A cease fire has been announced between Israel and the Gaza Strip. The cease fire applies more to Israel which has enjoyed an unprecedented one-side battle with the Hamas controlled region. Behind the nearly impenetrable Iron Dome, Israel has been able to strike Hamas with less risk of retaliation. In any case, Israel and Hamas have agreed to cease firing upon one another under the Egyptian brokered agreement.
Egypt was actively involved in brokering the peace deal and facilitating communication between Israel and Hamas, the political party that controls the Gaza Strip. This is a positive development given that some analysts were worried that the Egyptian Government under Mohamed Mursi, would take a hard line against the Israel.
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As with any Israeli-Palestinian conflict the causes and effects are deeply rooted in decades of history. When Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip through Democratic elections in 2006, they promptly refused to acknowledge past agreements between Palestine and Israel, though they did offer various peace agreements, provided Israel was willing to make major concessions. Hamas also refused to renounce violence, prompting the United States and other international donors to cut off aid.
Many analysts argue that Hamas is a terrorist organization and the Israeli government has all but refused to acknowledge their legitimacy and leadership. Indeed, Hamas’s leadership is at the center of the on-going tensions between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Many leaders within Israel believe that Hamas cannot be tolerated and must be forcibly removed from power. These leaders are generally in support of a full-scale invasion into the Gaza Strip. Indeed rifts are already developing within Israel’s leadership. Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz is on record stating “In my opinion, sooner or later, we are going to have to move from deterrence to vanquishing.”
Such a broad campaign would almost certainly be accompanied with increased casualties on both sides and could risk alienating Egypt, which has thus far shown general restraint under the leadership of Mohamed Mursi. So far the government of Egypt has been cordial with Israel but as the country is controlled by an Islamic political party they will likely be sympathetic towards the Palestinian cause. Already, President Mohamed Mursi has already denounced Israel’s attacks as unacceptable, and there is always the risk that the even more hard-lined elements of the Muslim Brotherhood could use these attacks as an excuse to gain political power.
According to the text of the cease-fire, the border crossings for the Gaza Strip will be opened, and goods and people will once again be able to cross the border. Whether or not Israel and Gaza will live up to this agreement remains to be seen. So far Israel has all but refused to work with Hamas, but, on the other hand, the Israeli government almost certainly wants to remain on good terms with Egypt.
Further, Israel may be emboldened by the success of its “Iron Dome” missile defense system. Initial reports suggest that the Iron Dome was successful in stopping up to 90% of missiles heading towards populated areas within Israel. Funded in large part by the United States and developed by Israel defense companies, the Iron Dome has largely shielded the Israeli population from attack. In the past, civilian casualties ratcheted up pressure on the Israeli government, forcing them to either launch a full-scale invasion or to settle for a cease-fire. Now, the Israeli government can be confident that it can launch air strikes with less risk of successful rocket attacks from Hamas.
The cease-fire is exactly that, a cease-fire. It does nothing to solve the underlying tensions between Israel and Hamas. As such the risk for future outbreaks in conflict remains high. Hamas may, however, see the change in the tide and the fact that their home-made rockets no longer pose much of a threat to Israel. Whether this encourages Hamas to think of new ways to attack Israel, or forces them to pursue a peaceful resolution remains to be seen. The coming days will tell if the cease-fire will hold for a substantial amount of time, however, without resolving the underlying conflict, any cease-fire will merely be kicking the can down the road.