Editor’s Note: Egypt brokered a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Palestinian militants, after eight days of fighting in the Gaza Strip and southern Israel. In an interview with NPR’s Neal Conan, Martin Indyk discusses the effects of the recent conflict. Read an excerpt below and listen to the full interview on npr.org.
Neal Conan: So what’s changed?
Martin Indyk: Actually, I think potentially quite a lot has changed. It’s not very visible to the eye as yet. The fact that this cease-fire has held so quickly and that all of the different militant factions in Gaza seem to be adhering to it, or at least that Hamas is able to get them to adhere to it, strikes me as quite positive.
But beyond that, there’s the new role of the Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, and under his guidance Egyptian intelligence, which essentially have brokered this deal, and the United States really didn’t play that much of a role. And he’s become responsible for it. He’s done a few other things after that which are highly problematic, but in this context he’s helping to preserve the peace with Israel rather than to disrupt it.
And I think that if he continues to play that role, that’s a positive development. Beyond that, there’s a – there’s the fact that Hamas is essentially taking on responsibility for policing a cease-fire, stopping attacks on Israel. And on the Israeli side, the right-wing government of Bibi Netanyahu exercised restraint.
And I know that may sound hard to believe given the amount of destruction involved, but if there’d been a ground invasion, the destruction would have been far worse, and the problems for both sides would have been far worse in terms of loss of life and damage and damage to Israel’s international reputation on the other side.
And the fact that the prime minister exercised restraint and has had to justify that restraint to his right wing and is doing so and survives it and has the foreign minister, the hardliner Avigdor Lieberman, also supporting this policy of restraint – I mean, bear in mind that this is a government that has in its platform an agreement to topple the Hamas government in Gaza, and they made a conscious decision not to do that, suggests that maybe, just maybe out of this, Hamas and a right-wing government in Israel can find a way to do business without fighting each other.
The objective of this kind of [safe zones] project may be described as fundamentally humanitarian, but the reality is that any number of parties, starting with the Assad regime and the Islamic State, are going to see it as a threat, and that’s going to make it a target instead of a safe place.