As Cease-Fire Takes Hold, Big Question In Gaza Becomes What's Next
Some semblance of normal life returned to Gaza on Wednesday.
The day after Hamas and Israel accepted an open-ended cease-fire, Palestinians returned to their homes, markets opened and bulldozers began clearing the rubble, while in Israel, the sirens warning of rockets fell silent.
Naturally, Palestinians, Israelis and the world started looking toward the future and began asking a tough question: What's next?
"The agreement, brokered by Egypt, calls for Israel to allow humanitarian aid and building materials through the border crossings it controls into Gaza. But it remained unclear who would oversee the reconstruction effort and monitor imported cement and concrete to allay Israeli concerns that it be used only for civilian purposes.
"Discussion of the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, along with demands by Hamas, the Islamist faction that dominates Gaza, for a seaport and airport in Gaza — and by Israel for the demilitarization of the territory — were put off for up to a month.
" 'I don't think that any declaration here is important, who won what,' Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser, told reporters in an afternoon conference call Wednesday. 'What's important is what will happen in the future.' "
More immediately, Reuters reports that the truce has already started having an impact on the ground. Egypt, for example, eased restrictions at the Rafah border crossing with Gaza. It allowed a shipment of 25,000 food parcels from the World Food Program to enter Gaza for the first time since 2007.
Al-Jazeera's Jane Ferguson tweeted that for the first time in a while in Gaza, "you can feel relief in the air."
Still, one thing most people will agree on is that all of the big issues that led to this conflict remain unresolved.
On today's opinion page, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz took shots at both sides, saying both had committed war crimes in this conflict. What this war should teach the world is that a long-term peace cannot be accomplished through military might, it said. A long-lasting peace will come only through sincere negotiations.
"Over the last 50 days, cemeteries filled with bodies and hospitals overflowed with wounded. Rubble piled up and hatred and fear overflowed their banks on both sides. But this cloud could yet have a silver lining: Perhaps Israel, for the first time in its history, will fundamentally change its approach.
"It sounds ridiculous now. But how is it possible to end this cursed war without at least envisioning hope?"