During the first stage of implementation, Israel is required to ease its blockade of the Gaza Strip and allow resumption of some supply shipments. A week later, Israel is to loosen restrictions at cargo crossings. During the final stage of implementation, the sides are expected to discuss the opening of a major border passage between Gaza and Egypt, in addition to the release of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, whom Hamas has held prisoner for two years.
In Israel, public controversy exists around the fact that Shalit’s release will be discussed only during the final stage of the ceasefire implementation, which further includes the opening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt. For its side, Hamas has conditioned the release of Shalit on the freeing of 450 Palestinian prisoners, of whom Israel has so far stated that it is prepared to release only 70.
However, Hamas is in a no-lose situation when it demands the release of its more active cadre, i.e. activists the movement never expected Israel would release anyway. It would be a major victory for the movement if Israel releases even a portion of these prisoners. Otherwise, Hamas may arrive at an independent agreement with Egypt regarding the Rafah crossing, an agreement that would not involve Israel, and Gilad Shalit would remain in Palestinian hands indefinitely.
In contrast, Israel is in a weaker negotiating position. The Israeli public expects its government to free Gilad Shalit, the failure of which would underscore the Israeli military’s lack of achievements in its confrontation with Hamas. Yet, on the other hand, the Israeli public is likely to reject swapping Shalit for major Hamas military activists in prison.
In light of the stalemate in the situation of Gilad Shalit created by the cease-fire and in order to display its military superiority, the government in Israel may opt for military reoccupation of Gaza for an extended period; this is an option the Israeli military rejects, and which would also mean the restoration of Israeli-Palestinian relations to the pre-Oslo direct occupation.
Consequently, the Israeli political and military leadership is trapped in the web of its failed policies; while it refuses to move forward on the path of peace, it is all too aware of the ramifications of open war.