Daniel Levy has a pre-after action report on the political calculus behind what seems like an imminent ceasefire agreement in Gaza, and the political fallout that the Obama administration will be left to navigate. Assuming the ceasefire goes through, his analysis seems to track pretty closely with my own rambling reflections on the conflict over the past few weeks, which is reassuring considering how plugged in Levy is. He, too, argues that a significant push towards a real final status agreement is needed to mitigate the blowback from the war. In essence, the illogic of Israel’s operation is that from the minute an all-out push to destroy Hamas was ruled out as too costly, the only way out of the conflict was to provide its leadership with the kind of face-saving victory narrative that carries with it the very legitimacy that is anathema to the policy of excluding Hamas from the political process. The last week of operations has been as much about limiting the arc of that victory narrative as it was about getting in some final shots at the leadership, command and control infrastructure and smuggling routes.
Meanwhile, I’m curious to see the details on the Memorandum of Understanding that Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni flew to Washington to sign with Sec. of State Condoleezza Rice, because that will reflect to what extent the diplomatic architecture surrounding the conflict has been impacted. For the past week, one of the major sticking points was exactly how to secure the Egyptian border crossings so that they might be opened without allowing Hamas to rearm. The EU and Turkey had been mentioned as potential options for military observer missions, but Egypt had so far been objecting to allowing foreign operational deployments on its territory.
So whether the U.S. role is a direct one (what Levy characterized as “one final poison chalice that the Bushies are bequeathing to 44”), a support role in the form of technological assistance to Egyptian forces, or a support role for an EU/Turkish mission makes a big difference about the various mediators’ potential roles moving forward. Anything but the latter means that, for all their apparent effectiveness, France and Turkey will remain limited to a diplomatic involvement (read: communcation link), while being sidelined for the implementation phase of an agreement. That deprives them of the legitimacy as credible actors in the conflict that they were seeking. But of course, in dreams begin responsibilities, and the role they were hoping for might have been quickly regretted.