By William Tucker
Conflicting media reports have made claims throughout the day that a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas is imminent. Furthering these claims is word from Egyptian authorities, including president Morsi, that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) have agreed to a ceasefire framework and that Israel is likely to follow suit. Thus far the Israelis have dismissed that claim as premature, however. Hamas and Israel both want an end to current hostilities, and yet finding a palatable framework for a short term cessation of hostilities is a difficult premise. Naturally, Israel wants an end to the rocket fire that emanates out of Gaza, while Hamas wants an end to the Israeli policy of targeted killings and some freedom of movement. Israel may end its targeted killing of Hamas commanders, but for a lifting of the blockade Israel would need some reassurance that Hamas wouldn’t rearm with longer range missiles. For its part, Hamas, along with PIJ, may agree to end the rocket fire; however that agreement would only apply to these groups. Other militant groups in Gaza such as Jaish al-Islam, Jund Ansar Allah, al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, and Ansar al-Sunna may not have an incentive to cooperate and may, in fact, seek to prolong the conflict.
As I stated here yesterday, the Palestinian people are not politically united, thus making any sort of political agreement difficult in the best of times. The proliferation of militant groups in Gaza has only served to complicate the situation. Furthermore, the ability of nation-states such as Turkey and Egypt to have a hand in mediating the crisis is compounded by the reality that both nations only mediate to further their respective interests. As if that wasn’t enough, other regional players, such as Iran, supply weapons and money to Gaza militants as a way to further their interests, too. Essentially, the political picture among the interested parties in the Israeli-Hamas, or the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict for that matter is overly complicated. Israel may agree to a temporary ceasefire in the near future, and may even tolerate sporadic rocket fire from Gaza, but the negotiations are far reaching and will likely take time. Hamas and PIJ, on the other hand, will likewise agree, but the duration of the ceasefire, and the trigger points for renewed conflict, such as Israeli and Egyptian stalling on lifting the blockade, may seem ambiguous. That’s if the blockade is even considered in this round of negotiations. All told, however, the wider negotiations between the Israeli and the different Palestinian political entities is quite convoluted and in need of simplification. For now, a ceasefire is a likely outcome in the short term, but that doesn’t mean the conflict is over.