The frantic diplomatic efforts are ongoing in Cairo and all players are present. From the Palestinian side, Meshaal and Abu-Marzook ( Hamas), Ramadan Shalah ( Islamic Jihad) and Nabil Shaath ( Fatah). Israeli TV channel two has announced that an Israeli envoy is also heading to Cairo. In addition, of course, are the “big three” leaders of Qatar, Turkey and Egypt.
Does that mean a ceasefire is near? That is what both Morsi and Erdogan want us to believe, though I would take their statement as a message for the domestic audience and not necessarily an indication of any progress. In Israel, Haartez editorial also think there would be no ground assault ( though Haaretz hardly reflect Netanyahu’s thoughts).
The Al-Qassam military brigade (the military wing of Hamas) has also released a video after a very defiant speech. The insolent, loud rhetoric was clearly aimed at the wider Arab public to garner support amid the local population. Their “surprise” video turns out to be a video of the launch of a Strela-like surface-to-air shoulder missile. This is nothing hugely surprising. There are also reports that Palestinian fighters fire most of their rockets by remote control, where rockets are hidden in trenches and camouflaged by trees.
As for Israel, it seems that it designed a staged, step-by-step plan, yet it is unclear what their end game will be. It is also unclear whether Netanyahu is really willing to go to war or if he is just bluffing. Though his support inside Israel seems to be solid, many Arabs do not take him seriously after his previous empty threats against Iran. I guess the answer depends on what deal he would clinch from the three patrons of Hamas (Turkey, Qatar and Egypt). He has to remember that any deal would not be bad for Hamas but not necessarily good for him. Hamas—in the current Arab dynamics—had nothing to lose but has plenty to gain.
Many analysts are claiming that Hamas is desperate and lost most of its missile capabilities. I think we should be careful before we assume such a conclusion. Four years of smuggling won’t be depleted easily. It seems to me, although I could be wrong, that Israel is not duly bothered by Hamas capabilities; however, it is aimed to achieve a long-term deal, not a truce or a lull but a concrete agreement. Netanyahu seems to be willing to give Hamas a favorable strategic position against Fatah in return for guaranteed stoppage of rocket launching and control of other smaller groups.
Regardless, I think we are heading for another day of negotiations and airstrikes. May God be with the innocent civilians who are awaiting the results of the haggling in the political bazaar and the realization of how their leaders will roll the dice.