Stopping the violence is the primary goal of Israel and the Palestinian civilians, but not of Hamas. During these negotiations Israel's primary objective is to secure the disarmament of Hamas and the safety of it's people, and in return they have promised to supply (and have already started supplying) increased shipments of building materials, medical supplies, and other things that the Gazan public desperatelly needs and has been deprived of by Hamas. The Hamas terrorist organization is not willing to comply with this demand and has little regard for their civilians. Their goal through these negotiations is to get Israel to further open the border crossings, and to come out with their own seaport and airport. Israel is afraid that the reason Hamas wants these border crossings loosened is to make it easier for Hamas terrorists to get into Israel and carry out suicide attacks. Israeli defense officials are worried that a major seaport in the Gaza Strip will mean that Iran will have a much easier time arming the Hamas militants through deliveries of weapons and other supplies which Israel would no longer be able to search. The Israeli negotiation team in Cairo consists of senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai.
Egypt's Original Plan
Egypt's leaders have always had the unique ability to play mediator between the Israel and Palestinian leadership, and on July 15 a plan was put forth by officials in Cairo to encourage de-escalation and a calm solution to the bloodshed. The full text of this plan can be found here. After Prime Minister Netanyahu met with his cabinet members to go over the proposal, it was decided that the Israelis would accept the cease-fire. The Hamas militants however rejected the cease-fire proposal, and in a statement released by Hamas military group The al-Qassam Brigades stated that "Our battle with the enemy will continue and will increase in ferocity and intensity," and that the cease-fire proposal was "not worth the ink that it was written with".
Egypt's first attempt at a cease-fire agreement was met with acceptance from Israel and with rockets from Gaza, as Hamas continued to rain down a barage of rockets on Israel. The first Israeli death during this conflict occured during this "cease-fire", a 37 year old man named Dror Chanin was struck with a fragment from a mortar shell fired by Hamas militants.
On Saturday July 25 a 12 hour humanitarian cease-fire was proposed for the following day by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and agreed to by Hamas leaders. Although the hopes were high that a longer temporary truce could be reached from those negotiations, this 12 hour window was a step in the right direction according to US Secretary of State John Kerry. Kerry's blueprints for a week-long extended truce at that point were dashed by the Israeli Cabinet Ministers however. The members of Netanyahu's cabinet decided that they did not want to accept an extended cease-fire at that point and stated that they did not want the Hamas fighters to use that week in order to regroup and reorganize.
Palestinian negotiator and Secretary general of the Palestinian Liberation Organization, Yasser Abed Rabbo, announced on July 28 that the factions of Hamas had come to a cease-fire agreement with the possibility of an extension. Shortly after this statement though, in an official statement from Hamas, it was made known that "Hamas gave no approval to anything Abed Rabbo said". According to Rabbo, the statement was made with the approval of Hamas, but they immediately responded that they did not approve of a cease-fire.
On July 29 Mohammad Deif, a prominent Hamas leader, released a statement where he asserted that "There will be no ceasefire without [Israel's] lifting of the siege" and, "Victory will be ours".
Kerry Tries to Broker Peace
At 3a.m. on Friday August 1 a 24 hour humanitarian cease-fire was announced that was brokered by the United Nations and the United States overnight in New Delhi, India. The rockets were to stop five hours later at 8a.m. and during this cease-fire the Israeli forces were to remain on the ground in Palestinian territory to continue their main objective of dismantling the tunnels built by Gaza militants, but no more offensive action was to be taken by either side and the Israeli military was not to advance its position. The hope was that this attempt would be more successful than the one announced on July 25 just a few days prior, due to the fact that after this cease-fire Israeli and Palestinian negotiators were due to head to Cairo to engage in formal talks once again on how to resolve the situation. Secretary of State John Kerry and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon were also hopeful that this effort could be extended into a 72 hour cease-fire to last out the weekend and give the negotiators more time to speak. Hopes were high with all mediating parties; this was the plan that Kerry had pushed for during the previous week, and both the Israelis and Palestinians agreed to negotiations following the short pause in conflict.
Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin and other members from the Givati Brigades closed in on a tunnel dug into Israel close to the village of Rafah early in the morning on August 1. The cease-fire had been in effect for a mere few hours, when Goldin and his fellow soldiers were attacked by Hamas militants and put under heavy fire. This exchange left multiple dead on both sides, and the IDF reported that Lieutenant Goldin had been possibly abducted by Hamas into the tunnel. Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the IDF promised that they would bring Goldin home safe, but these hopes were dashed when the next day a special commission determined that Second Lieutenant Hadar Goldin had died in the line of combat during the attack.
Unfortunately, after this exchange of tank, rocket, and mortar fire in Rafah, this proposed lull collapsed on itself just hours after it was announced. Claiming that they were responding to a seemingly planned attack from Hamas militants, early in the morning Israel fired shells that killed over 25 Palestinians, to which Hamas members responded by raining down a barage of rockets, and the fighting picked up once again. Israeli military spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner informed the press that the cease-fire had ended and Israel had resumed full scale ground operations in Gaza during a media conference call.
During a press conference on August 1, US President Barack Obama unapologetically condemned the actions of Hamas in violating the proposed cease-fire. The President affirmed Israel's right to defend itself and stated that Israel had agreed to this 72 hour cease-fire and members of a Hamas military faction violated it. Israel and other members of the international community "can't feel confident that Hamas can follow through on a cease-fire commitment", according to the President.
Israel Withdraws Ground Troops
On August 4 2014 a 72 hour ceasefire was agreed to after talks that began with members of Palestinian factions Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and eventually included Israel. The Palestinian factions met in Cairo first in order to discuss their demands and prepare for negotiations with Israel. This pause in hostilities took effect at 8a.m. local time on Tuesday August 5, and was successful. There was a single last minute volley of rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, and shortly before the cease-fire took effect Israel carried out air raids on Gaza.
Hamas's main demand that came about during the negotiations was the withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, and the Israeli envoy agreed to these terms. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that the Israelis were waiting until all of the terror tunnels dug by Hamas were destroyed to the IDF's satisfaction before they ended their ground offensive. Israeli news sources reported on Tuesday that the main mission of the war was accomplished, and that all terror tunnels dug into Israel had been destroyed. The Israeli soldiers are to maintain defensive positions outside of the Gaza strip, and the Israeli Prime Minister's spokesman Mark Regev stressed the fact that Israel's "goals in this operation have always been ultimately defensive".
The 72 hour cease-fire announced on August 4 was honored for most of the duration by both sides, with Palestinian and Israeli envoys heading to Cairo on August 6 in an attempt to hash out a more permanent deal. Israeli officials agreed to extend the current cease-fire, and headed to Egypt to meet with the Palestinians in hopes of a more concrete and permanent deal. A senior Hamas commander rejected a proposal by the Israelis, because the proposal called for the immediate disarmament of Hamas in Gaza. At the same time, Hamas is demanding that the Israeli officials end the 8-year blockade of Gaza, and the release of all Palestinian prisoners currently being held in Israel.
On August 7 2014 while Palestinian factions and Israeli officials were in Cairo to work out a way to extend the current 72 hour cease-fire, the Hamas faction Izz a-Din al-Kassam brigades released a troubling statement on Al-Jazeera. A masked spokesperson stated that "We urge the Palestinian delegation negotiating not to renew the truce except after the acceptance in principle, particularly to the port (opening), and if there is no acceptance then we ask the delegation to withdraw from talks". In these talks, one of Hamas's main demands is the opening of it's borders and the lifting of the Israeli and Egyptian blockades, and the military wing of Hamas wants the Palestinian delegation to not consider any peace agreements that do not include this stipulation. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have rejected deals proposed by Israel that include the disarmament of the Gaza Strip. In addition to rejecting the Israeli's deal based on disarmament, Hamas and Islamic Jihad spokespeople threatened to resume offensive action against Israel at 8a.m. on Friday after the cease-fire is lifted. If this demand is not met by Israel, then Hamas military wing Izz a-Din al-Kassam brigades is prepared to continue fighting. Additional Palestinian demands during these negotiations included letting the Palestinians run their own airport and seaport. On Thursday Hamas officials came together and vowed to reignite war if the blockade on the Gaza Strip was not lifted by Israel during the negotiations.
