Well, this was worth busting in on vacation to mention: Israeli and Palestinian negotiators have agreed to an Egypt-brokered, open-ended ceasefire agreement. The terms reportedly include the easing of the blockade on Gaza, reduction of the buffer zone that Israel imposed inside Gaza’s borders, an extension of Gaza’s permitted fishing zone in the Mediterranean from 3 miles to (eventually) 12 miles, and immediate aid to rebuild Gaza. The rebuilding effort will be led by the PA, not Hamas, and the PA will also control Gaza’s border crossings, which seems a lot like the PA is taking over in Gaza again. The process of forming a Palestinian unity government will supposedly be restarted (this last bit comes from the PA, not Hamas, so it may reflect the PA’s wishes rather than reality).
Ofir Gendelman, the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman for the Arab world, said operations in Gaza were a victory for Israel. “Hamas gave in and accepted the same Egyptian proposal for a ceasefire it rejected until now. The reason for the change… airstrikes,” he said.
Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told Al Jazeera, if Hamas had accepted the July 15 ceasefire agreement “the bloodshed could have been avoided.”
Here’s the thing: Israel just made a whole bunch of concessions to Gaza that it was clearly not willing to make before Operation Protective Edge began, so the idea that this is an Israeli “victory” is, let’s say, debatable. It’s less “debatable,” and more “ridiculous lie,” for Israel to claim that Hamas has been the only side rejecting the Egyptian proposal all this time, given that Israel showed absolutely no inclination until now to agree to any of the terms in this deal. And the bit about the July 15 ceasefire offer is equally BS; if Israel had offered an easing of the blockade and enlargement of the fishing zone, and had not openly opposed the Palestinian unity government in the first place, then there likely wouldn’t have been a July 15 ceasefire offer because there wouldn’t have been any fighting in the first place. There’s always the fact that the tunnels were destroyed, I guess. That’s surely worth 500 or so deal Palestinian children.
Hamas also comes out of this deal losing. The tunnels are a loss, for one thing, but they’re also effectively ceding control of Gaza to the PA. On the other hand, maybe Hamas wanted out of governing anyway; they’re, shall we say, not very good at it (granted, Israel has essentially made it impossible to govern Gaza well), so maybe they figure they’ll be more popular out of power. The undisputed loser in all of this is obviously the Gazan populace, who have been thoroughly brutalized and still, even under the terms of this agreement, are living under a dehumanizing occupation.
The other concern here is that it’s just another temporary cessation in hostilities without hashing out any long term issues. Indirect talks are supposed to continue in Egypt over an airport and seaport for Gaza, prisoner releases, and other issues, but, observers don’t seem all that optimistic:
However, Daniel Levy, director of the Middle East North Africa program at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said the likelihood of further negotiations leading to sea and air ports was a dream.
“Indirect talks with the Egyptians aren’t going to lead anywhere,” said Levy, a former Israeli policy advisor.
“Neither side is going to achieve in indirect negotiations what it couldn’t achieve in military confrontation,” he added.
“The only way things could change is if a third party decided it was going to use more leverage and there’s been no indication of that.”
That “third party” would have to be the United States, which at this point is the only country that could lean on Israel hard enough to change the absurd imbalance of power between the Israelis and the Palestinians in these talks. It’s the imbalance that keeps any progress from being made; right now, the Palestinians have nothing to offer that Israel wants or needs, and they won’t agree to just capitulate to Israeli demands, so there’s really no path forward for talks. The US provides so much military and financial support to Israel that it could really affect their negotiating posture if it wanted to; heck, just the hint of US disapproval helped get Israel to agree to a number of modest but not insignificant concessions in this ceasefire. I have slim hopes that, once the midterms are over and Obama has a theoretically free hand, he’ll channel his personal dislike for Netanyahu into a more critical/objective position on Israel-Palestine, but I doubt it.