A ceasefire looms, or not, maybe

Let’s try to sort out the conflicting reports over a possible ceasefire.

Israel, officially, has not agreed to a ceasefire, and certainly hasn’t sought one. But Netanyahu is interested in one under certain conditions, as John Kerry has just made clear.

Some in Hamas are denying that they want a ceasefire, after Khaled Mashaal announced this afternoon that it does — for 24 hours.

Earlier today, Mahmoud Abbas’s senior colleague Yasser Abed Rabbo announced an imminent 72-hour ceasefire.

For now, the Israeli army is continuing its operations in Gaza.

According to Channel 2’s expert Ehud Ya’ari, Hamas wants a ceasefire but doesn’t want to acknowledge this. Abbas is pushing a ceasefire, and, according to Channel 2, has been assured by Kerry that his PA forces will return to Gaza, deploying at the Rafah border crossings, under a subsequent agreement.

Hamas, says Ya’ari, is hoping to make gains in post-ceasefire negotiations, having initially been told by Kerry — via Qatar and Turkey — that some of its demands for a lifting of the Gaza siege would be met.

Except that Kerry, having been subject to blistering criticism in Israel for his weekend diplomatic activities, has now rolled emphatically back from the Qatar-Turkey axis, and is working on the basis of the original Egyptian ceasefire proposal. While the draft/proposal Kerry conveyed to Israel did not address Israel’s specific security concerns, notably including the Hamas cross-border tunnels, Kerry said just now that “what we put on the table” would allow Israel “to continue to deal with [the Hamas] tunnels even as they were in a short-term ceasefire to try to reach a sustainable ceasefire.” The US has “made certain” that a ceasefire would ensure Israel’s continuing ability to protect itself, he’s now stressing.

Confused? You’re not alone.

And amid the lack of clarity, the Israeli cabinet meeting scheduled for tonight just got moved to tomorrow. By which time things might be clearer.

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