Sunday, 22 June 2008

Gaza's tenuous truce

PressTV's Middle East Today looks behind the headlines to investigate the motivation for Israel's decision to sign up to a ceasefire with Hamas. Some of the answers may surprise you.

It has been a long time coming, especially for the one and a half million Palestinians of the Gaza Strip, and the residents of the small southern Israeli towns of Siderot and Ashkelon.

But the truce that was declared on Thursday morning was broken almost as soon as it began, with an Israeli warship firing shells into the waters off Gaza. Fortunately, Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip did not respond.

Israeli helicopters and tanks are conducting highly visible patrols along the borders of Gaza, in what some observers say is an unnecessarily provocative show of force.

But if the truce holds, then Israel will gradually lift the siege of the coastal strip, bringing relief to Gaza residents who have been the victims of what international humanitarian agencies have described as a criminal collective punishment.

((At the time of publishing, a promised relaxation of border controls has not come into effect. Trucks have been lining up all day to take much needed supplies into Gaza, only to be turned back from the border crossing.))

The question of will the truce hold, or for how long it will hold, seem to be gaining far more prominence in the speeches and comments of the region’s leaders, than the far more important question of, what benefits will this truce bring to the people of the region and the peace process as a whole.

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for example, on the eve of the ceasefire said he had no illusions, and that the truce is likely to be short lived, describing Hamas as contemptible and bloodthirsty terrorists.

Hardly words to encourage optimism. And with Israel already technically guilty of breaking the truce, his pessimism may just turn out to be a self fulfilling, or perhaps we should say, self inflicted prophecy.

On the panel of "Hope tempered by pessimism" were:

In Gaza, political analyst, Doctor Asad Abu Sharikh

In New York, Professor Norman Finkelstein, author and lecturer on the Middle East

And on the phone from Washington, Kenneth Katzman, Middle East Specialist, Congressional Research Service

Watch Middle East Today's "Gaza, hope tempered by pessimism" for frank and open discussion on what Israel and the United States plans for the Middle East.

Watch the fascinating debate with Norman Finkelstein and our other guests on the PressTV archive here!

In the meantime, related story based on the program available on on Ohmynews International.

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