Saturday, March 27, 2010

The relative calm is over

"We knew that even after Operation Cast Lead, the calm will not last" said this morning on the radio a resident of Netiv Ha'Asara on the Gaza Strip border. But it seems that our ministers and commentators didn't, when they spoke of "a decisive victory which restored the Israeli deterrence".

A year has passed, and the "relative calm" begins to disintegrate. A year of relative calm, which was perhaps not so calm on the other side of the border.

There, it was a year of suffocating siege - another year of suffocating siege. Another year in which a half million people – men, and women, and a lot of little children - continued quite literally to live among the garbage heaps, and got only just enough food not to starve. Another year in which cancer patients died in agony, since the gate remained closed on the way to the outside world and to well-equipped hospitals. Another year in which thousands were living in the ruins of houses, a year and more after the end of the war. Only as a very special favor to the UN Secretary-General was it agreed to let some building materials in…

Indeed, the relative calm starts to crumble. Missiles are flying and blood spilled. Israeli soldiers are killed, whose photographs appear on front pages and prime time TV news. Palestinians are killed whose names will never be heard and whose photos we will never see, anonymous in death as in life. And a Thai worker who came here to find a modest livelihood fpr his family was killed in a conflict not his.

And now - what? Another big war? Another Cast Lead? Thousands of dead civilians more? A new round of massive protests around the world? A Goldstone Report squared and cubed? Or perhaps reconquer the entire Gaza Strip and send the soldiers again into the narrow alleys of Jabalia Refugee Camp, for another two or three generations?

Of course, there is also an opposite option: Lift the siege, finally carry out the exchange of prisoners, return Gilead Shalit and the Palestinian prisoners to their homes, bring Hamas into the circle of negotiations (when there would be negotiations).

If we ever get into proximity talks, with Mitchell running back and forth between Bibi in Jerusalem and Abbas in Ramallah, would it really be so terrible for him to drop in on his way also at Haniyeh's office in Gaza?