John Kerry has made a surprise visit to Jerusalem to negotiate a cease-fire between Gaza and Israel, but since the conflict thus far has served only to unify Gazans and Israelis alike in mutual dislike, a more creative solution will be needed.
There is a certain appeal to this image of Kerry flying in unannounced to Israel’s airport—which was recently closed to Americans for safety reasons—perhaps with a red, white, and blue cape fluttering in the breeze created by passing missiles. It is not terribly realistic, though. Both Israelis and Gazans view Egypt and the Obama administration—the powers that negotiated the ceasefire in 2012—with suspicion, and that will make a repeat deal challenging.
Besides that, neither side would gain much from a return to the tense, non-violent hostility of a month ago. For Israel, it would be a matter of time before war began again. And besides that, explained Jerusalem Post reporter Gil Hoffman, Israelis are almost unanimously behind the ground invasion:
[Hamas] didn’t attack the West Bank, whose fate divides Israelis. They attacked Tel Aviv and close to Ben-Gurion International Airport with rockets, targeted left-wing agricultural communities on Israel’s side of the border with Gaza from what Israel calls terror tunnels, and allegedly kidnapped boys on the way home from school in a society that is obsessed with children.
By doing so, Hamas built up the stamina of an Israeli population that was more impatient in previous standoffs in Gaza.
Polls have shown that support for the ground offensive is sky-high and that Mr Netanyahu’s backing of a proposed Egyptian cease fire was extremely unpopular.
For their part, Palestinians, with their death toll approaching 700, will be in even worse shape when the fighting ends. The reason for this attack was largely economic, and Gaza’s economy certainly needs more than weeks of fighting to improve its GDP. Palestinians loathed the combined Israeli blockade and destruction of supply tunnels to Egypt. Those tunnels accounted for 30 percent of Gaza’s economy, enough to keep them fighting for impovement.
All this lends credence to a radical solution proposed by Shaul Mofaz, the IDF chief of General Staff. Mofaz essentially wants to buy off the Palestinians in exchange for demilitarization of Hamas. This would require the international community to help in the same way that it did in ridding Syria of chemical weapons. They, along with the Arab countries, would fund a revamp of the Gaza economy and refugee camps. It would cost $50 billion, which would go to the Palestinian Authority. Mofaz has presented the plan to Netanyahu, Israel’s president, and the opposition leader, who have already endorsed it. His colleague has also presented it to the Palestinian Authority, according to the Jerusalem Post.
The plan has its weaknesses, but it might actually work. It would solve the causes of the current conflict and give both sides something they want. Otherwise, it’s likely that Israel will circumvent Kerry, with or without a cape. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel asked Congress for $225 million to speed up Iron Dome improvements by moving production out of the United States, according to Haaretz—and thus the war will continue.