May 8, 2024

Israel and Hamas

The United States believes the remaining differences between Israel and Hamas can be bridged in negotiations over the Palestinian militant group's latest ceasefire proposal, as talks resume in Cairo on Wednesday… Israeli forces on Tuesday seized the main border crossing between Gaza and Egypt in Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than one million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter during Israel's seven-month-old offensive…

“Since the only pause in the conflict so far, a week-long ceasefire in November, the two sides have been blocked by Hamas' refusal to free more Israeli hostages without a promise of a permanent end to the conflict and Israel's insistence that it would discuss only a temporary halt.” Reuters

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From the Left

The left worries about the humanitarian toll of an Israeli offensive into Rafah and urges the US to withhold military aid.

“Many of those now in Rafah were forced to flee from other parts of Gaza. Ordering evacuation is pointless when there is nowhere safe to go. Unicef says 600,000 children are in the city. According to Gaza’s health authorities, 14,000 minors have already been killed, along with 6,000 mothers: there are 19,000 new war orphans…

“While rumours swirl, and discussions shift, the imperatives are unchanged: an immediate ceasefire, the restoration and ramping up of aid supplies and the release of hostages.”

Editorial, The Guardian

“Since its founding in 1948, Israel has been the world’s largest cumulative recipient of US aid; just the other day it received additional billions in supplemental funding… If the ceasefire talks fail again and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu orders the invasion of Rafah, it’ll be his latest of many snubs to US President Joe Biden, who’s explicitly told him to spare that city where so many Gazan refugees are huddling…

“But what can Biden do about it? At least two things, actually. The US could stop shielding Israel from global opprobrium in the organs of international law and diplomacy, notably in The Hague and at the United Nations. Or it could signal a halt in US arms shipments to Israel, following the example of Canada.”

Andreas Kluth, Bloomberg

“Hamas must honour previous understandings about the staged release of Israeli hostages and cease its crude, last-minute haggling, especially about exactly how many Palestinian detainees, and which ones, are freed in return. Its priority should be alleviating the plight of Gaza’s civilians, not scoring points. Its demands that Israel agree [to] a ‘permanent’ end to the war at this stage were always unrealistic…

“Wholly unrealistic, too, is Netanyahu’s position… that the only true measure of victory is the complete and utter destruction of Hamas. This is the biggest single obstacle to peace. Since this aim is, and always was, practicably unattainable, Netanyahu is caught in a trap of his own making, bound to wage unending, unwinnable war.”

Simon Tisdall, The Guardian

Gaza needs an international stabilization force to provide security during and after the cease-fire. If the United States and its allies can organize that force, Arab nations such as Egypt, Morocco and the United Arab Emirates will probably be willing to provide some troops. But they’ll do so only if Israel agrees that this is the first step down the road to a Palestinian state…

“The demilitarization of Hamas is another inescapable requirement. Netanyahu argues that this is why Israel needs a bloody final assault on Rafah, to destroy the four remaining Hamas battalions there. But those battalions don’t threaten Israel, and they can be dismantled gradually.”

David Ignatius, Washington Post

From the Right

The right is skeptical of cease-fire proposals, and urges Biden to support Israel’s campaign to eliminate Hamas.

The right is skeptical of cease-fire proposals, and urges Biden to support Israel’s campaign to eliminate Hamas.

“Objections are pouring in from the usual suspects. France says displacing Rafah’s civilians is a crime. Would it prefer that Israel fight among them, or simply leave Hamas alone?…

“Rafah hosts Hamas’s leaders, four terrorist battalions, hostages and border crossing with Egypt, from which it controls incoming aid and smuggles in military supplies. It is the crucial city for the terrorist group’s future. Only when Rafah is in danger of falling will Hamas be ready to hand over its remaining hostages…

“After Israel announced the civilian evacuation on Monday, Hamas finally moved fast to submit a counteroffer. Interesting what real pressure can accomplish. Recall that after Israel blitzed Gaza City in November, Hamas released 105 hostages for a breather… If Mr. Biden wants a cease-fire that matters, he will support Israel and let Hamas remember what it’s like to negotiate with its back against the wall.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

“In the US proposal for an operational pause in fighting a month ago, Israel reluctantly agreed to only 40 hostages returned alive in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Hamas balked at that… Under more pressure from the US, Israel then reduced the demand to 33 living hostages, an offer that sat on the table for well over a week before Hamas rejected it…

Now they want to make a deal, but not for live hostages. They want full swap credit for the dead hostages, too. Not only that, they want Egypt to act as ‘guarantor’ that a three-phase hostage-for-prisoners swap will end the war with Hamas still in charge of Gaza…

Israel will never accept a deal with these conditions. After October 7, the fantasy of a moderate Hamas has been stripped away forever, and the Israelis understand the existential threat of having Hamas on their border.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“The greatest tragedy of the Biden-Blinken ‘peace’ offensive is that it tends to legitimate Hamas by glossing over the reasons why Israeli forces had to go into Gaza in the first place—and by imposing on them unique limitations on the conduct of warfare that the United States has never adopted in its own efforts to deal with ISIS…

There is no way to move forward with any reconstruction of Gaza under any cease-fire that leaves Hamas in place… In multiple incidents, Hamas has diverted humanitarian aid from the civilian population to its own operations. Hamas’s fighters could not survive close to six months in tunnels without systematic external support—which would be easier to replenish once a cease-fire acceptable to Hamas was in place.”

Richard A. Epstein, Hoover Institution

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