‘Sustainable calm’ proposal splits Israel and Hamas

by James Landale at bbc.com

After months of stalemate, the search for peace in Gaza has reached a critical stage. UN chief Antonio Guterres says it is a “decisive moment for the Palestinian and Israeli people and for the fate of the entire region”.

There seems to be common ground between most sides about the principles: a ceasefire should take place alongside the release of Israeli hostages and Palestinian prisoners. Various draft agreements have been drawn up, setting out a complex process of how it would all work.

There is some disagreement over the detail of what should happen to whom and when and in what order. Israeli officials say, for example, that its female soldiers should be released earlier than envisaged.

They also say the texts should be clearer that the first 33 hostages to be released must be alive and are worried about not having a veto over which Palestinian prisoners would be released.

These are issues that could potentially be surmounted through negotiation.


But there is a more fundamental sticking point about a core principle that may be harder to get past and that is when the war should end.

The opening words of the draft agreement – supported by Hamas – declares that there should be a “temporary cessation of military operations between the two parties”. This is largely unproblematic. Six weeks would pass while people are released, Israeli forces withdraw from some areas, displaced Gazans would be able to return to what if anything is left of their homes.

But then stage two would begin. The draft agreement then talks about a “return to sustainable calm”, which it defines as “a permanent cessation of military and hostile operations”.

It is this that seems to be unacceptable to Israel’s government. In a statement, the Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “Israel will not allow Hamas to restore its evil rule in the Gaza Strip, Israel will not allow it to restore its military capabilities to continue striving for our destruction. Israel cannot accept a proposal that endangers the security of our citizens and the future of our country.”

In other words, Israel’s government wants the right to continue taking the fight to Hamas in the long run. By contrast, Hamas wants a permanent ceasefire.