On the morning of August 8, two rockets pierced the Gaza sky destined for Israel only hours before the cease-fire was supposed to end. At 8a.m. local time when the cease-fire actually ended, there was an immediate barage of at least 35 rockets fired from Gaza towards Israel, with the Iron Dome intercepting two, two falling short in Gaza, and the rest landing in open residential areas in Israel. In retaliation of this rocket fire, the IDF targetted terror sites in the Gaza Strip. The Hamas military factions in the region were not interested in extending the cease-fire and ending the Israeli pounding of Gaza, and Israel resumed air strikes but ground troops have not been redeployed. Because Israel did not concede to Hamas demands of lifting the blockade, and Hamas does not wish to bend to Israel and disarm the Gaza Strip, hopes of a cease-fire extension were dead in the water. A member of a Palestinian military faction was quoted on August 8 saying that "Further sacrifices by the Palestinian people" will bring an end to the blockade.
The weekend of August 8-10 saw over 120 rockets fired from Gaza into Israel, and Israel striking terror sites across the Gaza Strip after the calm of the previous few days. After waiting through two hours of constant rocket fire on Friday morning immediately following the end of the cease-fire, Israel retalliated against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip with targetted air strikes. According to the IDF, a senior Hamas official was one of the 7 Palestinians killed on Saturday. Foreign leaders including representatives from France, Britain, and Germany urged the two sides to immediately resume a cease-fire identical to the one observed from August 4-7.
8 Days of Peace
Egyptian-mediated inpersonal negotiations on Sunday August 10 ended on a positive note, with the Israelis and Palestinian factions agreeing to another 72 hour cease-fire that took effect at mignight local time. Over the weekend Israel had originally walked away from the talks after Hamas resumed rocket strikes on Friday, and the Israeli negotiation team said that they would not rejoin negotiations until the rocket fire from Gaza stopped. The lifting of the blockade is still Hamas's main demand but neither side is getting what they want from these negotiations, leading Israeli officials to believe that hopes for an extended truce and long term cease-fire are slim. Israel's Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovich on August 11 stated that "The distance between Hamas' demands and our desire is tremendous. We need a magician to give us a long term solution to stop the rocket fire on Israel." The Israeli negotiation team arrived in Cairo early Monday morning to meet with the Palestinian leadership in hopes of coming together and forming a more lasting peace agreement.
After 2 days of intense negotiations, on August 12 the Egyptian mediators presented a plan for cease-fire and hopefully lasting peace. The agreement calls for an easing of parts of the Israeli blockade, allowing for easier transfer of people and goods and bringing some much needed aid and relief to the Gaza Strip. Though the Palestinian envoys are happy with that, the deal failed to mention any of the main demands of either group: it does not include any stipulations about disarmament of Hamas, and it does not fully lift the blockade. These issues are being saved for a later negotiation date. Israel has also offered to increase the amount of trucks bringing aid into Gaza, quadruple the amount of space it permits Palestinian fishermen to use, and transfer money from Abbas's Palestinian Authority to Hamas. Inpersonal negotiations mediated by Egypt again commenced on Wednesday August 13, a mere 12 hours before the cease-fire agreed to on August 10 expired.
Wednesday August 13 at 10p.m. local time, just two hours before the expiration of the cease-fire agreed to by both sides 70 hours prior, Hamas rockets were seen spiraling in the sky towards Israel. Hamas terrorists breached the three day cease-fire with mere hours left, launching 4 rockets which struck open territory in Sha'ar HaNegev. The Israeli Military was ordered to respond with limited calculated air strikes. At the time of the attack Palestinian and Israeli negotiation teams were in Cairo attempting through inpersonal negotiations to either come to a concrete peace agreement or at least extend the current cease-fire.
