Peace negotiators called home in light of cease-fire violation–but not likely to end the talks
In the hours before the ceasefire was to have expired, rockets were once again seen heading into Israel. This attack was much fewer in number than occurred daily during pre-cease fire hostilities.
Three were targeted at Be’er Sheva but reportedly landed in open fields. One hit Tel Aviv, but did no damage, while two were intercepted over Netivot, BBC reports. Targeting Tel Aviv, one might recall, was one of the major escalations that led to the current crisis. Yet the small number of rockets sent this time indicates that it was not a signal of all-out renewal of hostilities. As of today Israel reported 137 rockets fired into Israel, and 92 targeted air strikes in retaliation, including some aimed specifically at Hamas military leader Mohammed Deif.
Israel did call their negotiators back from the peace talks in Cairo, but I would be surprised if this marks the end of negotiations. Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesman, said that “The Cairo talks were based on an agreed premise of a total cessation of hostilities,” Meanwhile, “Palestinian negotiator Azaam Al-Ahmad accused Israel of trying to force its position.” Westerners unused to the ploy of walking away from a negotiation, whether in a souk bargaining for a blouse, or in high stakes negotiations such as these, will become alarmed at the apparent breakdown of the peace talks. I can assure you that this is commonplace in the Middle-East.
For the moment, Israel has most of the cards in these negotiations. Hamas brought much destruction down on Gaza for no apparent gain. Now they are negotiating for face, no mean thing with Palestinian elections on the horizon.
It appears that Hamas wants Israel to end the blockade of Gaza without agreeing to lay down its arms. Since it is difficult to imagine Israel going along with this, some difficult negotiations remain. Yet it is in the interest of both Hamas and Israel to have the hostilities end, at least for now, so I fully expect them to resume the peace talks soon. They are at an impasse, but not an impossible one. Until we see hundreds of rockets coming into Israel on a daily basis, for some duration, look for efforts to find a way out of the impasse, and Israel’s responses to provocations to be measured.