The Hudna on the Cross Road

Click to follow
The Independent Online

After the assassination of two of its leaders in the Askar Refugee Camp in Nablus, West Bank, last Friday Hamas' military wing began plotting its revenge.

And yesterday as two Palestinian suicide bombers, one a member in al Aqsa Martyrs brigades and the other a Hamas militant, took the lives of two Israelis, that revenge was furious and threatening.

But the failure of the Hudna, as Palestinians refer to the ceasefire - was not so surprising at all.

Hamas, according to its leaflets and its various spokesmen, consider the ceasefire to be a sign of weakness so long as Israel continues operations against its leadership.

"It means acceptance of defeat,'' said Proffesor Khalil al Shikaki, a member of a leading Palestinian think-tank in Ramallah.

Israel has acknowledged that the number of the suicide attacks have significantly decreased since the start of the Hudna in late June, but claimed that the Palestinian militant organisations have been using the ceasefire as a chance to regroup.

Officials have spoken about militants stockpiling Qassam rockets and making efforts to extend their deadly range, but no real proof has been provided.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad and al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades decided to suspend their operations in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip after receiving what they believed were guarantees from the Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and the Egyptian government that Israel would suspend attacks on Palestinian militants.

There was no such commitment from Israel.

The Israeli governments has already destroyed most the infrastructure of the Palestinian police in the West Bank, crippling its power.

Hundreds of Palestinian policemen have been arrested and wounded.

Dozens of Palestinian police involved in the uprising as members of Palestinian militant groups have been killed since the beginning of the current uprising.

But there are deeper causes for the ceasefire's failure, and they are in the "road map" itself, and the different interpretations of it made by both sides.

The Road Map obliges the Palestinian Authority(PA) to strike at "the infrastructure of terrorism", but Palestinians argue it does not specify the means to achieve this goal.

"The Road Map does not define the meaning of the infrastructure of terrorism," argues Proffesor Shikaki.

Israel has never stopped urging Mr. Abbas to arrest leaders and conduct house to house raids to collect illegal weapons.

However, the Palestinian Prime Minister believes illegal weapons could be collected after the cease-fire, arguing that the success of the cease-fire depends in part on Israel holding back from attacking the Palestinian militants.

Tough measures against the Palestinian militants, he says, would trigger civil war among his own people.

Certainly, he needs to win over Palestinian public opinion, and the Road Map, if implemented would give the people some considerable benefits to enjoy; the release of the prisoners, freedom of movement for the population, and the withdrawal of the Israeli army to areas held before the beginning of the Uprising on September 28, 2000.

But while fine in theory, in practice, one action against the road map triggers a counter action, and the vicious circle continues.

With the assassinations in the Askar Refugee Camp and the two suicide attacks, Israeli officials are preparing themselves for the end of the cease-fire, putting both sides back to square one.

The Hamas military wing says the group will cling to the decision of its political leadership and respect the ceasefire, but it will respond quickly and immediately to any violations by Israel.

And Israel is using the suicide attacks to put more pressures on the PA, urging the international community, and particularly the United States, to push the PA into dismantling the Palestinian militant organizations.