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August 18, 2014 Ceasefire Extended by 24 Hours

by Marc Schulman

At the request of the Egyptians the ceasefire was extended by 24 hours. An agreement was not reached but there are those who are optimistic that another 24 hours could matter. Once again, today was a day when all of Israel held its breath to see what would be decided. The army has ordered that train service to S'derot be stopped (after Hamas showed a video of their clear line of site to the railroad, raising the fear they could fire an anti-tank missile at a rail car. Needless to say, why that problem was not accounted for when that railroad line was built – less than two years ago – raises serious questions.

My son returned to school today. Of course, one of the first things he and his High School classmates did on their first day of school was to participate in a missile drill – i.e. what to do if their was a missile attack. Tomorrow they are going to have a drill on the bus. They were told that in case of a missile attack they are to unbuckle, put their heads between their legs, and get as low as they can. In how many places in the world are students going back to school and these are the first lessons they learn.

For the past few days Israelis have tried to forget that there was a war. Business owners in Tel Aviv who suffered a 50% drop in sales during the war report that business is returning to normal. On Saturday morning I was able to walk again along my favorite place on the beach in North Tel Aviv for the first time, without worrying about a red alert.

After listening to the news media in the last few days the average Israeli could be forgiven if they are confused and do not understand what the immediate future holds. The Egyptian long-term ceasefire proposal of last week – presented as a "take it, or leave it" proposal to both Israel and Hamas – has seemingly been left behind by both sides. Instead, a less comprehensive proposal is being discussed; one that includes the opening of the border crossings, increasing the distance Gaza fisherman are permitted to fish, and decreasing the no-man's land around the Gaza border. All of the long term issues, such as: disarmament and building a port, would be delayed for a month. Under these terms, neither side accomplished very much diplomatically after this war. Israel has achieved very little in terms of limiting the ability of the Hamas to rearm, nor is the agreement regarding the border crossings all that significant for Hamas. In a month negotiations will begin on the larger issues, but their is very little expectations that these will be successful.

There were reports in Israel today that the Israeli Security Services disrupted a Hamas plan to take over the West Bank. That plan called for an uprising that would force Israeli troops to reoccupy the West Bank cities, thus ending the Palestinian Authority's rule. After that Hamas hoped to gain power. The Head of the Palestinian Authority tonight warned that if these reports are correct it will undermine any chance of Palestinian Unity. Whether those reports are fully accurate or not, (and there is no way of really knowing), one thing is clear. While most Israelis have been tuned to events in Gaza this past month, 26 Palestinians were killed by the IDF in the West Bank. Part of that was no doubt caused by the additional violent demonstrations in the West Bank. However, part of these loses are due to the fact that less trained reservists replaced the regular troops in West Bank, who were sent to serve in Gaza.

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