Does Baird even know what they are?
Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird has been actively supporting the “unconditional” ceasefire proposed by Netanyahu and backed by Egypt. While it appears “humanitarian”, an unconditional ceasefire would mean going back to the status quo before the recent hostilities and continuing Israel’s punishing blockade of Gaza. But has Baird even considered what the Palestinians are asking for? It’s actually quite reasonable.
As of last week, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, and several other Palestinian political parties have united on a few key demands as a condition for an end to their resistance in Gaza. Those demands were outlined last weekend by Ha’aretz, one of Israel’s main newspapers.
According to Ha’aretz, “Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have sent a document detailing their conditions for a cease-fire to the United States, members of the Arab League and other countries involved in efforts to reach a truce.”
Most of the demands relate to ending the 7 year siege of Gaza which many residents of Gaza have called “a living death” and allowing Gazans to fish and farm without harassment by Israeli military.
Among the conditions listed in the document are:
- opening Gaza’s borders and freedom of movement for Gazan residents
- opening the border with Egypt
- permitting Gazan fishermen to sail up to 12 nautical miles from shore
- allowing Palestinian farmers to work their fields inside the Gaza strip near the “wall”
- release of Palestinian prisoners arrested in the West Bank following the kidnap and murder of three Israeli teenagers
- the creation of an international committee to oversee implementation
Israel, on the other hand, supported by Egypt, the USA and Canada, has rejected any Palestinian demands and has been promoting an “unconditional” ceasefire.
An “unconditional ceasefire” would mean that the Israeli bombing would stop, but the punishing blockade of Gaza would continue as it has for the last 7 years. It would also mean that the 500 Hamas members arrested in the West Bank in reprisals for the killing of the 3 Israeli teenagers, would remain in jail. (A BBC reporter now has quoted a senior Israeli police authority admitting that Hamas had nothing to do with those murders.)
These simple Palestinian demands put Israel in an awkward position.
To many independent observers, they appear eminently reasonable. If international public opinion forces Israel and its US backers to accept them, Israel’s “Protective Edge” gamble will have been a big mistake. Instead of crushing Hamas, Israel will be forced by international public opinion to end the siege of Gaza. It will also have exposed itself to international condemnation for its murderous assault on mostly unarmed civilians.