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August 18, 2006
Palestinians Declare Unilateral Cease-Fire

Apparently concerned that the Israelis might adopt the tougher tactics that their citizens wanted used against Hezbollah, Mahmoud Abbas has declared a unilateral cease-fire in the West Bank and Gaza. He claims to have the support of all armed groups in this stand-down agreement, and hopes to end the Israeli offensive in Gaza:

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Thursday that Palestinian armed groups promised him they would suspend their attacks on Israel in hopes of ending a nearly 2-month-long Israeli crackdown in the Gaza Strip.

The groups hedged their bets, denying there was a formal agreement with Abbas, while leaving the door open to a possible halt in attacks. There was only minor violence reported Thursday, and there appears to have been a drop in rocket attacks against Israel in recent days.

Abbas said the groups reached their agreement late Wednesday during renewed talks on forming a national unity government between his Fatah Party and the rival Hamas group, which controls the Cabinet. The talks broke down after Israel launched a widescale offensive in the Gaza Strip on June 28 after Hamas-linked operatives attacked an Israeli army post and captured IDF Cpl. Gilat Shalit.

This demonstrates that the Israelis gained something from their actions in Lebanon, and earlier in Gaza. The Olmert government may have mishandled the military strategy in their Lebanon incursion -- almost certainly they did -- but their ferocious response to what had been routine provocations made an impression on both Hezbollah and the Palestinian fighters. The latter want to bring an end to the fighting before the Israelis redeploy their retreating troops into the two Palestinian areas.

Hamas refused to confirm that they had participated in any deal. Indeed, the terrorist group launched a rocket into Israel from northern Gaza, but it hit nothing. They claimed that Israel needed to "calm down" before Hamas would agree to negotiations, although they claimed that they had decided to halt rocket attacks last week but want an Israeli gesture in return. One has to wonder what kind of gesture the Israelis were supposed to provide, or how they were supposed to learn about that decision while rockets still fall into southern Israel from Gaza.

This looks suspiciously like another round of the triangle offense, a time-tested tactic of the Palestinians. Abbas will declare this cease-fire and put pressure on Israel to withdraw from Gaza, while Hamas and/or Islamic Jihad continue to shoot rockets into Israel. If the Palestinians truly lay down their weapons, they will find a ready partner in Israel. However, they would also have to return Gilad Shalit and recognize Israel's right to exist, two steps I notice that Abbas still hasn't taken. Color me skeptical until then.

UPDATE: Maybe things have changed with the Palestinians. Now they can't even agree to run the triangle offense:

Talks between Hamas and Fatah on forming a Palestinian unity government have failed, Fatah officials reported Friday.

Among the terms of the proposal was that Hamas would keep most ministerial posts according to its parliamentary majority. Fatah would retain the post of prime minister. ...

Abbas and Haniyeh have invited Islamic Jihad to join the prospective government - an invitation that has been turned down by leaders of the organization in the Gaza Strip and Syria.

Abbas said on Friday that the Islamic Jihad refused to sign on officially, but agreed to refrain from attacks as long as the other terrorist groups did so.

The last seems rather interesting. Islamic Jihad got vetoed by Syria, an unusual and subtle smack at Iran, IJ's sponsor. Apparently content to let Teheran call the shots in Lebanon, Damascus seems to want the West Bank and Gaza all to its own. Besides, the IJ pledge is laughable. They will only agree to a cease-fire if no one else attacks Israel -- which means Israel has no effect on IJ's decision. That should make plain the nihilistic intent of Islamic Jihad: they will only refrain from killing Israeli citizens as long as none of their brothers are having that sort of fun, either.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at August 18, 2006 5:35 AM

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Tracked on August 18, 2006 7:03 AM


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