As Both Sides in Gaza Agree Ceasefire, Israelis Are Left Wondering What Was Gained

Israeli Soldiers
An Israeli soldier from the paratroopers brigade drinks after returning to Israel from Gaza August 4, 2014. Baz Ratner/Reuters

A 72 hours ceasefire has been accepted by both sides starting tomorrow at 8 am. Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire during the day, but Hamas did not accept it and continued to fire. By morning the last of the Israeli troops will be out of all the areas of Gaza (with the exception of points just along the border.)

The Egyptians had warned Secretary of State Kerry last week that there was no chance of a ceasefire holding as long as Israeli troops were in Gaza. Sure enough, they were right.  Now the time is ripe for a ceasefire. Of course we have been here before. So until the guns and missiles are silent for a significant period we will not know if the ceasefire is real.

Today was  the 28th day of Israel’s War with Hamas. If you would have asked me or any other Israeli four weeks ago if this could go on for almost a month, we would have said there is no chance, but I will get to that a little later.

Israel finished blowing up the last of the tunnels today – the tunnel that was discovered when Lieutenant Goldin was killed and his body taken. It turns out that this tunnel went 1.5 miles into Israel and another mile into Rafach towards the coast. New details of that event came out today when it became clear that the three soldiers were not killed by a suicide bomber, but rather by an attacker who advanced until being killed. 

It looks like there may be a ceasefire agreement reached in the next few hours. Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire during the day, but Hamas did not accept it and continued to fire. Now it seems likely that a ceasefire agreement can be reached since by morning the last of the Israeli troops will be out of all the areas of Gaza (with the exception of points just along the border.)

The Egyptians had warned Secretary of State John Kerry last week that there was no chance of a ceasefire holding as long as Israeli troops were in Gaza. Sure enough, they were right. Now the time is ripe for a ceasefire. Of course, we have been here before. So until the guns and missiles are silent for a significant period we will not know if the ceasefire is real.

The people of Gaza desperately need a ceasefire to go about rebuilding. How much rebuilding will take place is dependent on the political agreements that can be reached. However, the arrangements that can be worked out are unknown, and only time will tell.

Today's news from Gaza was interrupted by two lone-wolf terror attacks in Jerusalem. In one attack, a 19-year-old Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem drove a crane into a bus, toppling it onto a pedestrian who died. The terrorist was then shot by a passing policeman.

An hour later, an unknown gunman on a motorcycle shot a soldier at a bus stop.  These are the sorts of events people have feared. Hopefully, if the war comes to an end, these attacks will not spread further.

On the news this morning, they played a new song written by General Yoel Galant (res.), the former Southern Commander, in memory of the soldiers who have died in this war. The song played as the faces of the soldiers flashed across the screen. While I first found only mild tears in my eyes, these tears continued and turned into a flowing stream.  

Why did all of these young men have to die? What has been accomplished? As the war was beginning,  I wrote an article stating that we had only two good options. Option #1: Ignore the rockets and show Hamas how weak they were and how our technology (Iron Dome) made all their efforts useless. Or, Option # 2: Do what other nations do when attacked; declare war and end Hamas rule – whatever the cost.  

Unfortunately, we executed neither of these options. All the young men whose pictures I saw on the screen died. All the Palestinian civilians, whose only sins were being born in Gaza, are also dead. Why? The answers do not come easily.

I have been living in this country on and off (more years off) for almost 40 years. I attended my first rally on behalf of Israel, during the Six Day War, in Washington when I was in the 7th grade. I visited Israel during the War of Attrition, attended the reburial ceremonies of some of the Israeli soldiers during the summer after the Yom Kippur War in ’73 and did my army service here. I spent time patrolling Gaza, and watched two of my children do their army service already. After all this time things are not getting any better.  Why do we do this? There must be a better solution.

I spent some time in Poland this past spring and recently completed an iPhone and Android App Guide to Major Sites in Poland (with special attention to the Jewish History of Poland.) I visited all of the death camps and was reminded why we are here.

What happens when Jews do not have an army to defend them? Zionism, as envisioned by Theodore Herzl, should have solved the Jewish problem and provided a safe place for the Jewish people. However, unfortunately, the ancestral Jewish home Palestine/Israel was not an empty place. And until the other nations who live here (the Palestinians) are willing to truly compromise, I fear the cycle of violence will continue.

On a final note… As I finished this article, the buzzer to our apartment rang. The soldier I had picked up at the airport last week came home. He was given a 48 hour leave. I guess the war may really be over.

Political historian Marc Schulman is the editor of historycentral.com. An archive of his recent daily reports from Tel-Aviv can be found here. He is also a columnist for the Times of Israel.

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