A Short-Lived Ceasefire

A ceasefire in the Gaza war, proposed by Egypt, failed to take hold this morning after Hamas rejected it:

Israel’s security cabinet agreed to the terms of the deal after meeting early on Tuesday. … Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also welcomed the terms Egypt had set forward. However, Hamas, which recently formed a temporary unity government with its rivals in Abbas’ more moderate Fatah political party, said that it wasn’t consulted in the drawing up of the terms of the ceasefire. In a statement on the website of its armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, Hamas said the Egyptian initiative was one of “bowing and submission” and “was not worth the ink it was written with.” With that statement lodged, rockets continued to fire from Gaza into Israel.

Hayes Brown interprets this development:

The rejection of the deal places a new burden on Hamas to maintain public support among Palestinians for its actions. Hamas’ approval ratings have jumped wildly since it first came to power in 2006, with an April poll from the Arab World for Research and Development showing that only 20 percent of Palestinians hold a positive view of the group’s governance efforts. In the face of international condemnation for rejecting a possible ceasefire, and the Israeli government sure to capitalize on its own willingness to hold fire, Hamas will have even further to go to reach what it sees as an acceptable outcome for an escalation it arguably didn’t want at this moment.

But Avi Issacharoff insinuates that the ceasefire was meant to be rejected:

Soon after the Egyptian proposal was published, one Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, announced “there will be no truce unless the demands of the military wing, and of the Palestinian people, are met.” Did that represent Hamas’s rejection of the proposal? That’s not clear — and won’t be until the spokesmen of the military wing, who are leading this conflict with Israel, have stated their position. But sources in the Strip told this reporter late Monday that the military wing has decided not even to discuss the Egyptian proposal. These sources said that Hamas is fuming over the process by which the Egyptian terms were brought to its attention — via the media.

Indeed, the leaking of the proposal to the Egyptian media, the fact that it ignores Hamas’s demands, and the further fact that it includes a nod to Israel via its similarities to the 2012 terms, must seem suspicious indeed to Hamas. Could it be that Jerusalem and Cairo hatched this move together, in order to corner Hamas?

And Mya Guarnieri stresses that a ceasefire means something very different for Israelis and for Gazans:

Israel is willing to return to the status quo, a status quo that serves Israeli interests. Sure there is occasional rocket fire from Gaza but Israel has the Iron Dome and, in the sparsely populated south of the country, the rockets usually fall in open spaces. The occasional rocket from Gaza actually helps Israeli hawks strengthen their case for continuing the “occupation” of the West Bank (an “occupation” that, in the wake of Netanyahu’s recent remarks, should be understood as a de facto annexation). The Israeli right points to the rockets from Gaza and says, “Look, we withdrew from Gaza in 2005 and all we got is rocket fire!”

Returning to the status quo also means that Israel strikes Gaza from time to time and kills Palestinian civilians there and in the West Bank without garnering much scrutiny from the international media and, by extension, the international community. Returning to the status quo would also mean an end to the immediate damage to Israel’s image caused by the horrific photos and footage coming out of Gaza, and global protests against what Israel calls “Operation Protective Edge.”

An outraged Ali Abunimah argues that as long as Israel maintains its crippling siege on the strip, it is Israel, not Hamas, that is rejecting an end to the violence:

Already, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “If Hamas rejects the ceasefire, we will have international legitimization to restore the needed quiet.” That is a euphemism to kill more people, on top of the almost 200 Israel has already killed, the vast majority of whom civilians, including dozens of children. This systematic targeting of civilians and civilian objects, in intense bombardments of Gaza has continued since 7 July. Media are likely to follow the Israeli spin instead of asking Israel why it is maintaining the collective punishment of 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza and why it constantly violates ceasefire agreements. But the fact remains: it is Israel that has rejected reasonable ceasefire conditions that have always been on the table.

But whether or not the Israeli spin is justifiable, it will probably work. Mkhaimar Abusada expects Hamas to do a deal eventually, if only to save face:

“Hamas feels that that if it agrees to this, it hasn’t achieved anything more that it achieved in 2012. They feel they’ve done much better in this round of fighting…and so we should get a much better deal in order to end the fighting,” says Abusada, who studies the Islamic movement. At the same time, he notes, the price that Hamas will pay for continuing to refuse a cease-fire is high: It will annoy the Egyptians, lose points with war-weary Gazans, and could eat away at the international sympathy that has built up for Gaza amid the horrifying footage of a death and destruction. “Hamas has not made its final decision, and is engaging in its own internal dialogue now,” Abusada adds. “My hunch is that Hamas is going to accept the cease-fire, eventually, because to say no to the Egyptians will cost them too much.”