Sherwin Pomerantz

 The 214th Day of War in Israel   

The proposal for a hostage-prisoner exchange and cease-fire that Hamas said on Monday that it could accept has minor wording changes from the one that Israel and the United States had presented to the group recently, according to two officials familiar with the revised proposal. The officials said that the changes were made by Arab mediators in consultation with William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, and that the new version keeps a key phrase, the eventual enactment of a “sustainable calm,” wording that all sides had said earlier they could accept.

The two officials said the response from Hamas was a serious one, and that it was now up to Israel to decide whether to enter into an agreement. The proposal, they said, calls for Hamas to free hostages — women, the elderly and those in need of medical treatment — in return for a 42-day cease-fire and the release of a much larger number of Palestinian prisoners. Israel had sought 33 hostages, but it is not clear how many women and elderly are still alive, and the first tranche could end up including remains.

That would be the first of three phases of reciprocal actions from each side. In the second phase, the two sides would work toward reaching a “sustainable calm,” which would involve the release of more hostages, the officials said. Both officials acknowledged that the warring parties would likely clash over the definition of “sustainable calm.”

One of the officials, in the Middle East, said that Hamas viewed the term as an end to the war, with Israel halting its military actions and withdrawing troops from Gaza. The officials said that Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, was expected to push back against that definition.

The Israeli prime minister’s office said that while the new proposal failed to meet Israel’s demands, the country would still send a working-level delegation to talks in hopes of reaching an acceptable deal.

Israel announced on Monday that its war cabinet had voted unanimously to continue with its military action in Rafah in order to exert pressure on Hamas. That announcement and the start of any offensive in the city could jeopardize the prospects for an agreement. Mr. Netanyahu said last week that he would carry out an offensive in Rafah “with or without” an agreement

The Israeli army took control of the Gazan side of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt on Tuesday morning, as images circulating on Arabic-language news sites and social media appeared to show the Israeli flag raised over the former Hamas-administered site. The 401st Armored Brigade captured the crossing, cutting it off from the major thoroughfare of Salah a-Din road. That route was separately captured by the Givati Brigade overnight, the army said.

A video, which was apparently filmed by an Israeli soldier, depicted a tank mowing down flagpoles at the Rafah crossing, atop which the Palestinian flag was mounted.  Hours into the offensive, some 20 terrorists who attacked troops were killed and IDF soldiers discovered three “significant” tunnels, the army said.  In addition, some residents of Rafah sought refuge on the Egyptian side of the border but were denied entry.

All of us here would like to see the hostages returned, both those who remain alive and those who have died in captivity, as well as see the war ended and Hamas defanged.  Let us hope that with God’s help, now that we have begun the Rafah offensive that the last of the Hamas battalions will be vanquished and an end of the war will result.

About the Author
Sherwin Pomerantz is a native New Yorker, who lived and worked in Chicago for 20 years before coming to Israel in 1984. An industrial engineer with advanced degrees in mechanical engineering and business, he is President of Atid EDI Ltd., a 32 year old Jerusalem-based economic development consulting firm which, among other things, represents the regional trade and investment interests of a number of US states, regional entities and Invest Hong Kong. A past national president of the Association of Americans & Canadians in Israel, he is also Former Chairperson of the Board of the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies and a Board Member of the Israel-America Chamber of Commerce. His articles have appeared in various publications in Israel and the US.