were civilians including 504 children. On Tuesday, the Telegraph published a list compiled the Al-Mezan Center for Human Rights of the names and ages of each of the children killed in the Israeli military operation.
More than 17,200 homes have been completely destroyed or severely damaged in the Strip, leaving roughly 100,000 people homeless as a result of the fighting.
According to the Oxfam report,
vital civilian infrastructure has been badly damaged, including 33 health facilities 13 and 230 schools, 14 as well as water pipelines, sewage treatment facilities and water desalination plants. The destruction of Gaza's only power plant has further exacerbated the pre-existing energy crisis. Total damage to basic infrastructure in Gaza has been estimated by the Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister at $6bn .
The report adds that the "devastating impact of more than seven years of the Israeli government's blockade of Gaza" has made both the population and infrastructure all the more vulnerable.
On Wednesday, the United Nations confirmed that they were able to deliver food to Gaza through the Rafa crossing for the first time since 2007.
In the short-term, groups such as Oxfam are calling for Israel to permit the flow of humanitarian aid and rebuilding materials into the Gaza strip not "contingent upon political developments or demands."
But, advocates say, lasting peace will require a much more dramatic structural and psychological shift in the Middle East.
"A ceasefire is not enough. Rebuilding Gaza is not enough. Even ending the siege would not be enough," Abunimah wrote Tuesday. "We have to say never again. Never again must Israel be allowed to massacre Palestinians as it has in Gaza in 2006, 2008-2009, 2012 and 2014 – the years since it decided to turn Gaza into a giant open-air prison."
Echoing that sentiment, Cole writes: "Until Israelis come to terms with the Catastrophe (Nakba) that they have inflicted on generations of Palestinians, who have been left more or less homeless and in a kind of vast concentration camp, they cannot really make peace."