Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr has announced a ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas. It's good news that the fighting will stop. But aside from the immediate cessation of hostilities there's little to cheer about. Here are three reasons why in the absence of considerable outside intervention, it's only a matter of time until war breaks out again. A comprehensive peace agreement is not in sight: Peace in the former Palestine rests not only on a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, but on a comprehensive agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
When the media reported last week that President Obama had turned down a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu—which was followed, according to the New York Times, by a reverse-snub when Bibi insisted that he hadn’t also been denied a meeting in Washington, because he never even wanted one in the first place—it was only the latest uncomfortable chapter in the two leaders’ cringing pseudo-courtship. For four years, their encounters have been playing out with all the grace of a star-crossed, seventh-grade romance.
It’s no secret that Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist faction that controls Gaza, has long considered exchanging its underground smuggling tunnels to Egypt for a policy of above-board trade. What has only recently begun to register is that Hamas may be contemplating a bolder political gambit still: Cutting its financial ties to both Israel and the Palestinian Authority government in the West Bank, in preparations for declaring full independence on behalf of Gaza. Al-Hayat first reported the story on July 22.
All it had to be was one more slip-up; one more gaffe with which Mitt Romney could have further flooded the gaffe market, further devaluing all the others. That would be the logical plan, and it seemed to be the one his campaign was following after it was reported that Romney had attributed the massive difference between Israelis’ and Palestinians’ per capita GDP to “culture” (and “the hand of providence”) while speaking to Jewish donors in Jerusalem Monday morning.
If you were to pinpoint one moment when it looked as if things just might work out for Salam Fayyad, the Palestinian prime minister, it would probably be February 2, 2010. That day, Fayyad addressed the annual Herzliya Conference, a sort of Israeli version of Davos featuring high-powered policymakers and intellectuals. It is not a typical speaking venue for Palestinians; yet Fayyad was warmly received.
Over the weekend I had the privilege of sitting in on the 8th annual Saban Forum, a high-level, Brookings-sponsored dialogue between Israeli and American officials (current and former) along with journalists, intellectuals, and representatives from other countries in the Middle East.
For over a quarter of a century Prime Minister Netanyahu had promised, boldly and unequivocally, both in writing and in speech, that he would never make any concessions to terrorists. Now, in one fell swoop, with the negotiated release of Gilad Shalit, all that is gone. The Prime Minister himself cast it as a momentous choice, an instance of decisive and historic leadership. But the reason Netanyahu that gave for his decision, namely that "circumstances had changed", betrays considerably more anxiety.