Gaza War: 'Breakthrough' Raises Hopes of Ceasefire Deal

  • the author, Sebastian Usher
  • the role, BBC Middle East analyst
  • Reporting from Jerusalem

It appears to be the first step in what could once again be a complex series of negotiations aimed at eventually bridging the gap between the Israeli government and Hamas, with each as its baseline. Describes what any potential contract will involve.

After Mr. Barnia left Doha, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said there was still a gap between the two sides. Israeli officials have already said that expectations need to be lowered.

The latest wave of hope for a deal came when Hamas offered its response to a three-phase proposal that President Biden presented several weeks ago.

Key to this formulation was what has long appeared to be the biggest obstacle in the way of the two sides accepting the deal – Hamas's demand that there be a permanent ceasefire and Israel's counter demand that it grant independence. should be Relaunch the war in Gaza if necessary.

Exactly what Hamas presented has not yet been made public. But the Israeli response appears far more positive than at other events in the past seven months when the process has regained momentum. A source in Israel's negotiating team said the proposal put forward by Hamas included a “very important development”.

There are indications that Hamas may have accepted the key point of the proposal announced by President Biden – that it move the talks through the first six-week phase of the ceasefire with its goal of a permanent end to the war. , rather than requiring it as a starting point.

Hamas, in particular, has reined in its portrayal by the United States as the biggest obstacle to agreeing a deal. If it becomes clear that he has indeed made this concession, the ball will be firmly in Mr Netanyahu's court.

At no time has he personally budged an inch on his public commitment to the total elimination of Hamas — and Israel's right to continue fighting in Gaza after any cease-fire. He has resisted all pressure from inside and outside Israel to modify this position.

But there is undue pressure on him from all sides.

The latest push seems to have come from within their own army. A recent New York Times article cited unnamed current and former security officials as saying that Israel's top generals “want to start a cease-fire in Gaza even if it temporarily keeps Hamas in power.”

Mr. Netanyahu called him a loser. But he will not be able to resist such pressure forever – nor the growing anger on the streets of Israel from those who want the remaining hostages in Gaza to be brought home now.

For Hamas, there are also some signs of growing frustration with the ongoing war on the part of Gaza's civilian population, its victims every day. And at the international level, the patience of mediators like Egypt and Qatar is running out.

image caption, Hamas is under pressure to end the war for the sake of Palestinian citizens.

Regional countries that wholeheartedly support the Palestinian cause are also reported to be increasing pressure on Hamas to accept the deal. Its leadership may feel that the group's apparent survival, even if severely degraded politically and militarily, may be victory enough.

And for the international community, the need to find some end to the war has become even more urgent with the threat of the conflict between Israel and Hezbollah escalating into a potentially all-out war. A cease-fire in Gaza could potentially ease these tensions.

And for the Biden administration — still reeling from the aftermath of last week's debate between the president and Donald Trump — a diplomatic success here would be a much-needed boost.

All these elements suggest that hopes that have been rekindled may this time finally prove to be more resilient than the negative factors that have seen them crumble before.

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