Strange Bedfellows
Israel to Lift Blockade in Return for Hamas Ceasefire

Israel and Hamas may be about to ink a major deal trading a long-term truce for relief of Israel’s blockade. The Times of Israel reports:

A leading Arab daily reported on Thursday that Israel has agreed to “entirely” remove its blockade on the Gaza Strip and establish a naval passageway between the Hamas-controlled territory and Cyprus, in return for a long-term ceasefire lasting seven to 10 years.

Quoting “trusted Palestinian sources,” the London-based al-Hayat said that the agreement was reached through indirect negotiations conducted by outgoing Quartet representative to the Middle East Tony Blair, a former British prime minister.

al-Hayat is among the most trustworthy Arabic-language news sources, and multiple Israeli papers, including Haaretz, are running with the report. There may be something to this beyond the usual rumors.

There is still a lot we don’t know about the details of ceasefire (if real) and about its potential implications. One serious question is whether Israel has gotten Egypt’s support for it; Egypt has been hostile to anything like this and it would a major problem if Israel hasn’t cleared it with the country. Another issue is what impact the agreement might have on the ongoing wrangling in Israel over the Leviathan gas field.

But from what we do know, it seems the deal would be good news for the people of Gaza and of Israel. That’s assuming it would hold, of course; to modify Ben Franklin, this would be “a truce, if you can keep it.” But more than that, this ceasefire would have big geopolitical implications: Sunni Gulf monarchies may have been closely involved in these negotiations, and the deal could be a sign that the Sunnis and Israelis are getting seriously close to a united front against Iran.

We’ve been realistic in these pages about the chances of the Iran deal surviving Congress, which are almost certain. But that doesn’t mean that opponents of the deal, both at home and, especially, abroad, don’t have options. This proposal, if real, is ground-shaking, and it should indicate how much Arab countries and Israel both want to block the Iran deal. Perceiving Iran as a mortal threat, both seem to believe that checking the country is worth almost any other sacrifice.

This time, the impulse to unite against Iran may have yielded a ceasefire that America would welcome. But other responses to Iran (such as the Saudis getting nukes from Pakistan) could run just as strongly in the other direction. American policymakers will have to be swift, nimble, and far-sighted to navigate the changes coming to the Middle East.

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