Long Term Cease-fire for Palestinians and Israelis

Israel and the Palestinians agreed to an Egyptian brokered open ended cease-fire on August 26th, following 50 days of fighting that began July 8th.  In addition to stopping all military action, Israel agreed to open border crossings and extend fishing limits off the Gaza coast.  Longer term issues such as a Gaza seaport and demilitarization of Gaza will be discussed in a month.  Click here for more.

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Long-Term Ceasefire for Palestinians and Israelis

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CMEP welcomes a long-term ceasefire between Israeli and Hamas leaders.  

Israel and the Palestinians agreed to an Egyptian brokered open ended cease-fire on August 26th, following 50 days of fighting that began July 8th. Effective immediately, Hamas and Islamic groups agreed to stop all rocket and mortar fire into Israel and Israel agreed to cease all military action, including ground operations. Israel also agreed to open border crossings in order to allow for an easier flow of goods into Gaza and the extension of fishing limits off the Gaza coast to 6 miles; both were included in the 2012 cease-fire agreement, but never fully implemented. Another key element of the cease-fire stipulates that the Palestinian Authority, with international donors, will coordinate reconstruction of Gaza. Longer term issues such as the construction of a Gaza seaport and airport, the release of Hamas prisoners in the West Bank by Israel, possibly in trade for the remains of the two Israeli soldiers believed held by Hamas, and the demilitarization of Gaza will be discussed in a month.  

Events Leading up to the Cease-fire
Terms of this open ended cease-fire are similar in substance to a proposal accepted by Israel on July 15th , but rejected by Hamas. Both Israel and Hamas are claiming victory; there were fireworks  in Gaza City Tuesday night and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh  praised Gaza residents as true heroes, while Netanyahu  claimed to have dealt Hamas its toughest blow. In the week prior to the cease-fire a number of other violent events took place including, Israel's assassination of three Hamas military leaders, Hamas' execution of Palestinians accused of collaborating with Israel, and the death of an Israeli boy from rocket fire.

Political Responses
Responses to the cease-fire have been mixed. US Secretary of State John Kerry strongly supported the cease-fire and called it an opportunity to address long term issues. Israeli Knesset members criticized Netanyahu for declaring victory and accused him of failing to disarm Gaza, dismantle Hamas, and bring security to southern Israel. 

Two days after the cease-fire took effect, a Fatah official announced that the PLO will submit an application to the UN Security Council on September 15th requesting a timetable for an Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 lines. If rejected by the UN Security Council, the PLO will request the International Criminal Court hold Israeli leaders accountable for war crimes.  However, an appeal to the UN is a double edged sword.  The UN has accused Israel and Hamas of violating international law and could hold leaders of both accountable for war crimes.
 
Rebuilding Gaza
As quiet resumes, the international community turned its focus to assessing the damage and rebuilding costs in Gaza. Norway and Egypt are planning a donor conference for September. Norway’s minister of Foreign Affairs said that conditions in Gaza must change; the international community cannot be expected to pay for another reconstruction. He indicated donors want President Abbas to receive the aid and be responsible for reconstruction in Gaza. Israel  has said it will support massive investment to rebuild Gaza, but only if Gaza is demilitarized. A former Palestinian spokesman indicated these international and Israeli conditions on aid to Gaza will put strain on the Palestinian unity government.  
 
Some Gazans began to leave UN shelters and return to their homes on Wednesday. UNRWA reported a reduction from 2,000 to 400 people in one shelter. According to the UN, beginning estimates indicate 13% of the housing stock in Gaza has been affected with 5% uninhabitable. In addition to homes, the water treatment plant, the power plant, and hundreds of factories in Gaza were destroyed crushing infrastructure and increasing already high unemployment.  
 

CMEP reports on the news of the week in the Bulliten every Friday. Be sure you'll receive it in your inbox by clicking here to sign-up today.  

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Concern about Price Tag Attacks

On May 23, 2014 Churches for Middle East Peace (CMEP) Executive Director Warren Clark and Board Chair Russ Testa sent a letter of solidarity to Jerusalem Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal after a string of vandalisms against Christian institutions, including one against the Assembly of Bishops at the Notre Dame Center in East Jerusalem.

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CMEP supports Patriarch Twal’s view that, “the unrestrained acts of vandalism poison the atmosphere; the atmosphere of co-existence and the atmosphere of collaboration.”

The welfare of Palestinian Christians is an ongoing concern to CMEP. We continue to admire the steadfastness of those who work to ensure a vibrant Christian presence in the Holy Land for future generations.

To read CMEP’s letter, click here. To see Patriarch Twal’s original statements, click here.

For information on the background of violence by Israeli settlers, CMEP recommends this report from B'Tselem.