Amidst a day of continued Israeli bombardment and retaliatory Palestinian rockets, the only thing which has remained untouched has been the rumoured ceasefire, which if reports are to be believed, has spent the day in a state of perpetual imminence.
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Interestingly the mass conjecture over a ceasefire has largely been fuelled by both official and unofficial statements emanating from Egyptian and Palestinian officials. A report by Reuters earlier had even quoted a Hamas official as saying “An agreement for calm has been reached. It will be declared at 9.00 p.m. and go into effect at midnight." Yet here we are already past the quoted time with Hamas saying that it will be delayed and reports ranging from Twitter to the media indicating a marked increase in airstrikes. Why?
One only has to look to the response of Israeli officials, quick to categorically deny any agreement being in place, to understand how the state of this ceasefire can be so apparently contradictory. One does not need to lift the lid on the situation in Gaza to recognise two key facts. Firstly that Israel has a massive military advantage over Hamas, and secondly that Egypt is simply not the regional powerbroker many believed it would be. Where does this leave this imminent ceasefire? At the discretion of Israel.
At this moment in time, it does not need a ceasefire. Hamas, and more importantly the Palestinian people have suffered terribly from this latest round of Israeli aggression. How long can they cope with a military so much more advanced and powerful? Lest we forget, as the media so often do, that this ‘war’ is within the context of an unrelenting occupation and siege.
For its part, Morsi’s government, with its crumbling state infrastructure, faltering economy and continued social unrest can scarcely cope with its own towering domestic challenges. Not that the Palestinians had much of a choice, but their current plight could scarcely have caught Egypt at a worse time.
Israel, undoubtedly recognising the evident weaknesses of both, has little reason to genuinely pursue a ceasefire until it has completed its military objectives to its own satisfaction. What can Egypt genuinely threaten it with? Its army has proved itself more interested in attacking its own people than any external threat. Furthermore it cannot, or would desperately rather not alienate a country which helps police its notoriously uncontrollable border region. Increased hostilities with Israel would overwhelmingly affect Egypt more. From this angle, what many saw as a gamble by Israel, risking Egypt’s ire by attacking Gaza, was evidently a well-considered decision.
What then of this imminent ceasefire? It will not occur until Israel, not Hamas, decides to cease its fire.