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Tuesday, June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024
Tuesday June 18, 2024

Gaza ceasefire plan turns into a deadly game of survival

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US-backed ceasefire proposal faces challenges as leaders of Hamas and Israel navigate political futures amid ongoing conflict

The plan to end the war in Gaza after eight months of intense fighting has become a deadly game of survival for the leaders of both Hamas and Israel. The final terms of the ceasefire could largely determine their political futures and, for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, even his physical survival.

The complexity of these negotiations partly explains why previous efforts have failed. It’s also why the question of how to permanently end the fighting has been deferred to the last stages of the plan outlined by US President Joe Biden on Friday. Transitioning from a limited hostage-for-prisoner deal to discussions about a permanent ceasefire will be challenging, but it’s crucial for the success or failure of this latest attempt.

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The US has submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council in support of President Biden’s ceasefire plan. The three-phase plan involves ending the conflict, releasing hostages, and reconstructing Palestinian territory. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has strong domestic reasons to approach this deal step by step.

Phase one, as outlined by President Biden, involves the release of dozens of hostages, both living and dead. This phase would be widely welcomed in Israel, where the failure to free all hostages held by Hamas has become a glaring moral issue for many Israelis. However, Hamas is unlikely to release its most politically sensitive hostages without guarantees that Israel won’t restart the war once they are home.

Leaks quoted by Israeli media suggest that Netanyahu has informed his parliamentary colleagues that Israel would keep its options open, potentially resuming fighting until Hamas is “eliminated.” Some believe this stance is the minimum demand from Netanyahu’s far-right coalition partners. Without their support, he faces the prospect of early elections and the continuation of his corruption trial.

Netanyahu needs to keep his long-term options open to gain support for any initial hostage deal. Conversely, Hamas leaders likely want permanent ceasefire guarantees upfront. Previous deals have collapsed over these issues. Bridging this gap will depend on Netanyahu’s manoeuvring room with his hard-right government allies and how far Hamas leaders are willing to negotiate.

Netanyahu recently discussed the destruction of Hamas’s “military and governing capabilities” and ensuring the group no longer poses a threat to Israel. Few dispute that Hamas has suffered significant losses to its military infrastructure and even, some say, to its public support within Gaza. However, Israel has not killed or captured top Hamas leaders Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, and their freedom in Gaza would be a political disaster for Netanyahu.

A US State Department spokesman stated that despite the degradation of Hamas’s capabilities, the group remains a threat, and the US does not believe it can be eliminated militarily. Meanwhile, the White House confirmed Israel’s readiness to move forward with the terms offered to Hamas, with the Palestinian group now the only obstacle to a deal.

Israeli military spokesman Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari asserted that the Israeli military could ensure Israel’s security in the event of any truce agreed upon by the government. Yanir Cozin, a diplomatic correspondent with Israel’s military radio station, believes Netanyahu won’t end the war without framing it as a success. A deal that leaves Hamas intact would be seen as a failure, especially if Netanyahu hasn’t achieved the war’s goals, such as eliminating Hamas, bringing back all hostages, or securing the borders.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak remarked that President Biden announced the deal, anticipating Sinwar’s refusal. Barak questioned how Sinwar would react to being told he must return hostages quickly because Israel still intends to kill him afterward.

In the meantime, tens of thousands of Israelis displaced after the Hamas attacks on October 7 are closely watching Netanyahu’s next move. Yarin Sultan, a 31-year-old mother of three who fled her home in Sderot, stated she won’t return until Sinwar and Deif are no longer free. She believes the ceasefire could lead to future violence and atrocities.

Analysis:

The proposed ceasefire plan faces several challenges, particularly in balancing the political needs of both Israeli and Hamas leaders. For Netanyahu, navigating the demands of his far-right coalition partners while securing a ceasefire that doesn’t leave Hamas intact is crucial for his political survival. His approach involves maintaining a tough stance on Hamas to appease his coalition and the Israeli public, who view the release of hostages and the elimination of Hamas as critical objectives.

From a political perspective, Netanyahu must manage internal pressures from his coalition, which demands the complete dismantling of Hamas. Failure to meet these demands could lead to a loss of support and potential early elections, complicating his political future further.

Sociologically, the ongoing conflict and potential ceasefire impact both Israeli and Palestinian societies deeply. The prolonged conflict has led to significant civilian casualties, displacement, and trauma on both sides. A ceasefire could provide much-needed relief but also risks being seen as a temporary solution if underlying issues remain unresolved.

Economically, the reconstruction of Palestinian territories as part of the ceasefire plan presents opportunities and challenges. Rebuilding Gaza would require substantial international aid and cooperation, potentially improving living conditions and economic stability. However, ensuring that reconstruction efforts are not undermined by renewed conflict is essential for long-term peace and economic development.

From a local perspective, the impact of the ceasefire on communities near the Gaza border is significant. Residents, like Yarin Sultan, express deep mistrust and fear, emphasizing the need for a secure and lasting peace that addresses their safety concerns. Their experiences highlight the human cost of the conflict and the urgent need for a resolution that ensures their security.

Gender and minority perspectives also play a role in this conflict. The release of politically sensitive hostages, including women and the elderly, underscores the intersection of gender and political dynamics in the negotiations. Ensuring their safety and addressing their unique vulnerabilities is crucial for a comprehensive ceasefire agreement.

In conclusion, the ceasefire plan represents a complex interplay of political, sociological, economic, and local factors. The success of the plan hinges on the ability of both Israeli and Hamas leaders to navigate these challenges, address the concerns of their constituencies, and commit to a lasting peace.

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