Just Another Ceasefire, Or Something More?

by Dish Staff

Another three-day ceasefire went into effect in Gaza at midnight last night and appears to be holding for now, as negotiations resume in Cairo:

A senior Israeli government official had said on Sunday Israeli negotiators, who had left Cairo on Friday hours before a previous three-day ceasefire expired, would return to Egypt to resume the talks only if the new truce held. Hamas is demanding an end to Israeli and Egyptian blockades of the Gaza Strip and the opening of a seaport in the enclave – a project Israel says should be dealt with only in any future talks on a permanent peace deal with the Palestinians.

Ed Morrissey likes former Shin Bet chief Yaakov Perry’s proposal to turn the Gaza ceasefire negotiations into regional talks on a permanent peace deal:

Israel has to find a way to push Hamas aside without opening up a vacuum that will allow a worse alternative to take its place. Voila: the Arab League. The neighboring Arab nations hate Hamas too, and would love to see it expelled or at least marginalized in the region. A comprehensive regional peace plan would lock Iran out of Palestinian politics entirely and allow for a greater focus on the threat coming from Tehran rather than the constant irritation of Palestinian uprisings. They’ll never get the “right of return,” but the Arabs could gain some other concessions, especially on the West Bank wall and some of the settlements in exchange for purging Hamas from Gaza and getting the Palestinian Authority to take over its governance.

At least, that’ll be the theory.

And even if the talks can’t pull off the improbable, at least the effort will be a little more productive than listening to Hamas demand that Israel commit national suicide by reopening the border crossings under Hamas leadership.

Gershon Baskin thinks this might actually work, if the Arab states and Israel play their parts:

If King Abdallah of Saudi Arabia would issue an invitation to Netanyahu, Abbas, President El-Sisi of Egypt, and King Abdullah of Jordan to come immediately to Riyadh with Gaza on the table, it could very easily lead to the acceptance of the Arab Peace Initiative.  The current war is a dead end; we need a brave initiative and a courageous Arab leader (and Israeli one) to get beyond the current lose-lose scenario in progress.

There is more Israel can do to move things in the right direction, without giving an inch to Hamas. Netanyahu’s government should reach out to the Palestinian population in Gaza with messages that move from the current language of threats to the language of promise and hope. Israel needs to articulate to Gazans what a peaceful Gaza could look like with an airport, economic development, and jobs. Gazans desperately want to hear concrete plans for how their basic needs for a normal life could be met, and Israeli officials should be the ones to tell them.

But Omar Robert Hamilton considers the trope that Hamas can’t be negotiated with preposterous:

Of course, a central tenet of Israeli spin is to always refer to “Hamas” and not  to “Palestinians” (Americans are sympathetic to Palestinians, but not to Hamas), to hit the word “terrorist” as often as possible and to stress that Hamas is “committed to the destruction of Israel.” It is never mentioned that in their 2006 election manifesto, Hamas dropped their call for the destruction of Israel and simply reaffirmed their right to armed resistance. Hamas is a political player that, like all others, is primarily interested in the acquisition of power and influence – they are very far removed from the theocratic death cult that Israel strains to see in its dark mirror. In 2006, as Hamas was engaging in the democratic process, it announced it would stop using suicide bombers. There has not been a bomb since. Israel claimed that the (still-incomplete) Wall was to thank. Again and again, Hamas have tried to play by the rules of the game as they are set by Israel, America and the International Community. Democracy is embraced and brings with it a siege. Israel’s existence is recognized but this goes unmentioned. Military resistance is halted and the siege deepens. Truces are agreed to and Israel violates them.

Whichever way this tentative new peace effort goes, Judis observes that the US isn’t leading it. That’s because, he asserts, it’s no longer in our interests to do so:

The pressure from surrounding Arab states to resolve the conflict has eased, particularly in the wake of the failure of the Arab Spring. Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq are preoccupied with their own internal problems. Egypt’s el-Sisi is more sympathetic to Netanyahu than to Hamas’s Khalid Mishal. The Saudis are still committed to their own initiative for resolving the conflict, but like el-Sisi, have no affection for Hamas. And the threat of terrorism in the regiontypified by Islamic State in Iraq and Syriais no longer so clearly tied to the continuation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So while the surrounding Arab states are always under public pressure to end Israeli attacks against Palestinians, Arab leaders have not displayed the same urgency.

The pressure that existed in 1975 or even 2005 doesn’t exist. As a result, Obama and Kerry do not feel the same urgency to act.