Leading article: An uncertain step towards peace

Share
Related Topics

Fragile and limited in its stated goals as it is, the Gaza ceasefire due to start at 6am today is potentially the most positive development in the Israel-Palestinian conflict for a long time. And not only for the respite it will bring on both sides of the border. If it becomes entrenched, it will stand as a considerable diplomatic achievement for Egypt, which brokered the deal. Ehud Barak, Israel's Defence Minister, also deserves congratulation. Having in several ways cast himself as a hawk in the past year, he had the good sense and courage to withstand, at least for now, the clamour from several other ministers for a full scale military invasion of Gaza. Such an operation would have – and still may if the truce breaks down – risked perhaps hundreds of Israeli lives and thousands of Palestinian ones, and probably for no easily measurable gain. There may still be those in Israel's political establishment who see this as a way of proving that everything had been tried before an invasion which many in Israel still purport to think inevitable. But the hope must be that Mr Barak has had the maturity to see, first that the chances of eliminating Hamas by military means are negligible, and secondly that public opinion may not, after Lebanon, so easily tolerate again rapidly rising loss of life without bankable results.

The ceasefire is, foremost, a crucial test for Hamas who have shown scant regard for the impact of the rocket attacks not only on the beleaguered Israeli communities of the Gaza periphery but also on the Palestinians themselves, who have suffered perhaps twenty times as many civilian casualties from Israeli counter-attacks. It now has to use its tightened control in Gaza to police the armed factions – including the most unruly and self-interested – to ensure that it is not breached. But it is a test for Israel as well, having blamed Hamas's undoubtedly destructive attacks on the crossings, it surely cannot resist pressure to start opening them if these now stop. It will need to resist temptations posed by short-term internal politics to find an excuse to breach the ceasefire itself. And it may have to contemplate much more far-reaching exchanges of prisoners if it is to secure the long overdue return of Gilad Shalit, the Israeli corporal taken hostage by Gaza militants two years ago.

The fragility of the ceasefire can hardly be overstated. But the opportunities it presents cannot be overstated either, not least for a more, albeit cautiously, pragmatic approach to Hamas, both in Israel itself and in those European countries which have for the last year allowed Israel, and a discredited US administration, to shape its policy in the Middle East.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Children of a bygone era  

Kids these days aren't what they used to be — they're a lot better. So why the fuss?

Archie Bland
A suited man eyes up the moral calibre of a burlesque troupe  

Be they burlesque dancers or arms dealers, a bank has no business judging the morality of its clients

John Walsh
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star
How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

How live cinema screenings can boost arts audiences

Broadcasting plays and exhibitions to cinemas is a sure-fire box office smash