US Secretary of State John Kerry’s conference seeking to form a coalition that would impose a ceasefire in Gaza has failed miserably. According to most analysts, not only did Kerry fail to achieve his goal, he distanced any possibility of a ceasefire.
Despite ignoring Israel’s security interests in his draft document as published by Haaretz, Kerry managed to inflame relations with the PA (Palestinian Authority) as officials in Ramallah released angry statements that PA Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) and the PA in Ramallah is the only legal entity that has a right to represent the Palestinian People. The PA has rejected Kerry’s plan outright, signaling without the PA and Egypt playing major roles, the US plan for a one-week ceasefire is a non-starter.
The PA is referring to Kerry’s peace conference as a gathering of Hamas associates and supporters, due to the fact that Qatar and Turkey play roles in the Kerry process to the exclusion of Ramallah and Cairo. For Ramallah, the inclusion of Qatar and exclusion of Egypt as the major player were fatal errors, and Kerry seems to have made them all. It is clear to anyone who understands Mideast realities that the US Secretary of State has blown it big time, perhaps yet another testimony to his lack of understanding of the realities vis-à-vis Israel, the PA and the region.
Another point neglected by Kerry is the Iranian factor, for as he seeks to pressure Israel into a suicide ceasefire agreement Khalid Meshal has been contacting Iran. The latter’s deputy foreign minister met with Meshal on Sunday 29 Tammuz as Tehran is eager to restock and resupply its formidable Gazan ally. In addition, Hamas has been in touch with North Korea and it has already put down a sizable down payment towards restocking its arsenal.
The Security Cabinet on Sunday did not officially respond to Hamas’ plea to the United Nations for a ceasefire, but instead announced it is returning to the “quiet buys quiet” policy, explaining that if Hamas stops firing Israel will halt its offensive while the destruction of the tunnel network continues. Israel appears unwilling at this stage to return to the ceasefire game as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told CNN and Fox News on Sunday Hamas has already violated five ceasefires, the latest of which was its own. In Hamas’ least call to the UN it demanded that Israel withdraw its forces from Gaza during the ceasefire. For Israel, this is among the many demands Hamas has made that remain a non-starter.
Israel is likely to agree to limited humanitarian ceasefires in the future to permit evacuation of dead and injured but at present, acquiescing to a Hamas call is highly unlikely.
Regarding the destruction of tunnels in Gaza, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz commented on Sunday that progress on this front is excellent. It appears the IDF will be completing the task of tunnel destruction in the coming days. While there are other internal Gaza tunnels that lead from one area of Gaza to another, Israel is only interested in those tunnels that extend from Gaza to Israel.
In the interim, rocket fire into Israeli population centers continues on Sunday evening. Sirens have been sounding repeatedly in the Eshkol and S’dot Negev Regional Councils.
In essence, for as long as Hamas halts attacking soldiers in Gaza and rocket fire into Israel, Israel is willing to stop its offensive for the time being as well amid the understanding the process of tunnel destruction continues.
At this time, the Security Cabinet continues meeting to decide what the next step will be.
(YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem)