08/27/2014, 00.00
ISRAEL - PALESTINE
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Gaza's fragile truce holding against an uncertain future peace

Hamas hails the Egyptian-brokered truce as a "victory of the resistance". Indirect talks are set in Cairo for next month to address "fundamental" issues like the disarmament of militias. Prof Sabella speaks calls the agreement an "excellent step forward" for "Two peoples, two states". For Israeli political scientist, the fragile truce is the harbinger of an uncertain future.

Jerusalem (AsiaNews) - The permanent cease-fire in Gaza is holding. Both Israelis and Palestinians agreed to it yesterday thanks to Egyptian mediation after weeks of intense fighting.

No violent incidents were reported over night. No rocket were fired from the Gaza Strip and Israel did not carry out any air strikes. Fighting appears to have given in to politics.

The truce came into force yesterday afternoon at 6 pm ending a war - hoping for lasting solutions - that killed nearly 2,200 Palestinians (many civilians) and about 70 Israelis, and devastated the Strip.

Hamas hailed the agreement, claiming "victory of the resistance". Few comments were heard on the Israeli side, extreme right-wing parties in the government criticised the decision to end the military operation.

The agreement calls for the easing of the blockade imposed by Israel on Gaza in 2006, which has caused major hardship for the civilian population living in Gaza, a small strip that is home to more than 1.8 million Palestinians.

The main points of the agreement include the opening of crossings for the passage of food and humanitarian aid, as well as medical supplies and equipment to rebuild after the bombing.

More than 17,000 housing units were destroyed and nearly 100,000 people made homeless.

Next month, indirect talks should start in Cairo, Egypt, to resolve some key issues, like disarming Hamas militias, the opening of an airport and a port, and the release of 100 prisoners.

After welcoming the truce, the United States said it would resume working for a political solution to the conflict.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also welcomed the truce. But in a statement via his spokesman, Mr Ban warned that "any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence".

Mixed reviews are emerging in Israel and Palestine about the possibility of a long-term political solution to the crisis.

Interviewed by AsiaNews, Prof Bernard Sabella, a Catholic Fatah official in Jerusalem, executive secretary of the Department of Service to Palestinian Refugees of the Middle East Council of Churches, described the truce as an "excellent step forward."

However, he warns that lasting political solution is required because we cannot continue "with this war situation every three years."

The scholar proposed again a solution, the only one possible, namely "two peoples, two states" for which a strong leadership is needed, capable of giving precedence to political and not military action.

The challenge, he warns, is "to ensure that Hamas accept a political agenda that belongs to all Palestinians" and this should be "the goal of the government."

The Fatah representative of Fatah points out that a truce is not enough for, but the underlying causes of the problem must be solved.

"One say whatever one wants about Hamas, but everyone, including Israel, has a responsibility of finding a solution" that is not a military option.

Shutting down Gaza does not serve to guarantee the security of the Israelis because if "there is no peace, there is no security."

In this context, he concludes, the work of the Church and Christians in the Holy Land remains fundamental. They are the first supporters "on the ground" of peace and a political settlement of disputes.

On the Israeli side, there are doubts and misgivings. Yedidia Sermoneta, an Israeli expert on Middle East politics, said that "the truce will last at least two or three weeks," but the future "remains very uncertain," and one cannot "long-term make predictions because the Arab world is in ferment and things can change in a day."

In Israel, he adds, the agreement "was not well received" because people "have no faith in it. Most are disappointed". People would have preferred more decisive action in Gaza to "get rid of tunnels and weapons."

The Israeli political scientist does not believe in a political solution, because Hamas is too strong an obstacle for peace.

"What I see," he said, "is that now a truce will take hold to allow Hamas to get money from Arab countries, but in one or two years there will be an even harder attack on Israel with Hizbollah from the north and Hamas from the south."

Peace requires "a partner", he concludes, and on the Palestinian side, "there is no strong personality: Hamas and Fatah do not talk to each other; there is no true leader" able to ensure representativeness and unity.

To understand better the obstacles to a possible path to peace, it is interesting to turn to the results of a recent survey carried out by the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion (PCPO).

In a recent survey it found that 61 per cent of the Palestinians oppose the deployment of UN-multi-national forces in Gaza Strip.

It also shows that 88.9 per cent strongly supports the firing of rockets from Gaza at Israel. Another 75.4 per cent) believe that the deterrence of the Palestinian Resistance has increased.

Finally, 54 per cent of the population is "satisfied" with the performance of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), whilst 64.7 per cent rated UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as "negative". (DS)

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