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How to make a Hamas, Israel ceasefire in Gaza stick

Contrary to Hamas reports, Israel claims there is no ceasefire deal for the Gaza conflict. But US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is en route to Jerusalem, and an agreement appears to be in the making. Making it stick will require regional commitment.

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Both sides stand to gain from keeping a ceasefire. Israel can accept a deal, asserting that the operations conducted so far have weakened Hamas and its arsenal; while Hamas can go for a ceasefire by claiming it was able to “deter” Israel from entering Gaza. In other words, both parties have enough leeway to accept an end to this round of hostilities and still save face.

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To last, a ceasefire deal must include a follow-on agreement. Once Hamas ceases its attacks and actively prevents other groups from targeting Israel, there should be a broader political process – regionally-backed – to bring about a gradual "normalization" of Gaza.

Egypt – the main broker of any agreement – would open the border with Gaza, allowing the flow of people and goods. Under this framework, Hamas would also commit to work with Egypt on both tackling the smuggling tunnels and stopping Gaza-based Salafists from stirring trouble in Sinai. The US could also play a role by backing the Egyptian deal, increasing its assistance to Morsi (as requested), and pressuring Israel to refrain from further military operations in Gaza.

Qatar's role would be to increase its backing and financial assistance to Hamas in Gaza, bringing both additional funds as well as badly needed economic development projects.

At the same time, Israel cannot simply pass responsibility for Gaza to Cairo; and, as security permits, Israel will have to re-open its own crossings with Gaza to commerce. Ideally, too, Israel would use this opportunity to strengthen the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank as well.

Secretary Clinton’s trip to the region may help to finalize a deal and keep the conflict from escalating further. Both Israel and Hamas will be able to save face in this expected ceasefire agreement, if they are willing to accept gains for the other side: quiet for Israel and legitimacy for Hamas.

This regional approach would also provide more guarantees that the ceasefire is not just preparation for the next fight.

Benedetta Berti is a research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies, a lecturer at Tel Aviv University and the coauthor of “Hamas and Hezbollah: A Comparative Study.” Zack Gold is a Washington-based Middle East analyst focusing on US-Egyptian relations. Follow them on Twitter@benedettabertiw and @ZLGold.


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