The Egyptian Cease Fire Proposal-what happened?
The Egyptian call for a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel was accepted by Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of Israel, who imposed a unilateral six-hour halt to Israel’s air attacks on Gaza. The cease-fire proposal was ridiculed in rejection by Hamas, who then proceeded to launch dozens of more rockets into Israel to punctuate their refusal. In their rejection, they made a list of demands that Israel must agree to before any cease fire could be discussed. Included was an end to the naval blockade of Gaza by Israel. In light of their naval and air interception of quantities of weapons from Iran to Hamas, both before and after the blockade went into effect, this seems very unlikely to be accepted by Israel. Hamas also demanded Israel get out of the “territory of Palestinians,” which in Hamas terms means not only the West Bank territories Jordan lost to Israel in the 1967 Six-day War, but, the very territory that makes up the State of Israel itself. In short, Hamas didn’t want a cease fire at this time. To many, this seems incomprehensible. Few of Hamas’ rockets landed in Israel, due to the “iron dome” missile defense system of Israel. On the other hand, Hamas has suffered big losses from the Israeli air attacks. With the many houses destroyed, it, reportedly, has made many of the ordinary Gaza residents wondering what Hamas has gained by their nightly rocket attacks on Israel. In fact, Hamas had escalated those attacks recently by targeting the population centers of Tel Aviv and Be’ersheva. Others, remembering Hamas’ acceptance of Egyptian brokering of a cease-fire in 2008 and 2012 were surprised at their speedy rejection of Egyptian diplomacy this time. Perhaps the answer lay in the Egyptian government’s harsh treatment of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ parent organization. In the 2012 situation, the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamad Morsi was the one making the proposal.
Part of the attempt by Hamas is to somehow score a “victory” over Israel, by which they mean to cause some notable damage to Israel. It appears that they are hoping for this before agreeing to a cease-fire. Perhaps this might be some suicide bombings or one or more of their rockets to get through Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense. BBC reports that thirteen Hmas militants attempted to reach an Iraeli settlement through a tunnel but were thwarted by Israeli IDF. Some major hit on Israel is important to Hamas because of the elections in all of the Palestinian territories that are presumed to happen sometime in the next year. These elections, by the way, are likely to determine the fate of the Two State negotiations, that have been on hold for some time. A Hamas victory would surely doom the prospects for the Two State solution, at least for the foreseeable future. But a defeated Hamas, would be expected to weaken Hamas’ standing among Palestinians in advance of the election.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Kerry has indicated that he would consider resuming his personal involvement diplomatically. But his lack of urgency in going personally to the Middle East before the Egyptians had their turn at bat, suggests that he would prefer Egypt (or possibly Saudi Arabia) to take the lead in making cease-fire proposals. It might also indicate that the United States, who has labeled Hamas a “terrorist organization,” also has the upcoming Palestinian elections in mind and wouldn’t hold Israel back from accomplishing more of their targeted attacks on Hamas assets before a cease-fire. Weakening Hamas at the polls, I suspect, wouldn’t sadden Kerry and the United States policy-makers. Not to be forgotton are those thirty thousand Israeli reservists and regular military that are poised on the Gazan border. Rejecting a cease fire would surely increase the likelihood of ground forces entering, at least, northern Gaza, where many of the tunnels, dug by Hamas in order to be used for incursions into Israel, are located. Hamas is playing with fire by rejecting a cease fire.