Maintaining the cease-fire
Qassams landing in Israel since cease-fire agreement give rise to feeling that cease-fire is about to collapse.
The Qassams that have continued to land in Israel since the cease-fire agreement have given rise to the feeling that the cease-fire is about to collapse.
Personal security, the main objective of the cease-fire, is still lacking in Sderot and its environs. The Israel Defense Forces is already recommending responding with force to the Qassam strikes. If it emerges the Palestinian side is incapable of keeping its commitments, it is possible that in the near future the Israeli government will once again ponder a military attack on the Gaza Strip.
However, before the government turns to canceling the deals that were struck, it is essential to distinguish between the aims that were set and the ability to fulfill all of them at once. When Israel decided to sign the cease-fire agreement with Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations, the working assumption was that those organizations would honor their commitment and compel other splinter organizations to keep the same commitment, even by force.
Hamas has kept its commitment thus far. Islamic Jihad broke it after Israel killed a few of its members in the West Bank; it then adopted the cease-fire again. The latest Qassam was reportedly fired by a Fatah-affiliated group, which apparently strived to undermine belief in Hamas' ability to control things on the ground.
Alongside all this, Hamas' public effort to fully keep its commitment is evident. The Hamas mufti has called anyone who fires a Qassam a "criminal," and its leadership is declaring that the Qassams damage Palestinian interests. While other organizations have not condemned the firing, they have stressed they are sticking to the deal.
There is no doubt that Hamas, like the other organizations, and like Israel, has a great interest in maintaining the current cease-fire. At the same time, there is no doubt that organizations, gangs and even Fatah elements are interested in torpedoing the agreement or are claiming the right to veto decisions by Hamas.
Ostensibly Israel could turn its back on the internal Palestinian disputes and say it is none of its business to examine who is breaking or observing the cease-fire. As far as Israel is concerned, Hamas and the other organizations are responsible for the agreement and any violation of it constitutes its revocation. However, the reality in Gaza was not invisible to Israel when it adopted the agreement. Israel knew it would take some time before Israeli airspace would be hermetically sealed to the Qassams.
This is why the cease-fire is based on two stages, and the first stage has been extended for six months. This does not mean Israel must sit on its hands and do nothing for six months, absorbing Qassams with no response just so the cease-fire will be observed on its part. However, it must allow the Palestinians the opportunity to enforce the agreement, without playing into the hands of gangs or splinter organizations, thereby crushing the responsible party in Gaza at the moment.
Israel, which has decided to suspend the military option to give the cease-fire a shot, will decide when the trial period is over. It does seem, though, that this stage has not yet arrived.