Israel used ceasefire plan to escalate war
Hamas would have been damned if it accepted the Egypt-sponsored ceasefire and damned if it did not.
July 20 2014
A week of ceasefire calls, efforts and proposals has not stopped Israel from launching a ground invasion of Gaza in tandem with its aerial and naval bombardments. Developments suggest that Israel, while accepting an Egyptian proposal, used it as a pretext to intensify and widen its offensive. Cairo, which since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi last summer is as hostile to Hamas as Israel is, may have enabled such a plan, deliberately or otherwise.
Hamas, which has roots in Egypt’s outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, said it was never consulted about Cairo’s ceasefire proposal, having learned of it from media reports. It is extraordinary that a supposed mediator between two warring parties would exclude one of them from the process.
This would almost ensure that party’s rejection, regardless of the proposal’s content, because it would be humiliating to accept something presented as a fait accompli. As such, Hamas’ rejection was hardly surprising, describing the initiative as one of “bowing and submission”.
A ceasefire trap?
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s statement that “the Egyptian proposal gives the opportunity to address the disarmament” of Gaza was likely intended to ensure rejection by Palestinian militants there. After all, this was not stipulated in the plan, as described in media reports. Netanyahu said Hamas’ rejection “leaves us no choice but to expand and intensify the campaign against it” and to do so with “international legitimacy”.
Egypt contributed to this deluded sense of legitimacy by blaming Hamas - as well as Qatar and Turkey - for the failure of its proposal. The next day, Israel launched its ground invasion. This week’s developments could not have been better scripted in favour of such an outcome, with Israel portraying itself as having no choice against a belligerent foe, and the traditional mediator over Gaza helping to foster that impression.
Given the regular contact between Israel and Egypt, it is not outlandish to suspect that this was a trap designed to ensnare Hamas. The latter rejected Cairo’s proposal “in its current form” - not outright - and notified it of desired changes. However, there has been no attempt by Egypt to modify its plan. Indeed, Cairo had been criticised from the outset for the sluggish nature of its mediation, leading to speculation that it was happy to see Israel deal a decisive blow to Hamas.
If the Palestinian faction was uninterested in a ceasefire, it would not have subsequently floated its own proposal for a 10-year truce. This was announced on Al Jazeera and reported by Israeli media. If Netanyahu genuinely sought an end to hostilities, he would have taken Hamas’ plan into consideration.