Geoffrey Aronson writes: If it is possible to talk about a “good” war, then Israel’s Pillar of Defense against the Gaza Strip may well fit the bill. The war was a disaster — in human and material destruction. No one would argue otherwise. But it also crystallized a shared interest in stabilizing the conflict between Israel and Gaza — creating an opportunity that the three principal parties to the conflict — Israel, the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Egypt — recognize and appear determined to exploit.
Gaza has long been the most dynamic arena where Israel and Palestinian interests collide. Battles have been fought with depressing regularity, and the periods of calm are inherently unstable, given the failure to reach a grand diplomatic bargain. But it is also the case that Israel, largely through Egyptian good offices, has since Ariel Sharon’s announcement in March 2004 of his intention to “disengage” from Gaza, enjoyed a more fruitful and successful dialogue with Hamas than with the PLO’s Mahmoud Abbas and the West Bank under his nominal rule. Today, Israel’s Egyptian-mediated dialogue with Hamas represents the only working diplomatic channel between Israel and the Palestinians.
The two-paragraph cease-fire document agreed to by Israel and Hamas on Nov. 21 is the latest example of this workmanlike relationship. Hamas did not sign the document, in keeping with the fiction that Israel is not negotiating with Hamas. This is only a cosmetic convenience however, that reflects the shared, strategic interest of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Hamas leadership of Khaled Meshal alike. So too the document itself, which offers something for all parties, except that of Palestine’s president Mahmoud Abbas of course, and his Palestinian Authority(PA), which has been reduced to a facilitator of understandings reached between Israel and the government in Gaza. [Continue reading…]