Will They Cease The Fire?

Keating thinks the 72-hour truce that went into effect in Gaza yesterday morning may actually hold:

While it never pays to be too optimistic in this part of the world, there’s reason to believe this time could be different. Last week I wrote that any internationally negotiated cease-fire agreement would be irrelevant until Israel decided its military goals had been achieved. As Reuters reports, that seems to have happened: Israeli armour and infantry withdrew from the Gaza Strip ahead of the truce, with a military spokesman saying their main goal of destroying cross-border infiltration tunnels had been completed. “Mission accomplished,” the military tweeted.

Signs point to Hamas also concluding that there’s nothing more to gain from fighting. Rocket fire into Israel had substantially diminished in the days leading up to the truce and, as the New York Times points out, the group has now agreed to an Egyptian-backed truce that is similar to “one that they had rejected earlier in the conflict.”

So both sides get their very own Pyrrhic victory. It’s win-win – over the corpses of 300 children. Beauchamp also gets the sense that both parties are ready to stop fighting:

Israel was very up-front about the primary goal of its ground offensive: destroy Hamas tunnels into Israel. It’s very close to having accomplished that:

Israel says that it has destroyed the tunnel network, presumably meaning all of the tunnels. Indeed, Israel is so confident that it’s telling evacuated Israelis who live in the south near Gaza to return to their homes because the tunnel threat has been “neutralized.” From Israel’s perspective, that’s a big win. … Moreover, Hamas may be in a position to win some partial concessions from Egypt during the Cairo ceasefire negotiations. According to Hussein Ibish, a senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine, Hamas is “hoping to get Rafah [the border crossing between Gaza and Egypt] open, and they’re hoping to get the Egyptians to allow the transfer of Qatari and other money, which the Egyptians have been blocking.” Getting a lifeline out of Gaza that Israel doesn’t control would be a big deal for Hamas, as it would allow them to at least somewhat circumvent the Israeli blockade, no matter how much Israel tightens it. But why is Hamas ready to negotiate for these concessions now? It seems, quite simply, that Hamas has likely determined it has nothing more to gain from the conflict.

Mitchell Plitnick assesses what both sides have gained and lost … mostly lost:

The tunnels are very frightening to Israelis and Israel appears to have eliminated them. But there are two big problems with this narrative. Firstly, destroying the tunnels was the main focus of the ground operation, but Egypt managed to destroy hundreds of them without a military attack; they simply flooded them from the Egyptian side. The second problem is that, while Israeli fears about the tunnels are understandble, it’s worth noting that Israel has known about them for quite a while and Hamas hadn’t used them until this round of fighting began.

So what, really, did Israel achieve? It caused Hamas to use about two-thirds of its rockets, but those can be replenished, and at the point of the ceasefire, Hamas and other factions were still firing at will. Israel destroyed Hamas’ tunnels, but they had been there for years and were posing only a potential threat. Israel meanwhile failed to destroy the unity agreement, at least for now. These gains were bought by Israel at the price of Palestinian blood, and a higher domestic death toll than Israel is accustomed to (67, including three civilians). As much as it appears like Tel Aviv doesn’t care about that price, it is clear that Israel’s image took a major hit in this engagement.