Over the course of the four-week-long conflict in the Gaza strip, Hamas, the governing authority in that territory, has rejected a variety of ceasefire proposals. Many of those were submitted by Arab negotiators, including Egypt and the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority. One ceasefire Hamas found favorable, submitted by United State Secretary of State John Kerry, was deemed so favorable to Hamas that Israel’s security cabinet rejected it unanimously.
On Thursday, a sign of hope emerged indicating that the conflict will soon come to a close. According to one unconfirmed report in the Arabic language Quds Press International News Agency, Hamas has consented to allow proxies to negotiate a long-term ceasefire agreement with Israel (translation of the text via Google):
Hamas and across the head of its political bureau, Khaled Meshaal, has given the green light to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate a long-term truce and discuss and amend the Egyptian initiative presented by President [Abdel Fattah] Sisi for both the Palestinian and Israeli sides, on the imposition of calm in the sector of the ceasefire by Israel and the resistance movements in the Gaza Strip.
There is plenty of reason to be skeptical of this latest report, the most glaring of which is the claim that Meshaal is amenable to a ceasefire negotiated by Egypt. While that Arab state enjoys a traditional role as a key negotiator in conflicts between Israel and the various Palestinian governing entities, Sisi has a cool relationship with Hamas.
As The New York Times reported Wednesday, the Arab states are leery of Hamas and view their rejection of a number of ceasefire proposals as irresponsible. The rejection of a ceasefire proposal submitted by Cairo, which The Times notes “met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group,” has sapped the region of much of its goodwill toward Hamas.
“King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to ‘the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible,’” The Times reported.
Egyptian officials have directly or implicitly blamed Hamas instead of Israel for Palestinian deaths in the fighting, even when, for example, United Nations schools have been hit by Israeli shells, something that occurred again on Wednesday.
Hamas is surely losing friends in the region, but they continue to be buoyed by the amount of support they have received in Western press outlets, on the streets of Europe, and in the United Nations. On Thursday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, accused both Hamas and Israel of crimes of war. That alone may lead Hamas to believe they can negotiate more favorable ceasefire terms down the road.
The Quds report is an interesting development, but there are many reasons to take it with a grain of salt. For now.