Place your bets: Doubt as Israel, Hamas secure ceasefire

After 50 days of bloody conflict, and a death toll of at least 2,000 in Gaza and 70 in Israel, an Egypt-brokered indefinite truce that resembles other recent proposals has been secured. While dozens of tunnels leading from Gaza into Israel were destroyed, and while Hamas briefly halted flights to and from Israel’s Ben Gurion airport, it is difficult to assess whether either side has secured any major, long-term gains.

Hamas leaders’ rejection of previous similar proposals, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s quick transition from demanding the demilitarization of Gaza to accepting quiet for quiet, will likely be harshly criticized on both sides domestically.

Whether or not rockets are fired again at Israel - likely at the hands of fringe groups seeking to disrupt the agreement - and whether Hamas can convince its people that the last seven weeks of bloodshed resulted in any significant gains, remain to be seen.

The success or failure of this truce hinges on what happens in the immediate term and whether Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seize this critical moment

Brooklyn Middleton

As Egypt proposed two weeks ago - with scores of people killed and buildings destroyed since - Israel and Hamas will shelve their most important demands for at least a month. At that point, “indirect talks” will begin.

What this means for Hamas

For Hamas, this means holding off on discussing a seaport and airport for Gaza. For Israel, this likely means holding off on demanding the return of two soldiers killed in action, which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman previously vowed would dictate whether or not Israel would consider ceasefire talks.

Regarding the critical issue of the Rafah crossing, the ceasefire proposal released by Reuters indicates that “Egypt will agree to open its 14 km border with Gaza at Rafah.” While Cairo notably refrained from discussing Rafah in the previous leaked document, it seems unlikely that it will now open the crossing without major restrictions.

The document indicates that the Palestinian Authority, rather than Hamas, will now oversee Gaza’s borders. This is an important, potentially positive development, but given the fragile state of the embryonic Fatah-Hamas reconciliation deal, it is by no means certain that this transition will take place smoothly, if at all.

The last tenuous ceasefire agreement, brokered in Nov. 2012 by then-Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi, presented even more vague demands than this one, and could have essentially been summarized as “stop shooting now, talk later.” A breakdown could easily happen again if both sides halt attacks but fail to talk.

The success or failure of this truce hinges on what happens in the immediate term, and whether Israel and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas seize this critical moment and sit down for serious negotiations. As important is whether reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah remains intact.


Brooklyn Middleton is an American Political and Security Risk Analyst reporting from Israel. Her work has appeared in Turkish and Israeli publications including The Times of Israel and Hürriyet Daily News. She has previously written about U.S. President Obama's policy in Syria as well as the emerging geopolitical threats Israel faces as it pursues its energy interests in the Eastern Mediterranean. She is currently researching Ayatollah Khomeini’s influence on Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant groups to complete her MA in Middle Eastern Studies. You can follow her on Twitter here: @BklynMiddleton.

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:43 - GMT 06:43
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