On August 2, after 26 days of fighting, Israeli troops began to withdraw from Gaza. The move was soon followed by a full redeployment out of the Strip as part of Israel’s acceptance of a 72-hour ceasefire brokered by Egypt, which could be a prelude to full ceasefire negotiations. In the past, any talk of scaling back has been met with public calls in Israel for continued military operations to defeat and disarm Hamas. But, these days, it seems that Israel is focusing on a more realistic exit strategy. Indeed, although eventual disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of the combatants in the Gaza Strip would no doubt be a good thing, demanding disarmament and demilitarization without a long-term political solution to the fighting is both unrealistic and unhelpful.
Over the past few weeks, as Hamas and Israel sparred once more, there has been a growing awareness within Israel that the quiet-for-quiet formula -- which is based predominantly on military deterrence and has guided relations between Israel and Hamas -- at least since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007 -- has failed to provide Israel with long-term security. In turn, a number of political and security officials have suggested that Israel should settle for nothing less than a fully demilitarized Gaza. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has picked up the call, arguing during a mid-July press conference that, the “most important step for the international community to insist on” is “the demilitarization of Gaza.” He reiterated that call again on August 4, insisting that the “rehabilitation of Gaza” should be linked to a process of demilitarization, a hint that this issue might factor into upcoming ceasefire talks.
The international community has followed suit. On July 22, EU foreign ministers issued a statement calling on all terrorist groups in Gaza to disarm. And in a speech last week, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry stated that the group’s post-war disarmament would be a key element in creating stable peace. Although “disarmament” and “
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