The Truce That Was Never Reached

Filasteen, Gaza, September 8

Only two weeks ago it seemed as if Hamas and Israel were on the brink of a groundbreaking ceasefire agreement that would restore stability to the region and enable the much-needed rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip. Yet something changed since then. The airlift of international mediators and messengers flying between Tel Aviv and Cairo to oversee the negotiations quickly wound down, reaching a complete standstill in recent days. Now, prospects of a ceasefire between the two sides seem almost impossible. Each one of the parties partaking in these talks shares some degree of responsibility for this stalemate. Egypt, which hosted the delegations, is highly wary of strengthening Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority (PA), and it therefore is in no rush to sign a deal. While it seeks to advance its own security interests, Gaza does not pose an immediate threat to Egyptian forces in the Sinai Peninsula. The United Nations, meanwhile, is trying to remain a neutral player in these talks. Without the ability to take a side or call for a certain position, the UN remains highly limited in its ability to pressure Hamas or Israel to accept an agreement. The organization’s envoy to the region has thus served as a mere courier relaying messages between Hamas and Israel. Qatar, whose name has also come up during the talks, views itself as the mere financer of the deal; not one of its chief stakeholders. According to several accounts, Doha agreed to fund a new electrical power plant in the Gaza Strip, but when the PA rejected this proposal, it simply relinquished its efforts and left the talks. Finally, Israel is trying to buy time. With the summer vacation over and Israeli children back at school, the Israeli government is facing less pressure to confront tensions on the Gaza border. From a pubic relations standpoint, the Israeli government has more to achieve by stalling and getting Hamas on its knees, than by accepting a truce with Hamas as an equal partner. For all of these reasons, the talks seem to go nowhere. Gaza remains in desperate need of help, with little hope in sight. – Jibril Abu Amar

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