As the cease-fire agreed to on August 10 was due to expire, it was announced that the two groups had come together and worked out an agreement for a 5 day cease-fire late Wednesday night. This pause in hostilities was tacked on to the end of the previous 3 day cease-fire and is meant to facilitate a continuation of the negotiations to reach a more permanent solution. There were many tense moments leading up to the announcement, and with a few Hamas rockets being launched late Wednesday it was unclear whether there was going to be an extension of the lull or a reignition of conflict. Israeli negotiators were not in Cairo for the full 72 hours of the previous cease-fire, and Hamas officials claim that this is the reason that they could not reach a more permanent solution at this time. After this round of negotiations officials thought that the Israelis and Palestinians demands were closer than ever, and they were hopeful that this 5 day cease-fire to last until Monday will be enough time for the delegations to see eye-to-eye. With this cease-fire tacked onto the end of the last 3 day one, this was the longest period without hostilities since Operation Protective Edge began last month.
Monday August 18 at midnight marked the end of the 8 consecutive day cease-fire, which both groups honored for the most part. Although the negotiation teams had the entirety of the cease-fire to come together and find a solution, a permanent agreement is highly unlikely and rocket fire may begin on a regular basis again once the cease-fire expires. Israel stated that even if the cease-fire is left to expire and no new deal is reached, they will continue to hold their fire as long as Hamas does as well. The intersection of Israel's security needs and Hamas's aspirations of independence is tough to find, and although members from both delegations believe that the talks are beneficial there had been a minimal amount of real progress made since the last cease-fire announcement. Egyptian mediators worked tirelessly facilitating inpersonal negotiations between Israel and Hamas in order to end the bloodshed by midnight. The hope is that both groups now realize that they will have to make certain concessions to the other side. Palestinian negotiators were being encouraged by their officias and civilians to accept an Egyptian brokered deal even if it does not address all of Hamas's demands currently.
Before the 5 day cease-fire was due to expire at midnight on Monday August 18, there was an announcement that the groups had once again agreed to a cease-fire extension. This additional 24 hour extension was agreed to to give the talks "an additional chance" and was announced just minutes before the previous one's expiration at midnight local time. This extension was supposed to include the opening of border crossings in conjunction with the Palestinian Authority, the transfer of building materials and other relief materials to Gaza, an extension of the Gaza fishing area by 9 nautical miles now and 12 miles in the future, and continued consideration of a Gaza port.
Hamas militants did not honor this additional cease-fire extension and on Tuesday afternoon at 3:48P.M. local time Hamas renewed rocket strikes against Israel. Three rockets fired from Gaza landed in Beersheba and no injuries were reported, and the Israeli military was ordered to carry out air strikes in retalliation to this "grave and direct violation of the cease-fire". Israel struck 25 terror sites in total on Tuesday. According to Israeli Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, "Hamas thinks that firing rockets helps in securing achievement in negotiations, therefore it is firing at Israel even during a cease-fire". This rocket fire and blatant direct violation of the cease-fire has caused the negotiations to collapse, and in response to the violence Prime Minister Netanyahu has ordered the Israeli delegation return from Cairo. Netanyahu claims that the negotiations failed due to Hamas not even considering disarmament. All in all Tuesday 50 rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel. During the calculated air strikes carried out by Israel in retalliation to the rockets, Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif's wife and infant daughter were killed. Tuesday afternoon thousands of citizens who live in East Gaza fled their homes to stay in UN designated shelters in fear of this renewed violence. This was the eleventh time since the begining of Operation Protective Edge that Hamas militants have deliberately broken a cease-fire agreed to previously by both sides. According to Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum, "we know how to force him (Netanyahu) to understand our message". Police forces in Israel were instructed to be on "high alert" all around the country due to the increased violence.
In the first attack of it's kind, Hamas militants claimed responsibility for a rocket fired at an Israeli gas installation 19 miles off the coast of Gaza on August 20. Hamas rockets are highly innacurate and the chances of them hitting the installation were relatively small, but it is still scary and intimidating to the Israeli people to know that it is within Hamas's range of fire.
Hamas militants threatened to attack Ben Gurion airport the morning of Thursday August 21 and issued a warning to all international airlines to suspend service to the airport starting at 6a.m. Arlines around the globe stated that they had no intention of cancelling flights in and out of the airport. Hamas carried out no such attacks.
