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“Netanyahu’s conduct during the 50 days of fighting in Gaza highlighted the gap between his statements and promises and the reality,” Ravid continued. “The prime minister, who was the most strident in his statement against Hamas, ended the confrontation with the organization in the weakest position.”
Ravid argued that Israel had achieved no strategic gains in the operation but has suffered great damage to its diplomatic position and the population’s sense of calm and security. And that’s the assessment of a liberal critic. Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who throughout the war challenged Netanyahu’s approach for lacking conviction, denounced the cease-fire Tuesday night, demanding a Cabinet vote — which, he said, Netanyahu knew he would lose.
A day before the truce, a public opinion poll by Israel’s Channel 2 found Netanyahu’s approval rating at 38 percent, compared with 82 percent earlier in the operation. And that’s before he had to face the withering onslaught of right-wing critics from within his own Cabinet over the war’s outcome.
The extent of Palestinian gains from the cease-fire deal, of course, will depend largely on whether and how it’s implemented. “In 2012 we saw certain terms to an agreement that looked in some ways favorable for Palestinians in Gaza, but then they were never really enforced and followed up on,” said Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Palestine Center in Washington, D.C.
And he’s not confident, given the “huge imbalance of power between the parties” and the absence of a credible enforcement mechanism. “The Israelis are a very strong state versus the Palestinians in Gaza, which are stateless people and a group of guerrillas, basically,” he said. “Previous cease-fires have failed so spectacularly in the past because if Hamas or other Palestinians violate the cease-fire, Israel is independently capable of holding them accountable through the use of force, whereas if the Israelis violate the cease-fire, Palestinians do not have that capacity. In fact, the only thing that they have in attempt to do that is, of course, projectile fire, which can then lead to further Israeli responses and then lead to an escalation and so on, and that’s how the cease-fire crumbles again.”
One reason for concern over implementation is the pressure on Netanyahu to back away from what will be seen on both sides as concessions to Hamas.
It’s also worth noting that Israeli-Palestinian talks mediated by Secretary of State John Kerry formally broke down over Israel’s refusal to continue releasing prisoners as stipulated in an agreement brokered by the U.S. — an agreement opposed by some of the same members of Netanyahu’s Cabinet who have attacked his Gaza truce. One of the issues postponed until next month’s talks in Cairo is Hamas’ demand that Israel release prisoners arrested in the West Bank.
No surprise, then, that Levy doesn’t expect much to come of the talks mediated by the Egyptians to address the key issues left unresolved. If the pressure exerted by both sides by force of arms over the past seven weeks was insufficient to force compliance with their demands, he said, “neither side is going to achieve in indirect negotiations what it couldn’t achieve in military confrontation.”
The stalemate was underscored in Abbas’ statement on the Cairo truce. “What next?” he asked. “Should we expect another war after a year or two? Until when will the cause remain unresolved?” He was referring to the long-stalled process to address the underlying conflict via a two-state solution. After two decades of negotiations, however, that solution is no closer.
“Engaging in vague negotiations is something we cannot continue to do,” Abbas declared. Yet there’s no sign that the latest truce will offer anything more than vague negotiations and the recurring Gaza nightmare of which he warned.