An Egyptian ceasefire proposal aimed at ending the week-long battle between Israel and Hamas was accepted by Israel's cabinet on Tuesday, but rejected by Hamas. Here's what you need to know.
A new Egypt makes all the difference
Egypt mediated the last ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in 2012, but those were entirely different days. Back then, Egypt's ruler was Mohamed Morsi, whose Muslim Brotherhood bona fides made him a natural ally of Hamas. With Morsi deposed and military rule restored, Egypt did not pursue the kinds of concessions that Morsi extracted from Israel in 2012. (Israel initially rejected a ceasefire in 2012 before agreeing on one.)
This time around, Egypt also didn't include Hamas in the negotiations. Feeling left out, Hamas acted out a little bit.
SecState Kerry in Vienna: I condemn Hamas for shooting rockets at the time Israel and Egypt are working in good faith to get a ceasefire— Barak Ravid (@BarakRavid) July 15, 2014
What the ceasefire proffered by Egypt was pretty straightforward. Most importantly, a cessation of hostilities and some ease of movement and goods along the borders. The basic components of it returned things back to its 2012 ceasefire state.
Why Hamas rejected it
Hamas, in essence, needs to justify why it just went through the trouble of making Gaza the target of some nearly 1,600 Israeli airstrikes. In order to do so, the ceasefire needed to include something that would be construed as a victory for Hamas. In other words, some improvement over the 2012 ceasefire conditions or some of the demands the group has been calling for.
As Avi Issacharoff noted:
As reported in the Egyptian media, there is no mention in the proposal of Hamas’s oft-repeated demand for the release of the dozens of its operatives, freed in the 2011 Shalit deal, who were rearrested in recent weeks by Israeli forces in the West Bank in the wake of the murders of the three Israeli teenagers. There is also no concrete commitment regarding the opening of the Rafah border crossing or the payments of the salaries of Hamas’s 40,000 clerks in Gaza. And there is no mention whatsoever of the situation in the West Bank.
As a result, Hamas called Egypt's proposal tantamount to "surrender."
It's also important to note that the Arab League, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas (who heads Hamas' rival Fatah), and the United States all endorsed the proposal.
Why Israel accepted it
Despite rejection of the ceasefire by two right-leaning members in Israel's cabinet, there was no reason for Israel not to accept it.
Hamas will continue to fire rockets and Israel will likely continue to respond with airstrikes and possibly a ground invasion if things get bad. Until Hamas finds a way to declare some kind of victory, it will continue to fight.
In a statement on Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered this assessment:
If Hamas rejects the Egyptian proposal and the rocket fire from Gaza does not cease, and that appears to be the case, we are prepared to continue and intensify our operation."
Hamas launched over 50 rockets from Gaza into Israel into the afternoon while Israel held its fire. The Israeli cessation is reportedly over and they have resumed airstrikes.