Egypt, The U.S. And The Gaza Ceasefire
There may or may not be a ceasefire coming soon to Gaza. If there is, the Wall Street Journal reports, it’ll emerge from Cairo:
Despite a flurry of other negotiating tracks, including talks pursued by Turkey, Cairo has become the hub of diplomacy over the Gaza war in the past few days. Egypt has served as a mediator between Israel and Hamas before, helping to broker the six-month ceasefire between the two sides, which ended last month. In the past, it has also tried to mediate between squabbling Palestinian factions, Hamas, and the U.S.-supported Fatah party.
Isn’t this a really positive development from Israel’s perspective?
The Egyptian government, if not its people, really hates Hamas. You would too, if you had to live next to this band of violent fanatics. Throughout the entire 12-day Gaza war, Egypt has kept its border crossing at Rafah shut, earning it the ire of Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah. For Egypt to broker a ceasefire will mean that an ally of Hamas’ rival Fatah will be in a lead role, absorbing the brunt of regional acrimony over seeming Arab intransigence against Israel, and also allowing Israel to elide the complicated issue of negotiating with Hamas. Perhaps that all means Hamas won’t bother with the Egyptian government this time, but there isn’t really evidence of that so far.
The United States is basically abdicating, much as it did at the dawn of the Bush administration — a time of dismissive petulance toward a deteriorating Israeli-Palestinian situation, and an era that Condoleezza Rice endlessly assured us was over when she became secretary of state in 2005. Her statement on a ceasefire wasn’t really objectionable per se — she wants something “durable,” as does everyone, in principle — but she talks about a ceasefire the way most people talk about a formal peace deal:
Another approach would be to get an immediate return to the status quo ante — Rice: “
But it would be in Israel’s interest to let Egypt’s Mubarak government try to sort out the Palestinian political equation on a ceasefire. Their interests are basically aligned here: both want to weaken Hamas, quiet Gaza and strengthen Fatah. And while Hezbollah hasn’t disturbed Israel’s northern border so far, it’s beginning to make more bellicose noises. If there really is no Israeli strategy at work, quitting while you’re ostensibly ahead isn’t the worst idea.