Israel and Hamas have agreed to an unconditional cease fire of 72 hours. This cease fire is more likely to hold than previous ones because fighting had already decreased on its own. But we’ll see.
The agreement was negotiated between Egypt and Hamas representatives in Cairo. Israel did not participate in the talks but accepted the cease fire.
It’s instructive to recall that Israel and Egypt had come up with a similar cease fire proposal before Israeli troops entered Gaza. Hamas rejected the cease fire, complaining that it had not been a party to the negotiations.
In reality, as Israel’s acceptance of the latest cease fire reminds us, one doesn’t need to be a party to talks about an unconditional cease fire. With such a cease fire, by definition, there are no substantive conditions to negotiate. One either agrees to stop fighting, as Israel has just done, or one refuses to stop fighting, as Hamas did.
Hamas didn’t reject the pre-invasion cease fire because it wasn’t party to the negotiations; it rejected the cease fire because it wanted a war. Why? In order to get a deal that would reduce its isolation and improve its prospects for attacking Israel in the future.
For this reason, it’s imperative that Israel not agree to a new deal with Hamas. Otherwise, Hamas will have improved its situation as a result of the terrorism directed at Israel, namely the kidnapping-murders and the rocket attacks.
Hamas says it is now ready to begin indirect negotiations in Cairo of the terms for a lasting truce. Of course it is; that was the objective of the war from Hamas’ perspective.
Israel should not take the bait, no matter how much pressure the U.S. applies. The fighting seems almost to have run its course. It will subside with or without a formal truce.
What, then, would Israel gain from an agreement? Hamas’ promise to behave would be worthless. Hamas cannot be trusted to abide by its promises and the U.N. cannot be entrusted to hold Hamas to them.
Thus, an agreement would provide tangible benefits for Hamas in exchange for empty promises. It would, as I said, be the vehicle through which Hamas achieves its objective in going to war. In other words, it would be the vehicle through which Hamas wins.