Agence France-Presse

The truce industry: A decade of shaky cease-fires between Israel and the Palestinians

Egypt's rise as peace-broker between Israel and Hamas not only stemmed from geography and its peace treaty with Israel but also its former desire to keep tabs on Hamas' connection with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Above, Hamas Leader Khaled Meshaal gives a press conference at the Journalist Syndicate building on November 19, 2012 in Cairo after truce talks.
Credit: Gianluigi Guercia

GENEVA — Talk of an Egypt-brokered cease-fire between Israel and Hamas withered Wednesday after a deadly bus bombing in Tel Aviv and an onslaught of Israeli strikes.

The promise of a cease-fire was cold comfort to both parties, which have seen their fair share of truces torn up over the last decade.

Indeed, the history of Egypt-brokered cease-fires in the last few years has been spotty at best, constantly falling victim to tit-for-tat violence that seems to have a way of getting out of hand fast.

Both Hamas and Israel have refused to speak face to face, complicating any chance for a negotiated solution and leaving Egypt as the sole intermediary, particularly since Israel's evacuation from Gaza in 2005.

Rather than negotiating broad agreements, informal arrangements set up by Egypt to stop the attacks have become the norm — a method that is clearly unsustainable in the long-term.

Egypt's role as intermediary between the Palestinians and Israelis does have a long history, dating back to the late 1970s, but it became increasingly more important with the lull in violence in the West Bank after the second intifada in the early 2000s.

Jordan's role as peace-broker between the two sides slowly diminished over time as violent upheaval moved from the West Bank to Gaza.

"With the outbreak of the second intifada in 2000, Jordan no longer had the clout or relations it once did with Hamas, nor did Palestinian Arafat have a strong relationship with the country given the history of the Bloody September crackdown on his organization in 1970," Taufiq Rahim, a Dubai-based political analyst, told GlobalPost.

He added: "This left a vacuum, and seemingly until shortly before Yasser Arafat's death in late 2004, there was an absence of a 'peace' broker."

The job naturally went to Egypt, which had strong connections with a rising Hamas and had control of Gaza's only border crossing apart from Israel.

Egypt's role was also strengthened by its desire to keep tabs on the relationship between Hamas and Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the latter seen as the precursor to the former.

More recently, Egypt's new government has been determined to keep Hamas close given its ties with anti-government Islamic militants in the Sinai.

A recent escalation in violence in Egypt near the Israeli border has affirmed the country's interest in maintaining stability there.

"Egypt needs a strong Hamas as they are the one cracking down on jihadists based in the southern part of the Gaza Strip," said Daniel Nisman, an intelligence manager at MAX Security Solutions, a geopolitical risk consulting firm based in Tel Aviv.

"They have a lot of connections with Sinai."

More from GlobalPost: Gaza: The roots of conflict

Israel's unilateral disengagement from Gaza in late summer 2005 saw the ramping up of rocket attacks from Gaza and a growing role for Egypt to keep the peace.

A timeline of Egypt-brokered cease-fires in the last few years confirms that history does indeed repeat itself in relatively short succession.

This same week last year, news reports claimed that Israel was preparing for an incursion into Gaza after barrages of rockets punctuated an Egypt-brokered informal truce.

That informal cease-fire had been negotiated after the deadly January 2009 conflict between Israel and Hamas that claimed over 1,000 lives.

The 2009 war was itself the product of another failed Egyptian-brokered cease-fire that lasted six months before it expired and violence returned.

The past week's violence has reaffirmed Egypt's role as struggling peacemaker, but the political landscape has changed significantly in the past year.

Egypt is now run by the Muslim Brotherhood, which is more sympathetic to Hamas.

Mohammed Morsi, the country's new president, is walking a tightrope, say analysts, at once taking on Egypt's role as peace-broker but also now more susceptible to the popular will of Egyptians, who are staunchly anti-Israel.

Morsi promised Tuesday that a deal would be reached, reported GlobalPost, that would see an end to Israeli bombing.

Yet, with reports of fresh Israeli strikes on Gaza and a bus bombing in Tel Aviv, the Egypt truce-making industry is not likely to go out of business anytime soon.

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