Secretary of State Hilary Clinton and her Egyptian counterpart held a news conference today to announce a ceasefire will commence at 9 p.m. local time, or 2 p.m. eastern time. Foreign minister Mohammed Kamel Amr explained that the negotiation has “resulted in understandings to cease fire and restore calm and halt the bloodshed that the last period has seen.”
It doesn’t seem, however, like either side considers this much of a triumph or, maybe, even expects it to be all that durable: Secretary Clinton explained that, “there is no substitute for a just and lasting peace”; according to the Israeli prime minister’s office, Netanyahu has told President Obama that he’s willing to give the agreement “a chance.” Israel and Gaza have actually continued to exchange fire, though the ceasefire hasn’t officially begun — and some have questioned whether the Hamas government that agreed today (let alone whether it is serious in its own commitment) will be able to police other various military groups in Gaza, and prevent them from launching more attacks. If any attacks continue, the Israeli vice president has made clear their response: “If a single rocket is fired after Gaza truce, Israel will take alternative action to ensure there’s quiet.”
It doesn’t appear that the agreement will lead to far-reaching changes, then, or much alter the state of Israel’s blockade of Gaza, though that remains to be seen.
Clinton also complimented the role of Egypt’s government in the negotiations; while President Morsi declined to appear alongside her, she said that Egypt had shown “responsibility, leadership” in the region.
UPDATE: As part of the deal, Israel has agreed to cease “targeting of individuals.” At the beginning of the present conflict, a targeted Israeli air strike killed Hamas’s top military commander, Ahmed al-Jabari. Israel has also agreed to some apparently minor but still unclear loosening of the blockade, perhaps involving freedom of persons.
UPDATE II: Lest you doubt just how central Egypt has been to this process, and how intent the U.S. is on keeping President Morsi close:
Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Amr. I want to thank President Morsi for his personal leadership to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and end the violence. This is a critical moment for the region. Egypt’s new government is assuming the responsibility and leadership that has long made this country a cornerstone of regional stability and peace. The United States welcomes the agreement today for a ceasefire in Gaza. For it to hold, the rocket attacks must end, a broader calm return.
The people of this region deserve the chance to live free from fear and violence, and today’s agreement is a step in the right direction that we should build on. Now we have to focus on reaching a durable outcome that promotes regional stability and advances the security, dignity, and legitimate aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis alike. President Morsi and I discussed how the United States and Egypt can work together to support the next steps in that process. In the days ahead, the United States will work with partners across the region to consolidate this progress, improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel. Ultimately, every step must move us toward a comprehensive peace for all the people of the region.
As I discussed today with President Morsi, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas, there is no substitute for a just and lasting peace. Now that there is a ceasefire, I am looking forward to working with the Foreign Minister and others to move this process. Thank you very much, Foreign Minister.
That’s the whole statement she gave. Granted, Egypt has always played a crucial role in these kinds of negotiations, the negotiations occurred in Cairo, and Clinton was standing next to Morsi’s foreign minister. But it still seems notable just how flattering it is to Cairo’s leadership.