The most recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas took effect at 2am local time on Friday 21 May. At the time of writing, it has therefore held for precisely nine days. However, a ceasefire is only that - it is not the basis for any kind of future planning, but at least it gives a breathing space.
Back in February, we wrote about the two Israeli civilians: men with mental health problems and from marginalised communities, who have been held captive in Gaza since 2014 in the case of Avera Mengistu and 2015 for Hisham al-Sayed. As well as these men, Hamas has refused to return the remains of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, who were abducted and murdered during Operation Protective Edge. As Egypt and Israel prepare for simultaneous diplomatic exchangevisits, with Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi heading to Cairo and Egypt's Director of Intelligence Abbas Kamel set to visit Israel, Ramallah and Gaza, we are pleased to note that Israel is insisting that the return of the four men must be part of any deal that is struck.
With Egypt and Qatar each offering $500 million to help with reconstruction in Gaza, there would appear to be no shortage of goodwill finance available should Hamas ever decide to pursue a peaceful path. You may be wondering where the Hamas leadership were during the recent crisis - were they with their people in Gaza? Not according to the receipt below, from the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel in Doha.
If you think the scandal of this is the $1 million that Ismail Haniyeh spent on the jaunt to the luxurious Mandarin Oriental hotel in Doha, rest assured it is a mere bagatelle to the multi-millionaire and is easily covered by the 20% "tax" that Hamas collects on the illegal trade passing through its network of tunnels. For the real scandal, check the dates. The terrorists checked in on 9 May, the day before Hamas began firing missiles at Israel. And they checked out on 20 May, hours before the ceasefire.
So, while millions of Israelis cowered in bomb shelters and Palestinians were used as human shields by terrorist groups in Gaza, the so-called "leadership" of Hamas were living it up on their holiday. A far cry from the 'martyrdom' which Haniyeh is encouraging in the picture to the left.
The major news today is that Naftali Bennett, leader of Yamina, has decided to go back on his signed pre-election pledge not to join a government led by Yair Lapid, the leader of Yesh Atid. This could mean that, by Wednesday's deadline, a coalition will be ready to bring to an end the Premiership of Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel's longest-serving leader since Hasmonean times. There is no doubt that Israel could do with political stability, after four elections in the last two years, and the arithmetic of the Knesset means that there is not going to be overwhelming support for any of the possibilities.