The chances of an extended truce are dim among the renewed rocket blasts and bomb shelter sirens. Through these small cease-fires both sides get a pause in the violence without having to give in to the other side's demands, and Palestinian political analyst Ghassam Khatib postulates that the future of the conflict will not hold a permanent agreement, but will be defined by small individual cease-fires and periods of bloodshed. Neither side is willing to bend to the harsh demands of the other and as long as Hamas continually breaks the agreed-to cease-fires, a solution looks far from available. Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar stated publicly on August 22 that "Palestinian resistance forces will not accept or cooperate with international agreements that hinder it's armament and the tools of resistance". In contrast to these statements, on the same day Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman was quoted saying that "The operation needs to end with the Hamas waving a white flag and begging for an unconditional cease-fire".
The rockets continued to fire during the weekend of August 22-24, with the negotiation envoys in Cairo attempting to come to some sort of agreement. On Sunday August 24 Hamas military wing Izz al-Din al-Qassam brigades claimed to have captured an Israeli drone near the Shuja'iya district of Gaza city. It is not yet certain whether the "zionist reconnaissance plane" that Hamas captured is in fact an Israeli army drone or not. The first Israeli child casualty occured over this weekend as well: 4 year old Daniel Tregerman was killed when a mortar struck his house in Sha'ar HaNegev. His parents had gotten his two younger siblings into their home bomb shelter in time but when they returned for Daniel the mortar struck and shrapnel flew, cutting Daniel's young life short. Israelis who live in towns that border Gaza have begun to evacuate in large numbers, as almost 2 months of fighting has left them increasingly frustrated and scared for their lives. According to official estimates almost 70% of the 40,000 Israeli-Gaza border town residents have evacuated. Israel's Iron Dome defense system is only effective against rockets, and because mortars travel less distance, come much faster, and provide for less warning time, the residents of the border towns have chosen to leave their homes and seek shelter with friends or elsewhere. The residents of border towns have almost no warning of incoming fire.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, tired of seeing the Palestinian people rocked by violence and bloodshed, has formulated a plan that is being presented to Palestinian leaders in Ramallah on Tuesday August 26. Abbas will put forth a new diplomatic initiative in order to bring a peaceful stop to the conflict that has killed over 2,000 Palestinians and 68 Israelis. Abbas is looking for the support of the PLO and Fatah at this meeting, and if the plan is rejected he plans to appeal to the United Nations Security Council to issue a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire. The plan sets forth a basis for an independent Palestinian state to be formed along pre-1967 lines with the capital in East Jerusalem, and has already won the approval of Russia, and various Arab and European countries as well. On Thursday September 4 Abbas presented this plan to the United States and was met with rejection from US officials including Secretary of State John Kerry. The United States supposedly rejected this proposal because it is wary of any unilateral moves by either side that may negatively affect the peace negotiations. Although the conversation was constructive according to both sides, Abbas realized that the agreement is an unconventional solution and he did not expect the United States to be thrilled with the plan.
The Egyptian negotiations collapsed in mid August, leaving a large gap between the security needs of the Israelis and the Palestinian aspirations for independence and raising of the Israeli blockade. In light of this failure to reach a more permanent agreement, the United States along with Britain, France, and Germany, are looking to pass a UN Security Council Resolution providing for a sustainable cease-fire and international monitoring mechanisms to be put in place. According to an American diplomat both Israeli and Palestinian officials have expressed the idea that a UN Security Council resolution may be a way to help calm the violence. Using external measures to help quell the conflict internally would include the opening of Gaza's borders and a return of the control of the region to the Palestinian Authority. It would also provide ways to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons and building more tunnels.
