Israel-Hamas Cease Fire Negotiations
The military commander of Hamas, Mohammad Deif, rejected yet another push for a cease-fire. In an audio recording sent to various media, Deif added that his forces were “eager for death.”
Don’t think of this as the final word. The damage to Hamas and large portions of Gaza pose a reality that would be difficult even for the most militant of Hamas’s leaders to ignore. Don’t forget that bluster and attempts at deception are commonplace with Hamas.
To be sure, Hamas would still like to “achieve” some extremely damaging blow on Israel. But with Israel’s missile defense system, known as “The Iron Dome,” operating so efficiently, and so many of the tunnels dug by Hamas destroyed by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), Hamas’ ability to inflict damage on Israel seems limited to suicide bombers, and Israel is very much on the alert for those. Often there is no defense for an explosive laden automobile, bent on a suicide mission, but Israel has minimized those opportunities through both intelligence and being extremely careful.
Therefore, I would conclude that some type of cease fire cannot be far off. What form could such an agreement take? Hamas, no doubt, will ask for a release of prisoners. There was an unconfirmed report last week of an Israeli soldier having been captured. If true, this would certainly give Hamas some bargaining capability—no doubt at the usual rate of exchange; many, many to one.
Hamas has also “demanded” that Israel cease it’s military blockade of Gaza. Perhaps Israel might increase the number and types of “humanitarian” cargo they let through. This usually means any cargo that isn’t unmistakably military. But, Israel could make some concessions here, though certainly not anything that can be used militarily. Israel has taken pains to point out that some materials, such as concrete, allowed through in the past, found their way into building tunnels for sabotage into Israel. So I wouldn’t expect Israel to indiscriminately loosen the list of contraband items.
Another demanded by Hmas is the opening of closed crossing points. Some of those include access to Egypt and it seems unlikely that the current government of al-Sisi, in the midst of its own harsh crackdown on The Muslim Brotherhood would allow this, given the ties between The Brotherhood and Hamas.
Ideally, Secretary of State, John Kerry, would like for a cease fire agreement to contain some piggybacking into wider peace talks between the Palestinian government and Israel. The realization of such would have to wait upon the upcoming elections in the Occupied part of the West Bank, also known as The State of Palestine. These elections have been postponed time and again, but it now may an advantageous time for President Mahmoud Abbas to call for them while the wreckage of Gaza is still fresh in everyone’s mind.