It appears Israel finally caved to the international pressure and declared itself ready to declare a ceasefire in Gaza, paramount to enter the Egypt-engineered peace talks.

Livni and Rice on the agreement towards Hamas decommission. © New York Times

Livni and Rice on the agreement towards Hamas' decommission. © New York Times

Tonight, Israel is expected to put all the weapons down and keep their armed forces in place while the details of the peace talks are being worked out in Cairo. Mark Regev, Ehud Olmert’s spokesperson, told the New York Times about the feelings surrounding the operation: “It looks as if all the pieces of the puzzle are coming together. There will be discussions tomorrow morning, and it looks like a cabinet meeting will take place tomorrow night. Everyone is very upbeat.” This upbeat atmosphere will hopefully reach a positive, upbeat ending leading to the upbeat burial of the 1,133 Palestinians killed during the Gaza offensive in the scope of only twenty-one days. We at Semi-autonomous Collective are sharing that giddy feeling of entering upbeat peace negotiations.

In the meantime, in the upbeat spirit of the last couple of days, Israel is reminding the Palestinians that the ceasefire has not yet been signed and ratified;  an UN official – probably the same one that was injured in the bombing of the UN headquarters – told Reuters that an Israeli tank fire killed two boys at a United Nations-run school on Saturday in the northern Gaza Strip town of Beit Lahiya.  Because misery loves company, two brothers had been killed and 14 people had been wounded in the attack, including the boys’ mother. The New York Times reports that “An Israeli army spokesman said that he was checking the report.” Glad to know that the Israeli bureaucracy has yet to be affected by the conflict. I hope said spokesman reads fast.

The irony is far from over: Tzipi Livni, whom we praised last year for her post-modern position on the conflict, met with Condoleezza Rice in order to come up with an agreement on “a range of steps the United States would take to stem the flow of new arms to Hamas from the Egyptian Sinai, mostly via tunnels.” After allegedly helping Hamas come to power, the United States are engineering a short-circuit of their weapon supplies, which is not without resembling their not-so-ancient conundrum with the Talibans in Afghanistan. It would also be a little too much to ask, three days before the passation of powers in Washington, some understanding regarding the american funding of Israel’s firepower so as to prevent another disproportionate and unfair use of force against the Palestinian population. First: drain the concurrence. Second: take a brief look at international law. Everyone has their priorities straight.

Oddly enough, Hamas appears to be completely unimpressed by Israel’s participation in the peace talks and calls for an increase in resistance. The leader, Khaled Meshal, was quoted as saying, “Israel will not be able to destroy our resistance, and the United States will not be able to dictate us their rules. Arab countries should help Hamas to fight against the death of civilian Palestinians.” This world is coming to an extremely sad conclusion when it takes religious fundamentalists with a keen spirit on guerrilla violence to finally say what the rest of the world has been quietly thinking in the relative comfort of their double-mortgaged homes.  As apocalyptic and potentially Huntington-ish this address might sound, this is a formidable call for independance the Palestinians would find it hard not to heed.

Livni confessed Israel had “met its war aims” and was “ready to enter peace talks”, hoping Hamas understood Israel”s “deterrent capacity”. (we would think not). She continued: “We did that a few days ago, in my opinion. It has to be put to the test. If Hamas shoots, we’ll have to continue. And if it shoots later on, we’ll have to embark on another campaign.” Israel refuses to confer any legitimacy to Hamas, despite being democratically elected in last year’s elections; Hamas has firmly embedded the idea of Israel’s destruction into its party line. Both parties’ reluctancy to come to terms with violence made Egypt cautious in its approach, and while Israel and Hamas never met officially, Cairo brokered the talks in shuttle diplomacy. Rice stayed silent on the precise time and date of the ceasefire, but promised everything was being to done to put this conflict to an end.

A funeral for a senior Hamas official, Interior Minister Said Siam, who was killed Thursday by an Israeli attack, turned into a mass rally in Gaza City.

Not really the end – more like an extremely bitter and bloody beginning.

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