European power players Britain, France, and Germany presented a draft for a cease-fire proposal during the third week in August that included an outline for a monitoring and verification mechanism for any future cease-fires. This monitoring and verification mechanism includes creating an investigative group to investigate cease-fire vioilations and report them to the UN Security Council. This group would also provide aid relief to the Palestinians. Jordan has also presented a cease-fire draft proposition that does not include international monitoring mechanisms. A 2009 Security Council resolution did not include international monitoring mechanisms either and many UN representatives believe that was a large problem with that resolution. August 25 saw the United States put forth it's prepared draft outline of a cease-fire plan to broker peace between Israelis and Hamas. This draft is being reviewed by European powers as well as Jordan, in an attempt to put together a joint draft resolution including earlier drafts from other UN member states. UN officials have stated that the US plan is probably unnacceptable on it's own and very different from the Jordanian and Britain-Germany-France plans, but they are working in a joint effort to come up with something that will quell the violence.
An Extended Calm?
Leaving contentious issues to talks in September, on Tuesday August 26 the announcement was made that an extended cease-fire was agreed to by the Israeli and Palestinian envoys that will begin Tuesday afternoon. According to Hamas officials the truce is a "victory for the resistance," with Israel agreeing to ease the blockade of Gaza and border-crossings to allow more humanitarian supplies, food, medical supplies, and building materials to pass into Gaza. Given the fact that this is the twelfth cease-fire that has been agreed to, with the first eleven being broken by Hamas militants, the IDF is still ready for any situation. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon referred to Israel's security concerns as legitimate, and expressed positive feelings about the truce but warned against any agreement that does not address the root causes of the conflict. In the two hours before the cease-fire took effect (5-7p.m. local time), eighty three rockets were fired at Israel from Gaza, thirteen of which were intercepted by the Iron Dome. The rockets killed two Israelis and injured four others. The security chief for the kibbutz that the rocket hit, 50 year old Ze'ev Etzion, was one of the victims and died on the scene. The other victim who passed away on the way to the hospital was named as Shahar Melamed, a 43 year old father of three. Regardless of this cease-fire, the United States and other UN countries are still trying to put together a draft for a more permanent resolution . This will serve to reinforce the deal already agreed to.
The accepted plan, mediated by Egypt, calls for an easing of the border crossing's stringent regulation, as well as an extension of Gaza's fishing zone in the Mediterannean Sea. Discussions of a Gaza airport and seaport and disarmament of Hamas militants, as well as about the release of Hamas prisoners in Israeli prisons will be undertaken in September. Ordinary Palestinian civilians are glad that the fighting is over but dissapointed and frustrated that Hamas did not get nearly the amount of demands met that they thought. The conflict dealt a devastating blow to Hamas and Gaza, and Hamas has little to show for it but is still counting it as a victory. Even with the loss of over 2,000 civilian lives, the destruction of much of the infrastructure in Gaza over a fifty day seige from an advanced military, and the failure to force Israel to completely open the border crossing, a Hamas spokesperson still refered to the conflict as "a victory of resistance, the victory of Gaza". The Palestinian negotiation envoy gave up on most of their demands, and the plan that was agreed to is not much different than the original one proposed by Egypt on the seventh day of the conflict. Experts in the region state that this agreement basically puts the two groups at the same spot they were in at the end of the 8 days of fighting in November 2012 that killed over 150 Palestinians and 5 Israelis. In an interview with retired Israeli Major General Yaakov Amidror, he warns that "This does not mean that Hamas will not open fire in another month if it comes to the conclusion that it has received nothing so far. This is more or less a cease-fire agreement. It didn't receive anything, and it may be that it will understand that it received nothing and will open fire".
Israeli residents are pessimistic on whether this temporary pause will bring long-term peace to the region. Living in fear for their lives and the safety of their families, Israelis on border towns do not think that this momentary truce will turn into something lasting. Sderot resident Keren Turgeman states that Israel should occupy Gaza immediately because she has "no faith in this cease-fire" and Netanyahu has "no influence at all". Bakery owner Sian Avner explains "You can’t sleep, so you’re just always exhausted. You don’t feel like eating. I’m still in trauma. Every time the door slams I jump, every time I hear a bus going by I think it’s the shriek of a rocket". The Israeli residents are also still worried about the terror tunnels, as the tunnels are often used for surprise attacks. This conflict was seen as necessary, but at the same time there was not much gained from it, and Israeli citizens feel as if they are in the same place that they were before the hostilities began earlier in the summer.
