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Netanyahu's gambles

January 25, 2014 at 2:12 am

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seeks to impose a long-term ceasefire on Hamas and the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, one that lasts for fifteen years at least. This is reminiscent of his predecessor Ariel Sharon’s project for a lengthy “transitional”

solution. Sharon proposed the establishment of a Palestinian state in “parts of the West Bank and all of Gaza”, and to postpone the “final status” solutions for fifteen years. The idea was for the guns and borders to be quiet for the whole period with no need to negotiate or worry about reaching agreements.

Netanyahu also wants to push Egypt into the centre of the crisis with Gaza on two fronts: as the sponsor of the ceasefire, and as its guarantor. It must undertake to prevent Hamas and the resistance from renewing their arsenal of missiles, just as the Mubarak regime did in Sharm Al-Sheikh after the “truce” which followed Operation Cast Lead.

Egypt was then given the task of stopping the smuggling of weapons into the besieged Gaza Strip. The second front is to push Gaza into Egyptian arms by default, through insisting that the borders with Israel will remain closed, making the Rafah crossing through Egypt Gaza’s only route to the outside world. The idea is to separate Gaza from the rest of occupied Palestine, even at the potential cost of it declaring itself as an independent Islamic statelet.

All of this is in exchange for Israel stopping its ongoing aggression against the civilians of Gaza with a promise not to repeat it, and to stop the “targeted assassination” of Hamas leaders. Netanyahu won’t talk about lifting the immoral and illegal siege of Gaza’s 1.7 million people.

This is an agreement of compliance which Netanyahu wants to impose on Hamas, the resistance and Palestinians, even though he’s not in a situation that entitles him to dictate his terms, let alone impose “compliance conditions”. Hamas did not surrender, nor did the people of Gaza wait for relief from Netanyahu. And the need for accountability is still in place, with Israel’s victims waiting for the day when that is possible.

However, Netanyahu, is gambling on something else. He is banking on Egypt’s need for calm in these early months of the Morsi era, a need which may outstrip the needs of Gaza. President Morsi does not want to allow the situation across the border to escalate. Nevertheless, although he wants to protect the people of Gaza, he does not want the crisis to end with a defeat for Hamas and the Palestinians. A repeat of the “old” Egypt stance is just not on.

Perhaps Netanyahu has also interpreted some of the Arab positions as a promise for the Arabs to remain as blind followers of the US masters and Israel. He undoubtedly read the inclination of some Arabs and regional countries, such as Turkey, towards closing this file, so that its thorny shadows won’t be cast on their extensive efforts to enhance the separation of Hamas from what is called ” the opposition and resistance alliance” and its preparation for the role of an alternative to the Palestinian Authority and the PLO. Lurking in the background is the international recognition of the new Syrian Coalition, as the only legitimate representative for the Syrian people’s aspirations; the “new” Hamas would become the only legitimate representative for the aspirations of the Palestinian people.

The Israeli Prime Minister is not going to get everything he wants, though. He is not in a position which allows him to achieve his goals on the ground so that he can reap the rewards at the negotiation table, especially now that an open land invasion of Gaza is no longer an option. He knows that a confrontation with Hamas and the Palestinian resistance is not going to end with a knockout; it’s most likely that Hamas and the resistance will come out of it stronger than ever.

Just as the external leadership of Hamas enjoyed diplomatic status in some capitals, and media attention, so too has the leadership in Gaza over the past week or so. This has given the resistance a degree of legitimacy and support from Palestinians across occupied Palestine that was both unexpected and welcomed.

In addition, Hamas found itself far removed from the “resistance and opposition alliance”, although it is still not involved completely in identifying with the “moderation alliance” in its special Gulf version. “New” Egypt is, however, a pivotal base for Hamas. This will give it room to maneuver, so that it won’t get to distant from the first alliance or too close to the second.

Its courage in resisting Israel’s aggression and daring to target Jerusalem and Tel Aviv will be interpreted more precisely in the context and terms of the “truce” which will be reached eventually. We will then be able to find out the direction in which Hamas is going, and assess the new balance of power in the Arab region, especially with some Arab Spring countries on one side and the Gulf states on the other. It will be interesting to see how long their honeymoon lasts.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.