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Flexibility, obstacles for lasting truce in Gaza

Jul 08,2024 - Last updated at Jul 08,2024

The positive signs of a truce deal in Gaza coincide with Israel’s announcement of the imminent end of its military operations in their current form in Gaza. This increases the possibility of completing the deal, especially with the flexibility shown by Hamas regarding some conditions that had previously disrupted any agreement.

The most important of these conditions being the cessation of the war and complete Israeli withdrawal from Gaza. However, Israeli obstacles remain, particularly the insistence on Hamas leaving Gaza, Israel reserving the right to carry out military operations at any time and dividing the Gaza Strip into different areas subject to the Israeli vision. This suggests that Israel’s objective here is to stop the war without fully resolving it.

This tactic still may be the most practical step to ending the war in Gaza in its current form, aligning with the American desire to capitalise on this agreement to promote a longer and more solid truce. Conversely, the proposal may not align with Netanyahu's strategy of buying time and prolonging the crisis, however he may be forced to adapt gradually to diplomatic efforts for several reasons related to his relationship with the US administration, internal pressures and his upcoming speech in the US Congress.

Israeli flexibility on the Gaza front aligns with the broader Israeli strategy, which now seeks to focus on the Lebanese front. Lebanon has entered a “last diplomacy” phase aimed at containing the conflict between Israel and Hizbollah and preventing its expansion. The issue of ending the war in Gaza may provide a justification for Hizbollah to halt its operations, which it repeatedly affirmed was in support of Gaza. However, even ending the war in Gaza and Hizbollah's operations may not mean the complete closure of the front, as shaping the new reality in southern Lebanon remains an Israeli priority, especially with international calls for political settlement.

Nevertheless, the issue of unity across the various war fronts (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen) constitutes a major security challenge for Israel, which continues to face threats from non-border fronts. The most significant of these challenges may be the significant development of Iraqi resistance factions’ recent introduction of its qualitative arsenal targeting Israel.

Israel considers this a major shift that may make future priorities include not only targeting weapons and militias from Syria to Iraq but also targeting these factions within the Iraqi territories. This direct threat justifies Israel's stronger and more effective actions, especially given regional security indications of increased threats from the Red Sea, particularly with the departure of the American aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower from the Red Sea and the waiting period for its replacement, which may take a few weeks and could be exploited to escalate tensions further.

Back in Gaza, Hamas’s announced acceptance of many previously rejected conditions can be characterised as political flexibility aligned with American objectives at this stage. These include ending the war to prevent regional expansion, seizing the opportunity to conclude a political deal before the American elections, and re-intensifying international pressure on the Netanyahu government using the hostage situation to amplify internal pressure.

This move by Hamas forces Israel to adapt politically and show flexibility in accepting the deal on the table. However, Israel’s insistence on preserving the right to conduct military operations, choosing their timing and form, and maintaining full control over crossings and borders, means that Israel can revert to escalation at any moment. Despite this, political investment in achieving any cessation of the war, even if temporary, remains crucial in paving the way for gradual solutions after the failure to reach a comprehensive truce.

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