Calls for a ceasefire are escalating in the Gaza Strip in light of the continuing Israeli aggression, the fall of tens of thousands of martyrs and wounded, and the continued resistance that is causing significant losses among the ranks of the occupation forces.
Since the humanitarian truces that lasted for 7 days that ended on November 30, 2023, the mediations in which Qatar, Egypt and the United States participated have not stopped to achieve new truces or a ceasefire, and at the heart of it is an exchange of prisoners between the occupation and the Islamic Resistance Movement (agitation), as an important step to stop the war that has been going on for more than 110 days.
In recent days, we have witnessed an acceleration in mediation efforts linked to the escalation of calls in Israel, especially from the families of Israeli prisoners, to complete this deal, which the government has become Benjamin Netanyahu It seeks to calm the internal arena and reduce the intensity of international and American criticism, but without pledging to stop the war or withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
On the other hand, Hamas wants this deal to be comprehensive as a way to stop the war and withdraw the occupation forces from Gaza.
If we recall our memory, we would know that Israel was the first to offer a limited truce that would last a few days, whereby Hamas would release about 40 women, the sick, and the elderly, in exchange for a promise to release a number of senior Palestinian prisoners with high sentences, without linking this to another stage, in which A comprehensive exchange deal that would be a gateway to stopping the war.
This initiative was rejected by Hamas, and Israeli losses in the war continued, with the escalation of the protests, to include, in addition to the families of the prisoners, a group of former politicians and military personnel.
The two former prime ministers stand Ehud Olmert AndEhud Barak Among the protesters, they stressed in two separate positions that the two goals of overthrowing Hamas and restoring the prisoners could not be achieved together, and that the prisoner deal must be pursued directly, after the failure of the Israeli military campaign to curb Hamas, within the limited time period available for the war, in accordance with American demands.
This led to the development of an Egyptian initiative in consultation with the United States and Israel, which included 3 stages of the deal, the first stage of which includes what was stated in the Israeli initiative itself, and the second, which continues for another week, includes the release of female soldiers.
This initiative concludes with a third phase that includes Hamas releasing Israeli prisoners, in exchange for Israel releasing an agreed-upon number of Palestinian prisoners, with the withdrawal of the occupation forces outside the Gaza Strip, followed by the announcement of a ceasefire agreement between the two parties, with a guarantee from Egypt, Qatar, and the United States, provided that a non-governmental government is formed. Factions take over the administration of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.
Although Hamas did not announce a negative position on the initiative it received during the visit of a leading delegation to Egypt in late December 2023, it clearly announced that it insists on a ceasefire before entering into prisoner negotiations.
This does not mean that it opposes the stages in implementing the deal, contrary to what might be understood from this position. What is intended is for the negotiation to take place under a ceasefire, leading to a comprehensive ceasefire and Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, in exchange for the exchange deal.
Initiatives and positions
The concerned parties did not stop presenting initiatives, all of which participated in setting stages for implementation, not just one stage, but it seems that the disagreement does not revolve around the stages, but rather over the details of these stages, their consequences and their impact on the future of the war.
The initiatives gained great momentum with the occupation receiving violent strikes in Gaza, which caused more internal interaction with the ceasefire, in addition to the intensification of American pressure, and the case that South Africa filed with the International Court of Justice against Israel.
Therefore, we witnessed an abundance of leaks reported by the Israeli media about the initiatives that were presented and the parties’ positions on them, while Hamas contented itself with receiving the initiatives, discussing them with the Egyptian and Qatari mediators, and responding to them without mentioning it in the media, which is the approach followed by the mediators in general.
From what was leaked, in addition to the declared positions of the various parties, we can summarize the positions as follows:
The Israeli position
He does not want a permanent ceasefire at the current stage as long as he does not achieve the goal of weakening Hamas, supported by the American position. He does not want to pledge a complete withdrawal from Gaza, as long as he does not complete his mission there, even though the American position wants him to do so, but gives him an unspecified deadline. To accomplish. He does not want to adhere to the “all for all” principle.
Netanyahu does not want to appear defeated in any agreement, at the same time that he is searching for a way out of his army’s continued failure to achieve an achievement on the ground, and therefore we find him escalating on the ground, especially in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip, where he believes that he can achieve an achievement or He won victory by killing or arresting Hamas leaders or part of them, then showing that he entered the negotiation process from the position of the victor.
Netanyahu is also always keen to say that it is military pressure that will force Hamas to conduct an exchange, even though the humanitarian truces took place in light of the ceasefire, as the military force subsequently failed to release any Hamas prisoner.
However, he faces mounting pressure and sharp criticism for continuing the war, which many Israelis consider to stem from his desire to remain in power.
He also stated to Haaretz newspaper that if he agreed to end the war, this would require signing international guarantees that cannot be violated, and if this was coupled with his saying that “Israel is ready to make concessions for the sake of a new deal,” this means that he would accept stopping the war without achieving the goal of eliminating Hamas. Without guarantees through which he could say that he emerged victorious, this confirms what he previously said to the families of the prisoners: “If we stop the fighting, we will not be able to resume it.”
However, Netanyahu is still subject to the two extremist ministers Itamar Ben Gvir AndBezalel Smotrich They threaten to withdraw from the government if the war stops, which pushes Netanyahu to side with them so as not to cause the fall of the government, which may result in Netanyahu being put on trial in the corruption cases filed against him.
It does not mind that the deal begins with the release of civilian groups, such as: women, the elderly, and the sick, and the number of these may reach 40, provided that this is part of a comprehensive vision for a deal that ends with a ceasefire, and it rejects that this be merely a stage that Netanyahu takes advantage of to relieve public pressure on him. Then the war resumes.
