Shuttling diplomacy between the bombs

At last some high level acknowledgement that a ceasfire between Israel and Hamas has to be more than a return to the status quo...but don't hold your breath. 

The mounting death toll in Gaza has spurred an intensified flurry of diplomacy (again), and finally a stated acknowledgement that this time the terms of any ceasefire (which will eventually come) need to differ from those of the past three Israeli-Hamas wars.

Ban Ki Moon and John Kerry for starters have stipulated that there is a need to address the underlying causes of this crisis if it is to be the last of its kind.

This means the siege on Gaza, the broken down peace process and the wider occupation with all its issues.

If they are not dealt with then Israel may as well start planning for the next military offensive...and the next...and on and on for as long as  the occupation endures.

There will be no peace in Israel and no peace in Palestine if military ‘solutions‘ are all that are available.

Bombing Gaza will only make the physical environment more of a hell hole than it already is. It will only intensify the psychological damage for those who have survived this war, the two before it and the regular IDF incursions into Gaza. Some of these Palestinians are a third generation of occupation and have never even been outside the electric fences. 

Bombing Gaza and killing will only reinforce resistance to occupation. Many Palestinians have issues with the tactics of Hamas but an occupied people has to do something other than just sit there and take it.

Often that resistance is remaining steadfast on what is left of their land. Sometimes it is violent in the form of Qassam rockets.

Military quick fixes feed resistance and the cycle plays out again for both sides.

The diplomatic challenge is now to negotiate in a way these two entrenched parties can be satisfied enough to stop the respective rockets, bombs, tanks and snipers.

Given the stance each side has taken over the past few days that is a tall order.

Israel is happy to accept the Israeli-Egyptian ceasefire deal because it suits Israel to return to the status quo - Netanyahu calls it ‘quiet for quiet’.

Quiet-for-quiet is not acceptable to Hamas - which was not consulted in the ceasefire negotiations - because quiet-for-quiet just means a return to the siege of Gaza in defiance of the agreed terms of the last ceasefire deal in 2012.

Now Turkey, Qatar and Jordan have joined Israel, Egypt and the US in various sets of negotiations - not together because there is infighting amongst them too, which doesn’t bode well for obvious reasons.

Some wishing to play down Israel’s offensive in Gaza insist the resistance is not justified because Gaza is not an occupied territory following Israel’s unilateral disengagement in 2005.

What Israel did in 2005 was uproot the Israeli settlements there and, as scholars Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar note, Gaza was never released from Israel’s military grip. 

Israel left behind scorched earth, devastated services and people with neither a present nor a future. The settlements were destroyed in an ungenerous move by an unenlightened occupier, which in fact continues to control the territory and kill and harass its inhabitants by means of its formidable military might”.  

When the settlers were evicted and the key to Gaza thrown in the sea, Hamas stepped in as a pseudo government and then won office in a democratic election in 2006.

Israel, humiliated by not being able to crush Hizbollah in southern Lebanon in the same year and by the Hamas capture of solider Gilad Shalit, launched its ‘Summer Rains‘ offensive...followed only weeks later by Autumn Clouds in which all Palestinians in Gaza were considered fair game. They died in the hundreds.

As historian Ilan Pappe writes, these military operations killing civilians “became a strategy - this was now clearly the way Israel intended to solve the problem of the Gaza Strip”.

As is patently evident the plan doesn’t work.

Israel has a right to defend itself against Hamas rockets, but the issue is bigger than that.

On the basis of a state having the right to defend itself, who defends the Palestinians? The very nation that says it has a right to defend itself against Palestinians is denying those Palestinians a state of their own, which, following Israel’s argument, would give Palestinians the same right Israel has to defend itself.

The world is watching as the death toll rises, but it needs to watch on a daily basis.

Death comes too often to Palestinians under the daily grind of a belligerent military occupation - or a land, sea and air blockade.

Palestinians have global attention now, but for all the wrong reasons.

Hamas may be Palestinian, but not all Palestinians are Hamas.  

Hamas is judged to be a terrorist group by some, but as history has shown on many occasions one man’s terrorist is another’s resistance fighter.

Hamas is critical to a unified Palestinian government, yet Israel at the UN today had the arrogance to tell Palestinian President Abbas that he must disband his unity government.

No-one tells Israel to rid itself of the extremists on its right who advocate strategies including flattening Gaza.

Israel’s deputy representative David Yitshak Roet said Abbas must undo the agreement he has (and that the U.S. said it would work with). “It is his choice. He can be part of the solution or part of the problem...the goal is simple...when it is quiet in Israel it will be quiet in Gaza.”

Some ’choice’ Israel is deigning to present to Abbas!  

In response Abbas has called for Palestinians to remain united.

After intense shuttle diplomacy Ban Ki Moon expressed some optimism that a ceasefire could be negotiated.

And so we wait for details.

At this stage it is difficult to imagine a win-win breakthrough, but then again it seems there is finally acknowledgement that this slaughter can not go on.

Also importantly, nor can the underlying issues that lead to these wars.

It might be boring to hear it, but there is no getting away from the fact that the underlying issue is called occupation.