The silence is defening. A couple of days without mortars or missiles landing on Israeli towns. Palestinians security forces have been posted along the borders of Gaza, and may be doing what we hope. Israeli officials express guarded optimism. The American State Department is sending its Middle East envoy to see if it's possible to move forward.
But the optimism is guarded. We are still in the midst of a Muslim holiday that goes on for several days of feasting and gift-giving. It celebrates the almost sacrifice of Ishmael by Abraham at Mecca. Millions of Muslims are slaughtering millions of sheep to commemorate the story in the Koran. They are visiting relatives, and gorging like Jews and Christians on their principal festivals.
Sixty-four percent of almost 13,000 people answering a www.walla.co.il poll about the posting of Palestinian security forces said that it does not change anything, or that it will increase terror. Thirty-six percent feel that it will prevent the missiles.
What happens when all the fighters finish with their meals? And what about the gangs linked to Hizbollah? Mahmoud Abbas is pursuing a deal with Hamas, but the Hizbollah groups are something else. Will the Syrians and the Iranians allow the Palestinians to get on with the Israelis, or will they seek to kill that prospect before it is born? An explosion in Israel, and an Israeli retaliation, can push all the gangs back to the point where each has to demonstrate that it is more committed than the others to the rights of Palestine.
Then there is Abbas' shopping list. It is a long one. Before he can assure a cease fire, he must have the release of prisoners, the stopping of Israeli incursions into Palestinian territory (including overflights by pilotless plans), the stopping of construction on the barrier, as well as beginning of final status talks about a Palestinian state and the rights of refugees.
How much of this is blather for the sake of his standing in Palestine, and how much of this is serious? Abbas was a hard-line advisor to Arafat at Camp David. Now we will see if he knows how to bargain. My guess is that the Israeli government will give a lot for peace, but not as much and certainly not as quickly as Abbas is saying that he wants. The Israeli right is reminding us that the Oslo accords were a Trojan horse for the arming of Palestinian terrorists. The Israeli center is listening, and will demand more by way of Palestinians than it did a decade ago.