The period of calm that began with the declaration of the hudna among the Palestinian factions is not absolute. Terror attacks, including lethal ones like the recent murder in Jaffa, are still taking place. The number of alerts might have dropped sharply, but nonetheless, the fact that Israeli intelligence services are still receiving such warnings shows that the readiness to conduct attacks has not disappeared completely. On the other hand, there is a growing impression that the Palestinian authorities, particular the security services, are making a greater effort to foil attacks. There has been some attempt to collect illegal weapons, security cooperation between Israel and the Palestinians has been restored after three years of no connection, and there has even been a substantial reduction in what is defined as incitement in the Palestinian media.
This state of relative calm could lead to the wrong conclusion that this is permanent, with no time limit. It would be best to remember that the cease-fire is accompanied by conditions that make obligations of Israel no less than those made to the Palestinian Authority. The rejectionist organizations are demanding, as a basic condition for the hudna, prisoner releases, the cessation of targeted killings and house demolitions, and freedom of movement for Palestinians throughout the West Bank and Gaza. These demands are also being made by the Palestinian Authority and, in particular, by its prime minister, Mahmoud Abbas.
Alongside the basic conditions for the hudna, Israel is obligated - by several articles in the first stage of the road map - to remove all illegal outposts established since March 2001 and to ease significantly the living conditions of the Palestinians. A month ago, Israel may have shown some determination to remove the illegal outposts, but it seems that since the hudna began, that effort has ceased: nothing is known about any further action to remove outposts. Israel's commitment to withdraw to positions its forces held before the intifada is also not being met. The IDF has pulled out of most of the Gaza Strip and from the heart of Bethlehem, but it is in direct control of the other West Bank cities and checkpoints prevent freedom of movement for Palestinian civilians.
The interim result is that the PA and its prime minister, who declared an end to the armed intifada, cannot point to a single tangible achievement since the Aqaba summit. That not only encourages PA Chairman Yasser Arafat to present Abbas as someone who can't supply the merchandise, but also even worse, the Palestinian public could lose its faith that the glimmers of a political process could turn into a sustainable move. And it's a short way from there to a collapse of the cease-fire and a resumption of the violent civilian uprising.
Israel has an enormous interest in strengthening the cease-fire, and especially Abbas' ability to rule. Foot-dragging on the prisoner releases, the suspension of the removal of outposts, and a miserly approach to allowing freedom of movement are a guarantee of achieving the opposite result.
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