Ramallah seems to be in the midst of a celebration with the announcement that a ceasefire agreement had been reached. People slowly gathered, ostensibly to celebrate the announcement. What started out as a small gathering in al-Manara grew as the night wore on. The crowd grew, bringing the city’s streets to a standstill; traffic was no longer able to pass through al-Manara unimpeded. Those who dared to attempt such a move were quickly scuttled in their efforts and made to wait as crowds moved past them. Men, women, children, old and young and families were all gathering. There were fireworks, lollies, a man selling coffee, music and dancing; all the ingredients necessary to make for an entertaining summer evening in Ramallah.
Raffaele Piccolo. All rights reserved.But were they really gathered to celebrate? Is the ceasefire agreement a victory, deserving of celebration?
The agreement provides for a long term ceasefire, the restoration of the six nautical mile fishing zone off the coast of Gaza and the reopening of the border crossings into Gaza to allow aid and other goods necessary for reconstruction efforts to begin. Future talks are also scheduled to take place to consider issues that were not included within the agreement; an airport in Gaza, a Gaza seaport, prisoner releases, disarmament and access to aid.
Early analysis of the ceasefire agreement ensures,however, that neither side can really claim victory. The agreement more or less returned the situation to the status quo that was established following the end of the siege of Gaza in 2012. However the exact terms of the recent ceasefire do not matter, they were not the main topic of discussion during the evening in Ramallah.
Whilst some had undoubtedly gathered to celebrate a cessation of punishing hostilities that had lasted some 50 days, leaving over 2000 people dead, many thousands displaced and the population emotionally and physically exhausted, this was not the raison d’être for the gathering.
The event, for all its celebratory trappings, was in reality the first of a series of events that will be held to act as a rallying point, organising supporters in the lead up to the Palestinian elections scheduled to take place later in the year.
Amongst the sporadic singing, dancing and celebration party officials took to the stage, made speeches and rallied the crowd to participate. The crowd was littered with party paraphernalia. The distinctive green, yellow and red flags of the respective Palestinian parties; Hamas, Fatah and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine were all prominent throughout the evening. Posters of martyrs (those who had been killed or imprisoned during the last 50 days of fighting) were also held high above the heads of the crowd.
Despite the representation of various Palestinian parties amongst the crowd that gathered at al-Manara, no inter-party scuffles arose. The crowd, Palestinian society (in Ramallah at least), seemed united. However in the lead up to the elections this goodwill amongst the parties will no doubt become strained. Each will raise events such as conflict in Gaza and the ceasefire agreement as a rallying call, as they did this evening in Ramallah. Regardless of the actual pain and suffering endured throughout the conflict or the terms of the ceasefire agreement these events will be held out by rival parties as proof positive of their specific strength and steadfastness. At the same time each will down play the role of the other (rival) party.
So while many (the international community included) will breath a sigh of relief at the cessation of the hostilities that have plagued Gaza for the last 50 days - another battle has just begun. This battle will be much more peaceful that the one that ravaged Gaza, however it will again involve politicking that at its core may determine the future and livelihoods of a population that has already endured so much pain and suffering.
Whilst this may be a time of celebration for some and a rallying call for others, for many more it is simply a welcome moment of respite from a battle that has ravaged their lives for years. Efforts should now be concentrated on trying to ensure that the agreement is upheld and adn its aims expanded. Whilst celebration and politicking is an understandable phenomenon in any society, they cannot be allowed to detract from the greater (Palestinian) objective.