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Why did Israel reject Kerry's ceasefire proposal?

Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that its ally in Cairo gets the credit, rather than the Hamas-allied Turkey and Qatar? 

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

There is hardly any difference between the draft agreement presented by Kerry and the Egyptian proposal, apart from the question of who will be its sponsor: Cairo, or Turkey and Qatar?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

On Sunday morning, Haaretz’s excellent diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, published a commentary on the new draft proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

At the end of his article Ravid added:

[Kerry’s] conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events. It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation, but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.

A report published in Haaretz reveals the text of the draft, compares it with the draft presented by Kerry last Thursday and discusses the negative aspects that appear in the draft. We do not have access to the full text of Thursday’s draft, but we do have the full text of the Egyptian draft of the ceasefire proposal, which Israel accepted and which was rejected by Hamas.

A close reading of the full version of Kerry’s “Hamas-inspired” draft and that of the Egyptians reveals insignificant differences between the two. The Egyptian draft, which was put together with Israel, while excluding the Hamas from the process, was formulated before the land invasion of Gaza and therefore does not address the question of Israel’s continual destruction of the underground tunnels.

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

According to Haaretz, the Thursday draft allowed Israel to continue destroying the tunnels for a period of one week following the beginning of the ceasefire, whereas the “Hamas-inspired” draft does not allow it. Effectively, the current draft states that immediately after the onset of the ceasefire “both sides will refrain from carrying out military or security activities that could lead to confrontation between them.” It is obvious that the draft forbids targeted assassination attempts against members of Hamas and the other organizations, but it is not at all clear that the continued destruction of the tunnels is forbidden as well.

Haaretz lists other problems in Kerry’s draft, the most important being the lack of any reference to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. However, the Egyptian propsal does not deal with this issue, and it is clear to Israel that the demilitarization will not be achieved by a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Therefore demilitarization was not stipulated as the objective of its current operation in Gaza.

Another claim presented by Haaretz is that the new draft requires both sides to return to the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. This agreement was put in place in order to secure the reopening of the border crossings, as well as to enlarge the area to which Gazan fishermen have access. However, the Egyptian draft presented the agreement of 2012 as the basis of negotiations between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel. It is important to note that Hamas considers the return to this agreement an accomplishment, in light of Israel’s breaching of the agreement and the tightening of the blockade on Gaza, which took place in the time since the agreement was signed. It was also claimed by Haaretz that the draft does not mention the Palestinian Authority and thus weakens it. However, Egypt’s proposal also did not refer to the PA.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

According to Kerry’s draft, it was claimed that the negotiations for a permanent arrangement with Hamas will address the organization’s demand to open a sea harbor and an airport in Gaza. There is no reference in the text of the draft to these demands, and the chances that they will be supported by the U.S. are next to nothing. The airport in Gaza was bombed in 2001 and has not been in operation since. The site of the harbor under construction was also bombed in 2001. Since Israel did not adhere to its commitment (part of the 2005 agreement regarding border crossings), to enable the construction while Mahmoud Abbas was in control of the Gaza Strip, it will not do so under Hamas rule.

There is only one difference between the drafts: the identity of their respective sponsors. According to the Egyptian draft, Egypt will supervise the implementation of the agreement, whereas in Kerry’s draft the role of supporting the agreement and providing humanitarian assistance was given to the European Union, the Arab League, the UN, the United States, Qatar and Turkey.

A senior official in Kerry’s delegation was therefore justified in stating that the Kerry draft was based on the Egyptian proposal, which had been wholeheartedly endorsed by Israel. Thus, if Israel is opposed to the Kerry draft, it is opposed to its own plan.

Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that the regime in Cairo gets the credit rather than Turkey and Qatar? Or maybe the fact that 86.5 percent of Israelis currently oppose a ceasefire is driving the spin masters who need to look for excuses to continue the fighting?

Elizabeth Tsurkov is a human rights activist and a graduate student in Middle East studies.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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    1. Kolumn8

      Israel opposes the Kerry ceasefire because it lays out a framework in which Hamas and its Qatari and Turkish sponsors are effectively guaranteed accomplishments in return for shooting rockets at Israeli cities. Hamas gets to declare victory (justifiably) and becomes the preeminent Palestinian organization and its militant approach will spread to the West Bank and result in more attacks on Israel. Hamas’ sponsors in Qatar and Turkey get to claim victory as well and to demand support from their neighbors in their hostile attitude towards Israel. In addition it is an absurd cease-fire proposal which effectively sidelines the Egyptians(a state with actual borders with Gaza) and forces Israel into negotiations with a bunch of unfriendly states over lifting the blockade while not taking Israeli security considerations into account. Accepting it would be the equivalent of getting into a room to discuss the mechanism according to which Hamas will rearm itself in preparation for the next war while ensuring that Hamas and its approach becomes the primary standard bearer for the Palestinians.

