This weekend marked the end of a 30-day ceasefire negotiated in late January by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas with all of the Palestinian armed factions. Israeli officials had made such a ceasefire a prerequisite of any meeting between Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Abbas managed to meet and exceed every precondition set up by Israel prior to the Sharm Al-Sheikh Summit on February 7th, but the Israeli government has failed in every way to live up to its end of the bargain.

Over the last thirty days, Palestinian groups have kept their pledge to Abbas to maintain a ceasefire, and have fired no shots toward Israeli military bases or soldiers. There have been no suicide bombings in Israel (indeed, there have been no such bombings this year at all, and two in 2004). But the Israeli military has continued to invade Palestinian areas on a daily basis, killing and wounding Palestinian civilians in an apparent attempt to instigate violence by Palestinian groups. Knowing the delicacy of the tenuous truce negotiated by Abbas with the Palestinian armed resistance groups, one would think that, in the interest of moving forward in a peace process, the Israeli government would be holding back on its violence toward Palestinians.

But instead, the Israeli army has killed 70 Palestinian civilians since the Palestinian elections on January 9th. They have injured at least 102 Palestinians, according to the Red Crescent Society. Since the newly-elected Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas negotiated a cease-fire with Palestinian groups, there have been no Israelis killed or injured by Palestinians. Why does the Israeli military continue its policy of violence against the civilian population of Palestine at a crucial time like this?? Each of the 70 people killed in the last month has a story….has a family who is mourning them, friends and relatives who are angered and dismayed at the Israeli army’s complete lack of respect for the Palestinian invitation to a ceasefire. The continued killings increase the animosity and resentment, especially given the fact that there has been no retaliation by Palestinian groups after any of these 70 deaths.

Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon placed a number of requirements on Mahmoud Abbas in order for Abbas to ‘prove’ that he was ‘worthy’ of being considered a ‘peace partner’. But no one is placing demands on Sharon , requiring him to order his forces to end their daily violence against Palestinian civilians. United Nations resolutions against Israel have fallen on deaf ears due to Israel ‘s US support. And the only measures Israel has agreed to, even in principle, are token measures, and voluntary, meant only as ‘public relations’ maneuvers to prove to the world that Israel is ‘committed to peace’.

-Israeli officials have pledged to remove Israeli settlers living in the Gaza Strip — a token gesture at best, considering that less than 8,000 settlers live in the Gaza Strip while nearly 200,000 reside in the Palestinian West Bank. But even the token gesture of removing settlers from Gaza is not being implemented — on the contrary, Palestinian homes are being destroyed in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, where two Palestinians were killed and two wounded on February 22.

-The Israeli government agreed to release several hundred Palestinian political prisoners, but this too, is a mere token gesture, considering that Israeli soldiers arrest several hundred Palestinians _every_ _month_, and will quickly replace those released with fresh detainees plucked from their homes in Palestine.

Since Israeli officials refuse to take seriously any of their obligations under the Geneva Conventions, signed by Israel in 1953, it seems that those in power in Israel are _not_ in fact interested in peace. While Palestinians are cautiously laying down guns and expressing willingness for a truce, the Israeli authorities are carrying out actions that appear to be meant to instigate and infuriate Palestinians, and incite them to violence. Killing 70 people in a month is not an accident — it is a continuation of a policy of violence against civilians in Palestine , and an indication that Israeli officials, despite their words and public statements, are clearly not interested in peace.