Window of Opportunity Closing in Gaza

I’m not sure how much weight I give the Larijani and Hamas comments on the UN resolution, and to a lesser extent the ceasefire proposal, that Petra referenced earlier. It’s been pointed out elsewhere that the Damascus-based, Meshaal-led wing of Hamas is more militant than the Haniyeh-led wing on the ground (read: in harm’s way) in Gaza, and the latter has signalled more of a willingness to reach a tacit modus vivendi with Israel. Plus, at this point, what matters is what’s being said at the negotiating table in Cairo, and if the proposal was really a non-starter, the Hamas delegation wouldn’t have shown up.

On the other hand, as Petra also pointed out, it looks like some sticking pointsregarding how to secure the Gaza border crossings into Egypt havejeopardized the French-Egyptian ceasefire proposal. That’s, of course, a pretty significant sticking point.

But the more I consider the various permutations, the more it seems like the military operation as it now stands is the most promising window of opportunity for a ceasefire as either side is going to get. Any further, by which I mean Israel expanding its operation to enter the cities of Gaza, and the logic of war dictates that the fight has to go on to the bitter end. Israel can not afford to retreat under fire, and Hamas can not afford to let an Israeli penetration into its urban strongholds go unpunished. In other words, this is the point of no return beyond which both sides must commit to a total, if asymmetric, war, with all the wild card scenarios that presents.

Interesting to note, too, that Egypt has summoned a Turkish delegation to the negotiations, to be headed by Ahmet Davutoglu, which regular readers of the blog will recognize as the architect of Turkey’s “zero problems” policy and one of my most admired foreign policy figures. Hopefully, the domestic tension between the civilian and military leadership in Ankara over yesterday’s arrest of 37 retired generals in the Ergenekon conspiracy case won’t undermine Turkey’s ability to play a forceful role in pushing the deal through. Because if this opportunity is missed, I’m not sure when I’ll next feel as optimistic as I did this morning about a resolution to this crisis being found.

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