      The Egyptian ceasefire was very basic – there will be an end to shooting and then there will be some talks where Hamas would be represented by the PA with implementation to be controlled by an Egypt ruled by a government that is hostile to Hamas. As for the idea that Israel agreed to “reopen the border crossings” in 2012. The terms of the 2012 cease-fire contain absolutely no obligations on Israel to do any such thing. This claim made by Hamas was BS when it was first made in 2012 when Hamas declared victory and it continues to be BS right now. Any claim to the contrary must be backed up by primary evidence of which you will find none. All that Israel agreed to was to talk about it 24 hours after the cease-fire was put in place. Hamas might have gotten some other assurances from Egypt at the time, but it got none from Israel. In other words, in returning to the 2012 cease-fire agreement, Hamas will have gone to war, caused the destruction of Gaza, and achieved absolutely nothing. Qatar and Turkey would be excluded from playing any role and the regime in Egypt which hates Hamas will determine how aid and money is brought into Gaza. Egypt has already announced that it would reopen the crossings only if the PA was on the other side, leaving Hamas with only two options – let the PA back into Gaza and let them control it, or to keep the blockade in its entirety in place. In effect this would be a stinging loss for Hamas.

      Why the heck would Israel accept the Kerry cease-fire when it is the stronger party, there is overwhelming support in Israel to continue the operation, and Hamas gets weaker every day that this conflict continues? What idiot is going to let the rabid Erdogan government in Turkey supervise an agreement between Israel an Hamas?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Danny

      Israel’s predicament reminds me of the old joke about George Bernard Shaw and its famous punchline: “Madam, we’ve already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

      Israel has lost. There is no question about that. Let’s quickly look at the score sheet:

      1. 50 dead soldiers, 3 dead civilians, many more injured and one soldier MIA. By all accounts (including the IDF’s) Hamas has shown remarkable fighting ability during this war, and has essentially erased whatever remained of Israel’s mythical “deterrence”.

      2. Israel’s south has been shut down for about a month, with heavy reduction in economic activity amounting to losses of billions of shekels.

      3. Some internal government finance agents estimate that the direct cost of the war amounts to 3-4 billion shekels. Who will foot this cost? We know the answer to that (hint: Israelis should expect their gasoline and cigarettes to go up in price significantly).

      4. The devastation in Gaza has caused even cynics like Obama and Kerry to do a double take. It looks more and more like John Kerry has had enough of Israel, and is ready to actually stick his neck out to make it stop abusing Palestinians.

      5. Israelis should expect another Goldstone-like commission to be touring Gaza very soon. I don’t think anyone in Israel expects to come out looking good in the commission’s report. Maybe this time around the report will also have recommendations for punitive actions against Israeli war criminals.

      What is Israel’s main gain? Oddly enough, Israel’s main (if not only) gain is in the form of the most valuable stooge it has had in years: None other than the temporary dictator of Egypt, Sisi. Along with the soon-to-be ex-PM of Canada, Stephen Harper, Sisi has proven to be a very loyal friend to the Netanyahu regime, something that will undoubtedly eventually cost him his job (if his not his life).

      Reply to Comment
    3. Whiplash

      The entire Israeli defense cabinet, all major Israeli political parties and all major newspapers, including Haaretz, the PA and Egypt were against Kerry’s proposal. The editor of the Times of Israel referred to terms of the truce proposal as a “betrayl”. I suggest people go to the Times of Israel and read David Horovitz’s opinion piece on the matter for enlightenment. To allow either Turkey or Qatar, both sponsors of Hamas, anything to do with any ceasefire is simply lunacy and a reward for bad behavior and an endorsement of terrorism.

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        But Israel’s bad behavior should be overlooked, right. All laws and norms of decency go out the window when it comes to “defeating” Hamas.

        Reply to Comment
    4. Richard Courtney

      how about this portion of the document that you didn’t list in this article:

      c) Convene in Cairo, at the invitation of Egypt, within 48 hours to negotiate resolution of all issues necessary to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and enduring solution to the crisis in Gaza, including arrangements to secure the opening of crossings, allow the entry of goods and people and ensure the social and economic livelihood of the Palestinian people living in Gaza, transfer funds to Gaza for the payment of salaries for public employees, and address all security issues.