- The first phase begins with a ceasefire, until the full deal is completed.
- Any deal must end with a comprehensive ceasefire and the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces from the Gaza Strip.
- The existence of guarantees regarding Israel not attacking Gaza, or re-arresting released Palestinians.
Hamas still possesses a military force with which it can inflict significant losses on the occupation, as evidenced by the raid operation in which 21 Israeli soldiers were killed at once, through a double bombing of a tank and a house with explosives belonging to the occupation soldiers. Such specific operations will increase the repercussions of the crisis inside Israel, by During the escalation of demands to conclude a comprehensive deal with Hamas, even if it leads to stopping the war.
However, the Hamas movement, which has the prisoner card, in addition to the effectiveness of the resistance, faces a complex situation that requires it to rush to stop the war, represented by the possibility of running out of ammunition over time, in addition to the stifling suffering that the Palestinian people are experiencing under the stifling siege, in addition to the heavy civilian losses.
Moreover, the end of the bet on raising the ceiling of the so-called axis of resistance to effective participation in the battle, and the opening of fronts for fighting, especially in Lebanon with the entity, in a way that may lead to reducing pressure on Gaza, and perhaps stopping the war in the end.
Therefore, it shows flexibility on the one hand, and on the other hand it tries to put pressure on the occupation government, by continuing to direct psychological warfare in which it incites its audience to put pressure on Netanyahu by warning of the danger of killing prisoners if the Israeli aggression continues, which is what actually happened with some of them.
In this context, a senior Hamas official told Reuters that one of the offers made by “Israel” was to end the war if “Hamas” removed 6 senior leaders from Gaza, but he added that “Hamas” “absolutely” rejects this proposal.
The source said that the list includes the masterminds of the Al-Aqsa flood attacks, who are: the head of the Hamas movement in Gaza Yahya Al-Sanwar And the head of the military apparatus Muhammad Al-DeifIn addition to the leader Marwan Issa In addition to the military commander Muhammad Al-Sanwar. In addition to two other names of Phalange leaders that were previously mentioned by Israeli sources: Rafi Salama and Izz al-Din al-Haddad.
However, it is important to point out that this proposal was not included in any of the initiatives, but rather was conveyed orally through mediators, and was rejected as we mentioned above.
It seems that despite the continued divergence in positions, the US envoy to the Middle East, Brett McGurk, is still active in the region, and the Qatari and Egyptian mediation is also moving.
A clip of Netanyahu was leaked in which he attacked the Qatari mediation, accused it of supporting Hamas, and accused Washington of not putting pressure on it, but this falls within the framework of pressure to complete a deal, despite the balance enjoyed by the Qatari mediation, which enabled it to arrange smooth and successful humanitarian truces.
An official familiar with the negotiations told Reuters that Hamas “sought a truce that would last for several months, while Israel wanted to release all detainees within weeks.”
He added that over the past few weeks, American and Qatari mediators were able to bring the two sides closer to agreeing on a 30-day process, which includes the release of all detainees, the entry of more aid into Gaza, and the release of Palestinian prisoners.
A Palestinian official said that Hamas wants the United States, Egypt and Qatar to ensure implementation, and is concerned that the Netanyahu government will resume fighting once Hamas releases civilian detainees, even if Israeli soldiers remain detained.
An American source also told Reuters that Hamas sought during this round to release all Palestinian prisoners from Israeli prisons, including those who participated in the attacks of last October 7 (an all-for-all deal), which Israel still opposes. .
Despite the difficulty of negotiations, and the continued threats from Netanyahu and his Defense Minister Yoav Galant By continuing the war until victory is achieved, the occupation government realizes that it is negotiating with a group different from the organization, and in different circumstances.
A report by the American network NBC stated that Gershon Baskin, who brokered the Shalit deal, said that “Sinwar will not repeat the experience.” Yasser Arafat In 1982, he will not accept being deported outside the Gaza Strip. He will continue to fight until the end. He may prefer death, and he is not afraid of that. Because he believes that life in this world is short, but living in heaven will be eternal.”
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal also revealed a secret US intelligence report indicating that the Hamas movement still possesses enough ammunition to strike Israel for months to come, and that the goal of destroying the movement has not been achieved, despite the intense Israeli air and ground campaign in the Gaza Strip.
Therefore, Netanyahu is under a state of pressure that may push him to make concessions, and this is what many security experts are calling for, especially with the escalation of resistance operations.
Expert Nahum Barnea says, “The conclusion is clear: there are no absolute victories in the rounds of wars in the Palestinian arena. What we have learned in our wars is that whoever aspires to achieve more things than he is able to achieve on the battlefield, disaster will befall him.”
He pointed out that the situation in Israel currently is similar to the situation during the occupation of southern Lebanon, where the presence of the Israeli army in Lebanon enjoyed wide popular support, but the helicopter disaster that caused the death of about 72 soldiers when two helicopters collided in February 1997, turned the situation upside down.
He continued that this incident led to the escalation of protests, and the two candidates for prime minister at the time, Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu, were forced to pledge to withdraw to the borders of the ceasefire line.
He adds, “Netanyahu promises us daily that the war will continue until absolute victory over Hamas. He does not clarify the nature of this victory, nor what reality will be created. The task of the political level is to transform a military achievement into an agreement, and into a future in which we can live. Netanyahu has absolved himself of responsibility towards the future.” .
The bottom line is that the ceasefire negotiations and the release of prisoners are still working, and both parties need them. They are focused on implementing the deal in stages and not all at once. Therefore, the situation of finger-biting will continue, while the final result of the deal will depend on developments on the ground, and its repercussions on both parties on the ground, and on the Israeli side. Specifically in the popular political aspect.