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Israel, Hamas and US in impasse over cease-fire deal

Israel, Hamas and US in impasse over cease-fire deal
US-Israel in impasse over cease-fire deal | Ian Bremmer | Quick Take

Ian Bremmer's Quick Take: Hi everybody. Ian Bremmer here and a Quick Take to kick off your week. And I want to talk a little bit about the Middle East because the war is very much still going on.

There's been hope, a lot of hope that we would have had a breakthrough deal for an extended cease fire, not a permanent cease fire, the cease fire of some six weeks, and that in return, significant numbers, dozens of the hostages that are still held after many months by Hamas in Gaza would have been released to their families in Israel. That has not happened. And it's not happened in large part because Hamas has refused to continue to negotiate. They basically said we want a permanent cease fire or nothing. And they are essentially daring the Israelis to go ahead with ground strikes in Rafah, where we have about 1.5 million Palestinians that are sheltering. “I have nowhere to go.” And the Americans are very unhappy with the idea that the Israelis would engage in that battle without having a plan for evacuation and protecting those civilians. Hamas is saying “go for it if that's what you want to do.” They're putting, as they have all the way through, their civilians at maximum risk. They're not trying to defend them.

Netanyahu, meanwhile, is trying to stay in power. What that means is he is more than willing to say “no” very loudly, very publicly to the United States. President Biden has said that an attack into Rafah by the Israelis would be a red line, would constitute a red line. And the Netanyahu government has said, “This is not a red line. The red line is destroying Hamas.” And so we're going to do absolutely everything in our power to do that. That includes taking on the tunnels and the military leaders that we believe continue to exist in that territory. Expectation is that is indeed going to happen. There’s going to be a lot more civilians that are killed. Biden is going to be under a lot more pressure, notwithstanding the fact that there is an effort by the Americans and others to provide more humanitarian aid on the ground to the Palestinians. But that is not close to the trucks that could be coming through that the Israelis have been unwilling to allow through.

So, I mean, you're at an impasse and you're an impasse basically until the Israelis feel like the war has been fought to their satisfaction and Netanyahu who is correct about one thing. This isn't just him that's calling the shots. It is the entire Israeli war cabinet, is the Israeli population. Whether or not they like Netanyahu and most of them don't. They want a war that destroys Hamas. They want a war that gets rid of the military capabilities on the ground and under the ground that finds the leaders and kills them. Hamas is very aware of that.

And that's part of the reason why you still have large numbers of hostages that continue to be held. It's quite plausible that the Israelis know where the Hamas leaders are, that they’re surrounded with a whole bunch of innocent civilians, Israeli civilians, and that's why they're still there. If you let them all go then what happens to them? Well, that's the end of them.

So there are many reasons to believe that the war is going to persist for a long time. And I'm not just talking about a month or two. I'm talking about like still happening when US elections are in place in November. That's a real problem for Biden, did a good job with the State of the Union last week, better than most expected. The Middle East is one of the areas that he is most vulnerable right now. He kind of squished it towards the end of the speech, didn't talk about it very much, and is trying to distance himself from the Israeli prime minister. There's only so much he can do given that he's going to continue to provide military support no matter what. He's going to continue to support Iron Dome, no matter what. Israel is going to continue to be America's top ally in the Middle East, no matter what. So on the one hand, he has large numbers of Americans in his own party that are increasingly sympathetic with the Palestinian position, in particularly with the civilian position on the ground. And yet he has very little leverage over his top ally.

That's a serious, serious challenge for him going forward. As long as that persists, you're going to continue to have attacks on ships in the Red Sea. We just saw the first casualties as a consequence of that, price is going to continue to be inefficient and up on the back of that, and you're going to see concerns about broader instability, radicalization particularly from the Palestinian population, but also the broader Arab street, the Muslim population in the Middle East, in Europe, even in the United States.

That's a reality and that's a very big downside for Biden himself. The good news, very good news. He has a little bit of good news, which is that America's efforts against the Houthis, which has degraded their military capabilities by between 30 and 50% of what they are known to have, that's not what they're not known to have, has meant that we have not seen attacks by Iranian proxies against American forces or British forces on the ground. That's a big deal. That is a win and it’s not a huge win, but in the context of so many other things in the Middle East that are going badly, you'll take it.

So anyway, that's where we are right now, and I hope everyone's doing well and I'll talk to you all real soon.


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