This open-ended cease-fire is a welcome ray of hope through an otherwise bleak two months in Gaza and Israel, but it does not address the larger and more complicated issues. This interim agreement is relatively ambiguous and leaves Hamas still fully armed and in control of Gaza, something that the Israelis wanted to avoid. Senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar stated on Wednesday in his first public appearance since the hostilities began that “We will build and upgrade our arsenal to be ready for the coming battle, the battle of full liberation,” while the Israelis expressed feelings that they hope the cease-fire will follow through and this will be the end. Thousands of Hamas militants paraded the streets of Gaza on Friday August 29, making vows to rearm and reignite the conflict if final negotiations on a more permanent solution to the conflict fall through. According to Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev, this plan was one that Hamas had rejected before. Many civilians in Gaza celebrated the stop in hostilities by firing guns into the air, in a display that killed a 20 year old woman and injured a dozen more. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas delivered staunch criticism and ridicule at Hamas claiming victory after the conflict, citing the fact that Hamas has continually executed Palestinian citizens throughout the war accused of "breaking curfew" or collaborating with Israelis.
Leading up to talks in Cairo during late 2014, Hamas officials have stood by their convictions and held on to the fact that they will not disarm in return for a lifting of the blockade of Gaza by Israel. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh has repeatedly and publicly stated that they will not accept any Israeli or international effort to disarm and will resist disarmament efforts wholeheartedly. Due to their stubbornness on this pivotal issue, it is not clear whether an agreement will be met in the future.
The Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams met in Cairo on Tuesday September 23 to continue indirect talks aimed at ending the violence in a more permanent way. During these talks Hamas stuck by their demands for a lifting of the blockade, a stop to Israeli arrests of Hamas members in the West Bank, and a seaport and airport. According to the Israeli negotiation team it seems as if Hamas in no way wishes to resume firing at Israel, instead focusing on reconstruction. These Cairo talks were adjourned almost as fast as they started in anticipation and preparation for the Jewish New Year, and will pick back up in October.
To come to a permanent solution to the conflict, Israel's most powerful ally may be Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The kidnapping of three Israeli teens Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali that sparked this whole conflict was condemned by Abbas. He made public statements about how the teenagers needed to be returned safe and shamed the perpetrators. Hamas on the other hand publicly expressed their responsibility for the abduction and murder of the teens without remorse. When the unity government led by the moderate Palestinian Authority and backed by Hamas was announced in early June, Abbas assured critics that the new government would adhere to principles of nonviolence and diplomacy. He also pledged to recognize the state of Israel and accept and honor all previous agreements made between the two governments. Abbas met with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi alone on multiple occasions during the conflict to attempt to ignite peace talks between the two sides. Abbas also exerted pressure on Khaled Meshaal to resume peace talks and to accept an early deal to avoid further bloodshed, berating him and causing him to reverse his position on cease-fire talks and return to Cairo to negotiate. Meshaal was at the time not interested in continuing negotiations but he was convinced by Abbas to take the diplomatic road as opposed to the resistance route. Abbas has stated that he "will not wait 20 more years" for peace and independence in Gaza and he will continue negotiations towards peace, planning a meeting with Egyptian officials early in September. On September 2 Abbas slammed Hamas for causing so many Palestinian civilian casualties by prolonging the conflict. Abbas claimed that all of the destruction could have been avoided if Hamas had focused on the well-being of the Palestinian people instead of focusing on having their demands met and leaving very minimal room for negotiations. Mahmoud Abbas has proven himself to be a trusted ally in the peace process, and a more moderate and reasonable option in a region that is wrought with violence.
Through the conflict Abbas continually looked for nonviolent dilpomatic resolution techniques, and has done everything in his power to attempt to ensure that the parties come to a reasonable resolution. By recognizing Israel, being an active, impartial, and integral element of the peace process, and using his political clout to push for positive results, Abbas has proven that he is capable and ready to begin rebuilding Gaza and putting together the broken infrastructure of the world's largest recipient of foreign aid. Abbas may be Israel's only hope for bringing about lasting change in Gaza and disarming Hamas.