Reasons why Israel and Hamas agreed to a ceasefire
Israeli soldiers fighting in the Gaza Strip in photos released on November 13. Photo: Reuters

With the ceasefire agreement, Israel can rescue hostages and calm public opinion, while Hamas has more time to reorganize its forces.

On November 22, the Israeli government announced a 4-day ceasefire agreement in exchange for the freedom of about 50 hostages from the Gaza Strip. On the same day, Hamas confirmed the “humanitarian ceasefire,” adding that 150 Palestinians would be released from Israeli prisons under the agreement.

The move is considered a major breakthrough that can contribute to reducing conflict tensions after more than 6 weeks of fighting. It could also help Israel defuse growing pressure from domestic and international public opinion, according to Jeffrey Fleishman and Laura King, two analysts for the Los Angeles Times.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has faced increased political risks in recent weeks, as families of kidnapped people criticized the Israeli government for not making efforts to rescue their relatives.

“I believe the government needs to do more to provide things for Hamas and the Palestinian people. Give them fuel and anything to save people,” said Benjamin Mayan, who joined thousands of others in a march to Netanyahu’s office in Jerusalem over the weekend to demand the release of hostages.

Former prime minister Ehud Barak, Netanyahu’s political rival, said that the head of government’s number one priority is protecting citizens. He said that Prime Minister Netanyahu failed to do that during the Hamas raid on Israeli territory on October 7.

Netanyahu’s approval rating is falling. A new Bar Ilan University opinion poll shows that less than 4% of Jewish Israelis consider Netanyahu trustworthy when it comes to information about the war.

John Lyons, analyst for ABC News in Australia, said the political motivation behind the ceasefire lies with the Prime Minister. Netanyahu, who is “fighting for the survival of his political career.”

Tel Aviv clearly wants the Israeli military to be able to locate and rescue hostages without having to make a deal with Hamas or release Palestinian prisoners. However, Israeli ministers clearly understand that they currently do not have any other choice but to accept a compromise with Hamas.

“This agreement is the only option available to rescue the hostages,” David Horovitz, an analyst for Times of Israel, said.

The newly reached ceasefire agreement not only received widespread support from the Israeli people but was also highly agreed upon by the wartime cabinet. Even some of the most hard-line elements of the current administration, such as the Zionist party, consider the agreement worth implementing.

The international community’s anger at Israel’s anti-Hamas campaign has also increased in recent weeks, as the number of casualties soared, medical facilities were destroyed, and many Palestinian children became victims of terrorism.

US President Joe Biden and many European leaders have pressed Netanyahu to halt the fighting to rescue the hostages and open a humanitarian corridor through Egypt to transport food, fuel and medical supplies into Gaza.

Not only did it help release a group of hostages, but the ceasefire also allowed hundreds of aid trucks to transport medical supplies and necessities into Gaza every day. This can help appease Israeli public opinion, Palestinians and the international community, according to observers.

Tamir Heyman, the IDF’s former intelligence chief, said he believes pressure on Israel, mainly from the United States, will ease thanks to the ceasefire agreement and increased aid supplies into Gaza. Heyman added that the agreement also gives the IDF more time to reorganize its forces to continue the fight against Hamas.

Another question is why Hamas agreed to compromise with Israel. Observers believe that one of the reasons is that Hamas wants to find a way to free Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli prisons. Tel Aviv has drawn up a list of 150 Palestinian prisoners who can be released under this agreement.

Many observers believe that in addition to the goal of rescuing prisoners, Hamas leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, also wants to take advantage of the 4-day ceasefire to reorganize forces and gather weapons after more than 6 weeks of suffering Israeli airstrikes and ground attacks.

“Mr. Sinwar may also want to prevent Israel from expanding its ground offensive into southern Gaza, especially Khan Younis, where many believe he, other Hamas leaders and many hostages are residing,” Horovitz commented.

Observers believe Sinwar will seek to prolong the implementation of the agreement, such as demanding a longer pause to release the remaining hostages, while trying to find ways to increase international pressure on Tel Aviv. to end the ground attack.

Israel is also concerned about this, making Netanyahu’s government initially reluctant to accept the request for a humanitarian ceasefire. , according to observers. With this ceasefire agreement, the Israeli army will face the complex task of maintaining the pace of the offensive campaign after the pause.

“Ground campaign momentum will not be easily restored. You may have to implement a ceasefire not for 3-5 days, but for 10-15 days”, said Eran Etzion, former vice chairman of the National Security Council of Israel.

However, during a cabinet meeting on the evening of November 21, Prime Minister Netanyahu made it clear that the agreement to stop fighting did not mark the end of the conflict. “We will not stop the war after the ceasefire expires,” he said.