CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Israel ceasefire with Hamas reduces likelihood of war, but a lasting peace settlement for Gaza is unlikely

20 August 2018

Key Points

  • The latest ceasefire is likely to hold for at least several weeks unless a more extensive agreement can be agreed between Hamas and Israel. Acceptance by the Palestinian Authority (PA) is unlikely as President Mahmoud Abbas rejects any ceasefire that serves to treat Hamas as an independent authority in Gaza.
  • Prime Minister Netanyahu’s government, despite some bellicose rhetoric by right-wingers and the IDF leadership, has sought to avoid responding to Hamas’s cross-border fire by a prolonged ground operation in Gaza. The Israeli casualties that would result from such an operation, and its likely inconclusive result, make military action a high-risk and politically damaging option for Netanyahu while he prepares for an election campaign that is likely to take place in early/mid 2019.
  • The Israeli government’s security priority remains the protection of the northern front with Syria and the prevention, with Russian support, of an established Iranian military presence capable of threatening the Israeli communities around the occupied Golan.

Event

On 15 August, the Israeli Ministry of Defence reopened the Kerem Shalom border crossing to fuel and commercial vehicles, as part of an initial agreement for a more permanent ceasefire.

The agreement also included a restoration of the fishing zone off Gaza’s coast from six kilometres to 17. The Israeli concessions are dependent on Hamas ceasing its cross-border fire, including the launch of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza into southern Israel, and are likely to serve as the initial conditions of a proposed year-long ceasefire between Israel and Hamas to be settled at the end of the celebration of Eid al-Adha on 25 August.

Demonstrators in Gaza are confronted at the border with Israeli tear gas during Friday protest marches along the border on 17 August 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)Demonstrators in Gaza are confronted at the border with Israeli tear gas during Friday protest marches along the border on 17 August 2018. (Mahmud Hams/AFP/Getty Images)

The ceasefire arrangement appears to follow the economic development track favoured by the UN’s envoy Nickolay Mladenov, rather than the political reconciliation model favoured by the Egyptians. Both proposals were initially based on a permanent halt to the launching of incendiaries and rockets from Gaza into Israel in return for an opening of the Kerem Shalom border crossing to Israel and the Rafah crossing with Egypt to allow the entry of humanitarian and reconstruction materials into Gaza.

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