Yesterday, Egypt floated a proposal for a cease-fire in Gaza as a first step to negotiating a longer-term truce and some normalization between Gaza and Israel. Israel accepted the terms and unilaterally adopted the cease-fire. Hamas … not so much:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday threatened to escalate Israel’s operations in Gaza after Hamas balked at an Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire, saying it had not been consulted on its terms.
The threat came after Israel’s security cabinet voted to accept an initiative from Egypt’s military-backed government that had been announced Monday evening.
A senior Hamas official, Sami Abu Zuhri, called the proposal “unacceptable” and said Egypt is not a fair mediator because the government there is deeply hostile toward the militant Palestinian Islamist group.
That’s probably true, but Hamas doesn’t have much choice. After the military coup removed the Muslim Brotherhood government and barred Hamas’ parent organization, Egypt’s not in the mood to take their side. The Palestinian cause is likely not a top concern now for Egyptians, but then again neither is Israel. Gaza sits between two powerful militaries, and eventually the Gazans will have to pick one of them with which to align. Hamas’ rejection is yet another example of the maximalist, dead-end policies that have led the Palestinians into ruin for the past seven decades.
They’d better not expect the US to offer a restraining hand this time around, either:
New: Secretary of State John Kerry condemns Hamas rocket fire in the face of a "good faith ceasefire plan by Egypt." – @AliABCNews
— ABC News (@ABC) July 15, 2014
Israel ceased offensive operations for a few hours, but after dozens of rockets flew out of Gaza into Israel — one landing on a house in Ashdod, a frequent target — the unilateral cease-fire will be over soon:
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, even with the development, Israel wasn’t letting its guard down.
“If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease — and that appears to be the case — we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation and protect our people,” Netanyahu said three hours after the cease-fire began.
“Our goal was and remains putting an end to rocket fire from Gaza on our cities, and providing the citizens of Israel with the sustained peace and quiet to which they are entitled.”
Five hours into the cease-fire, Israel had not carried out a single airstrike in Gaza, Netanyahu spokesman Mark Regev told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. During that same period, 40 rockets had been fired into Israel from Gaza, he said.
Palestinian security forces had reported an Israeli airstrike over some farmland, but Regev denied that any such airstrikes happened.
The bottom line, he said, is that the rocket attacks have to stop. The current situation — with Israel showing restraint while rockets continue to be fired from Gaza — “is just unsustainable,” he said.
The bottom line is that Hamas is now in a worse position than ever. Jeff Dunetz is correct in stating that the Egyptian proposal was a retreat and victory for Israel, but refusing it makes their situation even worse. Their partners are too busy fighting ISIS to bother with Hamas’ war of choice, and their refusal to try a cease-fire in a war they started means that the Israelis will have plenty of political room for a ground invasion in Gaza, if they really want to conduct one. It’s sheer idiocy not to have at least given the Egyptian proposal a try, even if Hamas torpedoed it later. No one really expects them to keep their word anyway, so what did they have to lose?
For a peek at what it looks like to really drink the Kool-Aid, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer interviewed a Hamas spokesman who may have the most fact-checkable responses ever. He gripes about not getting a state in 1998 while discussing the “occupation,” by which he means all of Israel, since Israel gave up Gaza nearly a decade ago. Hamas isn’t interesting in the Egyptian cease-fire, he says, because “it’s a joke … a silly idea” that they only heard about through the media. On which, it should be noted, he was talking at the time and making his demands.
Update: As predicted, the IDF went back on offense after Rocket #47:
Hamas has fired 47 rockets since we suspended our strikes in Gaza at 9 am. As a result, we have resumed our operation against Hamas.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) July 15, 2014
Either Israel needs to crush Hamas, or the Gazans do. The latter would be better for everyone in the long run.