Egypt is not losing any sleep over Hamas these days. It has enough worries at home: its economy is in shambles, its soldiers and officers are being killed daily in clashes along its breached border with Libya and terrorists in its Sinai Peninsula are operating with allegiance to the ideologies of al-Qaida.
It is therefore no wonder that Egyptian President Fattah al-Sisi is not dedicating more of his attention to Hamas. His intelligence chiefs’ repeated remarks to Hamas representatives over the course of the 28-day war could easily have been taken from the film The Godfather: “We’re going to make you an offer you can’t refuse”: Accept a cease-fire of at least 72 hours now, without conditions, and afterward – with all of our sympathy for your suffering – we’ll talk.
At the very outset of the war, Hamas refused the offer it couldn’t refuse. Last Friday, it accepted it, and immediately rescinded with its attack on the IDF soldiers in Rafah 90 minutes into the humanitarian cease-fire.
Israel responded to this breach of truce and embarked on a rampage that led to the deaths of another 130 people in Rafah alone, subsequently declaring that it would not cooperate with any arrangement and would make further moves unilaterally.
Four days later, déjà vu has struck again.
This is how it works in the Middle East, a region filled with thick-headed leaders who think that what can’t be forced can only be achieved through more force.
Only after belated reconsideration and the unnecessary deaths of hundreds, has it finally hit these thick-headed leaders, on both the Hamas and Israeli sides.
The humiliated Hamas leadership, crawling on its knees to beg for a cease-fire and finding itself at the helm of a humanitarian disaster, understands now that it had no other choice, and that it had nobody to trust other than the Egyptians – a regime that has no love for this sister organization of its hated Muslim Brotherhood, to say the least.
On the Israeli side, the realization has only just begun to creep in that our government, and our army, have been part and parcel of this humanitarian disaster: 1,800 dead in Gaza, 10,000 wounded, 400,000 refugees and 3,500 homes destroyed.
Hospitals in the territory have collapsed for lack of medicine and equipment, the power station serves no function following the air strikes. Israel for its part is providing aid: Israel Electric Corporation teams are working to repair the power lines, nearly 1,850 trucks filled with fuel and food are transferred daily through the border to Gaza.
But it is all too late.
Israel has lost its credit with the world. The US is angry, the United Nations chief is pleading, and the French foreign minister has issued his strongest condemnation yet.
Israel should have been more careful, should have restrained itself.
On the other hand, Israel achieved its main goals: 32 tunnels have been destroyed and Hamas’s military capabilities have been severely damaged, including the significant reduction of its rocket arsenal.
On the other hand, Hamas can boast that it has held out against the mighty Israeli machine for 28 days, fired 33,350 rockets and shells to at least half of Israel and crippled its economy.
All in all it was a mutual punching in the ring that did not result in a knockout – only a win in points.
After Egypt is assured that understandings have been reached on the cease-fire agreement, an Israeli delegation is heading to Cairo for negotiations on the long-term arrangement.
The security cabinet’s stance is that the rehabilitation of Gaza and lifting of the blockade can be ensured only in exchange for an assurance of demilitarization in Gaza – an unlikely outcome, according to even one of the most senior IDF officials.
The Israeli delegation must understand – as some cabinet ministers already do – that without a long-term diplomatic arrangement with the Palestinian Authority, the chances of a third intifada are only growing.
The two terror attacks in Jerusalem on Monday are only the first hints of what may come without a diplomatic peace process. The thick-headed ministers within the cabinet must drill it into their skulls that PA President Mahmoud Abbas is not the problem, and that he can even be the solution to breaking out of this never-ending cycle.
Israel will never see a more moderate Palestinian leader.