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Forty-Five Years After the 1973 War, Israel Faces Another Year of Decision

October 15, 2018 Topic: Security Region: Middle East Blog Brand: Middle East Watch Tags: IsraelPoliticsWarGazaEgypt

Forty-Five Years After the 1973 War, Israel Faces Another Year of Decision

Exactly forty-five years after Egypt launched the 1973 War, Hamas leader Yahia Sinwar opened a Sadat-like direct conversation with the Israeli public that painted a dire picture of the conditions in the Gaza Strip and presented Israel with a stark choice.

Finally, some Israelis will demand that any talks with Hamas should first focus on it releasing the two bodies of Israeli soldiers that have remained in its possession since the summer 2014 war, as well as the two Israelis who later entered into Gaza in circumstances that are yet to be clarified. While Hamas is likely willing to release Israelis of both categories as part of an armistice agreement, it is unlikely to agree to do this outside of such a deal except for a price that Israel is unprepared pay.

For all these reasons, Israel is most likely to reject Sinwar’s offer or altogether ignore it. This is all the more likely if, sometime after the 2018 U.S. midterm elections, Israel will need to react to another development—a Trump-proposed Israeli-Palestinian “ultimate deal.” An Israeli debate about such a deal is bound to short-circuit any serious Israeli consideration of the merits of an interim deal with Hamas. For its part, Hamas is bound to see a proposed Israeli-PA deal as merely intended to marginalize its own role. To avoid this, Sinwar may, like Sadat before him, ignite another round of fighting to demonstrate that he can’t be ignored.

Shai Feldman is the Crown Family Director of Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

Image: Reuters