For Israel and Hamas, Hard Choices Before Any Talks Could Begin


BRUSSELS — As the United States and Egyptian mediators headed to Israel on Thursday to start de-escalation talks, the antagonists had been weighing delicate inside concerns earlier than agreeing to discussions on ending the violence.

Both Israel and Hamas first have to search out methods to spin a story of victory for his or her publics, analysts say, however the job shall be simpler for Hamas than for Israel.

Israel’s caretaker prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has to calculate the affect of the combating on his political future, made extra difficult by the inner unrest between Jews and Israeli Arabs in quite a few cities inside Israel. The essential choice for Israel is whether or not “victory” requires sending floor troops into Gaza, which might lengthen the battle and considerably improve the variety of useless and wounded on each side.

Early Friday, Israel sharply intensified its assaults on Gaza and its underground tunnel construction, together with intensive artillery bombardment, however Israeli troops didn’t enter Gaza itself — at the least not but. That could be a serious escalation towards the Hamas militants who’ve been launching a whole bunch of rockets at Israel. The transfer may lengthen the battle and considerably improve the variety of useless and wounded on each side.

Hamas, which has managed Gaza for the previous 13 years and withstood two main wars with Israeli forces, faces its personal challenges in the right way to spin the fast-moving developments right into a victory narrative.

For the Palestinians, the indefinite postponement of elections last month by the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, created a vacuum that Hamas is greater than keen to fill. Hamas argues that it’s the solely Palestinian faction that, with its giant stockpile of improved missiles, is defending the holy locations of Jerusalem, turning Mr. Abbas right into a spectator.

President Biden has spoken to Mr. Netanyahu and repeated the same old formulation about Israel’s proper to self-defense, and he has dispatched an skilled diplomat, the deputy assistant secretary of state Hady Amr, to induce de-escalation on each side.

But the United States doesn’t discuss to Hamas, concerning it as a terrorist group, and Mr. Abbas has no actual management over Gaza or Hamas. So in all probability, Mr. Amr shall be speaking to Egyptian safety officers, provided that Egypt has been the same old interlocutor in concluding rounds of warfare between Israel and Hamas, together with the final two large confrontations, in 2008 and 2014.

On Thursday, Egypt dispatched safety officers to Tel Aviv and to Gaza to start discussions, based on the state-controlled newspaper Al Ahram and the broadcaster Al Arabiya. Officially, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry, which doesn’t take care of Hamas, had no remark.

On Tuesday, Egypt’s overseas minister, Sameh Shoukry, instructed a gathering of the Arab League that Egypt had reached out to Israel and different “concerned countries” to attempt to calm the violence, however that Israel had not been responsive.

Abdel Monem Said Aly, a longstanding analyst of Egyptian and regional relations in Cairo, stated that “Egypt will do its best” within the pursuits of regional stability. But he warned that Mr. Netanyahu’s use of floor troops may lengthen the violence.

“The issue is much more complicated than previously,” he stated, citing inside Israeli and Palestinian politics and Egypt’s efforts “to steer the whole region to a different, more stabilized future.” Egypt has leverage over Hamas due to its land border with Gaza, which Cairo can shut at will.

“And, of course, Egypt will talk to Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, those with money, about rebuilding in Gaza,” Mr. Said Aly stated. “But the problem in Israel is not about talking to Mr. Netanyahu, that’s easy, but the winds inside Israel itself, and the big competition between different brands of conservatism.”

On the Palestinian aspect, he stated, “There is a similar vacuum of political legitimacy, and Hamas will score by raising up Palestinian public opinion and increasing guilt in Islamic countries about the Palestinians and getting more legitimacy for future elections.”

Mr. Said Aly fears the occasions will improve Islamic radicalism each in Gaza and in Israel, amongst its younger Arab inhabitants. “Of course, Egypt will talk to everyone,” he stated. “We will talk of the problems of the whole region, and we won’t exclude the Palestinian issue. But how much anyone can help now is not clear.’’

Hamas also has reason to mistrust Egypt and its leader, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, according to Michele Dunne, a former American official and director of the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment. Mr. el-Sisi sees Hamas as a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, which remains powerful in Egypt, and in 2014 he did little to discourage Israel from invading Gaza in hopes of destroying Hamas.

The violence can take a long time to subside, said Mark A. Heller of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. “At some point Israel reminds itself that there is no way it can bring about a decisive outcome at a tolerable cost to itself,” he stated, “and Hamas realizes that the costs and risks to its own political viability and control over Gaza become too much.”

At that time, Mr. Heller stated, Hamas agrees to “what they say is always a temporary cease-fire, not a peace, and usually gets some sort of payoff, I suspect this time from the Qataris.”

Egypt is normally the interlocutor “and the fig leaf” for negotiations between Hamas and Israel, which each side deny however which might be occurring virtually repeatedly over many smaller points, he stated.

Beyond such native considerations, Egypt is aware that it must patch fences with Mr. Biden after the departure of President Donald J. Trump, stated Daniel Levy, president of the U.S./Middle East Project. “I think Cairo wants to demonstrate its importance to Biden,” he stated, noting the start of reconciliation talks with Qatar and Turkey.

Qatar, a wealthy emirate, bankrolls each Hamas and the Arab information operation Al Jazeera, and Turkey has been a strident supporter of Hamas. That had put them at odds with Egypt. But with the election of Mr. Biden, Egypt has gingerly adopted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in making an attempt to calm relations with Qatar and Turkey.

Muslim international locations have criticized Israel’s actions, however in largely perfunctory vogue up to now, provided that lots of their leaders mistrust Islamist radicalism. Many Arab international locations have sidelined the Palestinian problem and are trying previous Mr. Abbas to see, and attempt to manipulate, who will succeed him as head of Fatah and the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But, for now, with a lot Israeli consideration on the internal strife between young Jewish and Arab citizens, Mr. Levy stated, a lot is up within the air, and the wrestle over Gaza can appear much less vital.

“This strife is an extremely disorienting and worrisome development and a matter of far greater concern, frankly, than Hamas,” Mr. Heller stated. “The army can take care of Hamas, but we need something to take care of Israeli society, and right now we don’t have that.”

Vivian Yee contributed reporting from Cairo.



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