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The Yomiuri Shimbun
No optimism warranted on prospects of realizing peace in Gaza Strip
ガザ停戦合意 楽観できぬ和平実現への道

It is imperative to seek ways to realize a permanent ceasefire and pursue the road to peace in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which has effective control over the Palestinian autonomous region of Gaza, and Israel have agreed to an open-ended ceasefire after 50 days of fighting.

The death toll has topped 2,100 in Gaza, and most of the victims are civilians, including women and children. The two sides must give top priority to maintaining the ceasefire.

Since fighting started in early July, temporary ceasefires have taken effect several times through Egypt’s mediation, but none lasted for long.

The recent truce was agreed upon because Hamas developed a heightened sense of crisis after three of its military leaders were assassinated by Israel. On the other hand, Israel had been pressed to bring the conflict to an early end, in light of the fact that the popularity ratings for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s administration have plummeted due to an increase in the number of victims from the conflict.

Following the recent ceasefire accord, Israel relaxed the economic blockade it had been imposing since the Hamas seizure of Gaza in 2007, allowing humanitarian aid and materials for reconstruction work to be transported into Gaza.

The U.N. World Food Program has begun to provide food assistance to Gaza.

Bumpy road ahead

However, a rough road lies ahead for reconstruction of the autonomous region.

Gaza has suffered destruction on an unprecedented scale. Its economy has been brought to the brink of collapse, with the unemployment rate reaching 50 percent. It will be difficult for Hamas to procure the estimated reconstruction costs of $6 billion on its own. Hamas faces the challenge of finding a way to secure aid from the international community.

There is concern in the United States, Europe and Egypt that if a huge amount of assistance money is provided to Hamas, which calls for the defeat of Israel, it will be misused to beef up its military capabilities.

In actuality, Hamas has replenished its rocket artillery and other arms every time clashes with Israel came to a standstill and then resumed attacks.

For an international assistance framework to be created, it is indispensable for the Palestinian Authority, which has formed an interim government with Hamas, to serve as a channel to receive assistance, thereby ensuring transparency in the flow of aid supplies and funds. The political leadership of Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, is being put to the test in this regard.

It was also agreed that Israel and Hamas would enter indirect talks on a permanent ceasefire within a month, with Egypt acting as an intermediary. Starting the negotiations smoothly could be the first step toward achieving peace.

Israel wants to ensure its own national security, while Hamas has asked for a complete lifting of the Gaza blockade and the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Each of these demands has been left pending, as the two sides have stood firm on their positions. No optimism is warranted regarding the future course of talks.

International efforts—centering on those by Egypt, which has served as an intermediary in the negotiations, and the United States, which can exert influence over Israel—are essential to spur the promotion of mutual concessions by the two conflicting parties.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2014)Speech

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