Gaza truce suits all sides but is no guarantee of peace

Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby sits next to Hamas official Atallah Abu Sibah during their meeting in Gaza today. Photo: Reuters

So tonight there will be peace in Gaza?

Well, no.

A ceasefire, perhaps.

But the weapons remain in place. And the intent to kill has never gone away. One missile from Gaza, fired by a militant group happy to see Hamas hammered and the whole thing could collapse in a barrage of retaliatory Israeli fire. Israel's tanks remain, idling, on the border.

It's hard to know who was more delighted to announce the truce: Hamas, Israel or Egypt.

After a week of conflict, all three win.

Though that is no comfort to the 120 or so people killed; among them three generations of one Palestinian family, four Israelis and six Palestinians executed by militants on a busy Gaza junction for being "spies".

Millions of Israelis have been terrified by the sprint to the shelters and the falling rockets; millions of Palestinians have no such shelters to run to as Israel's more accurate, but no less deadly missiles land.

But the main groups can all claim a victory in Gaza, and withdraw.

Hamas, under pressure from other militant groups, can claim to be the first group to fire missiles at, and reach, Israel's two main cities.

Even Saddam Hussein didn't dare fire on the holy city of Jerusalem.

Israeli woman take cover as a siren warning of incoming rockets sounds in Jerusalem. Credit: Reuters

Israel didn't believe Hamas had rockets capable of reaching Tel Aviv. Hamas can boast, and it does, that it brought terror to millions of Israelis.

Many Palestinians - even those who despise Hamas - apparently feel Israel has been taught a lesson.

In the battle for power, money and sponsors in the Arab world, Hamas will hold its head up a little higher, as Hezbollah did years ago after its brief war with Israel.

As for Israel,it can say it has killed several top militant leaders. It has destroyed much of Hamas's rocket stocks, though many missiles remain.

For Israel deterrence is everything. It has taught the Palestinians, once again, that firing missiles into Israel will carry a price. This, though, will not deter the militants in the long run.

It has also tested its new missile defence system, Iron Dome.

It has intercepted most of the missiles likely to have caused large numbers of casualties in built-up areas. The rest, cleverly, it ignores. It is a huge success and more anti-missile batteries are being developed.

If Israel is thinking of attacking Iran next year, it has now battle tested its defence system, reduced much of the threat from its Southern flank and accustomed Israelis to the uncomfortable sacrifices of conflict.

Egypt's new President and the Muslim Brotherhood government have passed their first diplomatic test: brokering a ceasefire deal without losing the trust of Hamas or jeopardising the peace treaty with Israel.

And the losers? The man who is supposed to speak for all Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas, didn't set foot in Gaza.

He heads a Palestinian Authority which has no authority and less and less influence in Gaza; his Fatah faction remains an arch enemy of Hamas. Palestinians have been quoted for a week now expressing contempt for him.

So, a truce suits all sides.

We'll see if it holds.

But a truce is not peace. Not by a long way.

None of the above groups seem capable, even interested, in a long-lasting solution. The tanks and rockets may be back.

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