      Read more: Leaked document confirms US ceasefire bid generous to Hamas | The Times of Israel

      so Hamas gets it’s borders open, and Israel leaves without being able to remove the tunnels (the document does not allow for that, you can assume all you want).

      This would be considered a major victory for Hamas, they get what they wanted all along, open borders and funds transferred to them so they can increase their terrorist activities.

      minor changes? Really?

      Reply to Comment
      • Reza Lustig

        Of course, ending the occupation entirely would be the best way to “defeat” Hamas (i.e. by taking away the Palestinians’ only reason for supporting it). But who ever said the Israeli government ever thought in the long term?

        Reply to Comment
        • Avdim

          I am constantly amazed at this certainty that other people think like you think. That you actually share some common moral values with Hamas and their supporters.

          Endless amounts of polls, dozens of countries, our century old conflict and millions of our neighbors prove you wrong again and again.

          Hamas and the likes do not go anywhere once “not needed”, they don’t actually need public support, they don’t actually care what the public wants or needs. They are a fucking terror organization going after power and money and spread of Islam (for more power and money).

          Not only will they refuse to go anywhere (why would they?!), but the public will not actually want them gone. Why? Beats the shit out of me, but they keep doing it. Time after time, country after country.

          There is only one way to defeat Hamas and it’s to kill its leaders and destroy its infrastructure. All other options will lead to more death.

          End the “occupation” and Hamas will buy more rockets. Give them electricity, water and cement for repairs – Hamas will dig more tunnels. Give their fisherman more space, or a harbor – Hamas will smuggle more weapons. Can’t you see that it’s all they are?! Without a struggle, they have no right to exist (in their own eyes, nobody’s interested in the public opinion) so – there must ALWAYS be a struggle. Grievances, slights and insults can be found in abundance when one is looking for them…

          Reply to Comment
          • Reza Lustig

            Actually, Hamas DOES need public support; it’s a political party, affiliated with a resistance group (Izz ad-Din al Qassam brigades).

            Do you think the Vietcong, or the Chinese Communists, or the Algerian FLN, or the ANC, or any other resistance grout in history won because they had more weapons and were better armed? No, they won because they had public support, and their opponents didn’t. The Kuomintang, the South Vietnamese government, the Afrikaners and the French colonials were all unpopular with the people. Israel is unpopular with Palestinians, because of the occupation. Once that ends, they can go about their lives. It’s simple logic. That poll one of you lot pulled up from NYT showed just that; they tend to dislike Israel, but would take an end to the occupation as a sign of ending hostilities.

            Here’s a historical constant for you: every one of the regimes I mentioned shared your logic; that “defeating” the opposition was the only means of survival, not changing their behavior towards or treatment of the people who hated them.

            Reply to Comment
          • liz silman

            Israel has deliberately taken every opportunity to weaken and embarrass Abbas because he has shown that he is sincere and credible in seeking a 2-state settlement and is respected and treated with courtesy by most of the international community. He is indeed Israel’s biggest threat because he has encouraged greater support from the international community for a resolution which, tragically, Israel has shown that it is the last thing it wishes to achieve. In its treatment of Abbas, Israel has deliberately and knowingly empowered Hamas. Make no mistake, Israel and Hamas need each other. Hamas so it has a raison d’etre, the destruction of Israel, Israel so that it can claim that it has no partner for peace and – thanks to Hamas’ existence – provides itself with further ammunition to marginalise Abbas.

            Reply to Comment
    5. Sherifa Zuhur

      “just so its ally in Cairo gets the credit”? What a cheap shot at Egypt! Are you unaware that the original proposal was also backed by the Arab League? There were more than “insignificant differences” between the two proposals. For Israel, the issue of destroying the tunnels became a major pt. in Israeli media & govt.’s arguments about it’s intended goal in the ground operation. Convening in Cairo to work out opening all borders (meaning Rafah as well as Erez) thereby ending the boycott, is no doubt an essential part of stabilizing Gaza, but apparently the proposal needs to include further safeguards. That’s not all, but leaving this matter to be sponsored by Qatar, which has just signed a huge arms deal with the U.S. and which harbors Muslim Brotherhood fugitives and has furthered Hamas in many ways, or Turkey is not a minor issue. While a prompt end to the onslaught on civilians needs to be achieved, and all peace proposals will include certain basic elements, any observer or student of IR should be able to understand that this Israeli govt. is unlikely to grant the concessions outlined in Kerry’s ‘plan.’ Maybe Saudi Arabia can take on a leadership role now?

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    6. Piotr Berman

      Out of curiosity: is there a shortage of medications for psychotics in Israel? I watch Steven Plaut’s Facebook comments and they really worry me.

      Reply to Comment