Gaza ceasefire: Hamas's celebrations mask major defeat

Other than a possible improvement in support from Palestinians and some bragging rights in questionable circles, it is hard to see what, if anything, Hamas got out of the past week

Clinton and Egyptian foreign minister Mohammed Kamel Amr announce ceasefire
Adam Mallerman
On 22 November 2012 11:40

My initial reaction to the ceasefire announced yesterday was anger: this makes no sense, the job isn't done, and Hamas will claim victory. But then I started to think: Netanyahu is nobody's fool, and neither is Egypt's Morsi, who has proven himself a skilled opportunist politician. So then I began to ask myself: what has really happened tonight? What has Israel been promised?

It was no coincidence that Hillary Clinton had been shuttling between the two leaders all day. Whatever she had said to both men, and especially to Netanyahu, was seemingly enough for him to call a ceasefire. But what could she offer him?

That’s easy: Iran. Hamas is a distraction; it is merely Iran's proxy, therefore a symptom of the problem which in Israel's mind has always been Iran. Clearly, Netanyahu has got the policy agreement with the Obama administration that he has craved for months – that's a big victory for him.

In addition, it is clear from the various leaders’ statements that Hamas has been placed on a very short leash. Netanyahu is not withdrawing his forces from Gaza's border and if there is any infraction of the ceasefire, those men will be going in.

Over the past few days, international support has largely been on Israel's side, but it has been made clear that a ground incursion would seriously damage that support. Now, if Hamas and Islamic Jihad do not abide by a ceasefire that has essentially been forced on them by Egypt, Israel appears to have a clear green light from the US (and Egypt) to use ground forces. That's also a major victory, and in part is due to how successful Israel has been in getting its 'message' out.

So what's in it for Egypt's President Morsi, who after all, was not a combatant in this fracas? 

Morsi is very astute and, to date, he has been successful in navigating a difficult path between being an Islamic Brotherhood president and still being seen as a man the West can deal with.

The jury is still out as to whom Morsi really is, but he certainly does not have an easy job: He leads a country with a deep-rooted anti-Semitism and hatred of Israel, which is also at peace with Israel. Consequently, he has been seen, even by Israel, as someone who can act as a go-between.

What is more, Egypt used to be the leader of the Arab world, and could well retake that position, but today there's another candidate for the role, and one that isn’t even Arab – Iran.

I can only speculate what gains Morsi has taken from his role in the ceasefire as probably much of it will not become apparent right away. But Morsi's role was likely rewarded by the US, probably with promises of aid, sophisticated weapons etc. But it’s important also to consider his own stance on Hamas if we are to speculate what he has to gain.

Hamas is a essentially an irritant for the Egyptian president – it entangles Egypt with Iran and agitates the Egyptian public vis-à-vis Israel, which is the last thing he needs if he is to maintain a relationship with the US that Egypt needs, but that its people hate.

Moreover, Hamas's Gaza provides a base for the "Sinai terrorists" who are causing him headaches and have cost him a lucrative source of income supplying Israel and Jordan with gas.

For Morsi, then, seeing Hamas’s reined in is in his own interests – and he is vital to the collar that has been placed on the neck of Hamas. He has agreed to restrict Hamas's weapons supply routes through Egypt, and Hamas cannot be pleased about that.

In Gaza they will celebrate their 'victory' – this ceasefire allows them just enough scope to spin it that way to Palestinians who want to believe they won. But Hamas has got little else from it.

Hamas has lost key generals, international support, used up a huge quantity of its weapons, lost key infrastructure, and helped give Israel the international support it needs for a ground operation in Gaza if Hamas misbehaves.

In addition, Israel's Iron Dome has proven very successful, and the US has agreed to supply more, making Hamas's weapons of choice increasingly less effective as the days go by. Hamas has also probably not delighted its Iranian masters either, as this conflict has brought Israel and the US closer than it has been since Obama took office – good news for Israel, but bad news for Iran as the US-Israeli divide was primarily over Iran in the first place.

In fact, other than a possible improvement in support from Palestinians and some bragging rights in questionable circles, it is hard to see what, if anything, Hamas got out of the past week.

Adam Mallerman is an English-born, Jerusalem-based broadcaster. He is a regular contributor on the Israel News Talk Network and hosts a weekly program on Israel National Radio. Visit his blog and follow him on Twitter @IsraelradioGuy

blog comments powered by Disqus