Critical Juncture: Israeli Security Cabinet Mulls Hamas Ceasefire Deal

Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu convened his security cabinet for several hours Sunday to discuss a possible United Nations- and Egyptian-brokered ceasefire deal with Hamas. Local media reported that the meeting ended without any conclusive decisions and without a vote on any proposal. One of the main sticking points appears to be Hamas’ refusal to return to Israel two civilian captives and the remains of two soldiers killed during the 2014 war. According to sources, Gaza’s rulers are demanding that Jerusalem free terrorists re-incarcerated following their release in the 2011 Gilad Shalit prisoner-exchange deal as part of any potential swap, which is a political hot potato for Prime Minister Netanyahu given widespread public opposition to such a move. During the security cabinet meeting ministers reportedly criticized “the blunt approach and almost unbearable pressure” being placed on the government by the relatives of the hostages and deceased soldiers, and accused them of pushing the country towards conflict. Notably, the families of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, the two Israelis killed in action in Gaza, earlier Sunday slammed the premier for failing to condition any truce deal on the return of the soldiers’ remains. Increasingly, the sides appear  too far apart to reach a comprehensive long-term agreement, an effort further complicated by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ unwillingness to re-assume administrative control over Gaza so long as Hamas rejects calls for its disarmament. In fact, the latest leaks suggest that the Israeli security cabinet has already moved on to considering what is referred to by the defense establishment as a “forced agreement,” entailing Hamas’ temporary cessation of all attacks in return for the easing of restrictions on the flow of goods and humanitarian aid into the Palestinian enclave. Similarly, there have been reports that Hamas is leaning towards a “staggered” deal, a gradual truce beginning with a full end of hostilities in exchange for economic benefits, effectively biding time for all parties to contemplate next moves.

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