Can Israel end this war at a time of its choosing?
In its latest conflict with Gaza, Israel has fewer mediators in the region to help bring a ceasefire.
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“Here, politicians expect Erdogan and Morsi to put pressure on Hamas to hold fire,” he adds. “But they want achievement for Hamas, they want to break the siege, they want to end Israel’s targeted killings [of militants] and so on, so there is a limit to how much pressure they will put on Hamas.”Skip to next paragraph
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Reuters quoted Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Qandi today as saying a cease-fire may be imminent. "The negotiations continue, and I hope that soon we will reach something that will put a stop to the mutual violence," he was quoted as saying. "I think we are close, but this kind of negotiations is very difficult, and it is hard to make predictions. President Morsi is committed to fulfill his role as a major player in the area and help with the resolution."
Lack of exits?
It is clear Israel has adjusted its strategy since the last Gaza operation. Cast Lead, as it was called, left more than 1,000 Palestinians dead in just three weeks, bringing strong international condemnation on Israel – most notably in the Goldstone Report, which accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes.
This time around, Israel has been more careful – though some say not careful enough – to avoid civilian casualties. It also has deployed 25,000 volunteers to help with its public relations campaign to explain why no country can be expected to live with the missiles of an Iranian proxy group raining over three million of its citizens’ homes.
But some say it is repeating one mistake it made last time: not having clear goals for the operation beyond the initial 24-hour air strikes on Hamas’s long-range missile stockpiles.
“I am afraid that the Israelis did not have an exit door,” says political scientist Menachem Klein of Bar Ilan University. “The same thing happened in Cast Lead. Cast Lead ended not because Israel preplanned an exit door but because [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak, [Foreign Minister Tzipi] Livni, and [Prime Minister Ehud] Olmert could not agree on the targets of the operations and how to finish it.”
Prof. Klein says the cease-fire efforts this time around are unlikely to succeed if Israel doesn’t allow Hamas to walk away from the negotiations with something.
“I am afraid … that the Israeli ego will not allow an agreement in which Hamas can also say, ‘We achieved something.’ ”
If Hamas rejects Israel’s conditions as unacceptable, he adds, that could pave the way for a ground invasion.
Some fighters in Hamas’s military wing are hoping for that, says Baskin.
“My greatest fear is that there are people in the Ezz al-Din wing of Hamas that have a very strong suicide trend and they want an Israeli ground invasion,” so that they can blow up Israeli tanks and maybe even kidnap Israeli soldiers – not caring about the damage such an invasion would do to Gaza and its civilians, he says. “The problem is that you might get what you wish for.”