All of a sudden, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr appeared on the TV screen — on all the news channels.

In Arabic, FM Amr announced that “efforts had led to a cease-fire, an end to the violence and bloodshed we have witnessed”.   He said this cease-fire would start at 21:00 in Cairo [20:00 GMT].

He read a statement in Arabic, speaking about the end goal being a comprensive and just resolution.  “We are calling for a fair solution to the Palestinian question”, and he said Egypt will continue in its efforts.  And, he indicated that he hoped the divisions between Palestinian factions would end, and the Palestinians will be united.

Then, Sec of State Clinton said, “To hold, the rocket fire must end and a broader calm return”.  She said that the people in the region deserve to live “free from fear and violence”, and that “in the days ahead, the U.S. will work to improve conditions for the people of Gaza, and provide security for the people of Israel”.

@TimothyS — CNN just reported that US will spend an additional $600 million on Israel’s Iron Dome system as part of the Gaza cease-fire agreement.

UPDATE: An alternative theory: RT.com reported on 23 November, here, relying on a report on the not-always-reliable Debka.com, that “the pause in fighting comes after the US promised to send troops to Sinai. According to Debka, US troops will soon be en route to the Sinai peninsula…Debka reports this week that Sinai will soon be occupied by US troops, who were promised by President Barack Obama to Israel’s leaders as a condition that a ceasefire be called. Once deployed, the Americans will intervene with the rumored arms trade orchestrated by Iranians, ideally cutting off supplies for Hamas while at the same time serving as a thorn in the side of Iran…The decision to send US troops to Sinai in exchange for a ceasefire was reportedly arranged early Wednesday morning after Pres. Obama made a deal over the phone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu…A ceasefire has since been called after a week of fight, but more military action could soon occur, claims Israel, if the flow of weapons to Gaza is not stopped… Debka’s sources suggest that US troops may now have to intervene in Sinai if any smugglers should attempt to move weapons into Gaza. ‘By opening the Sinai door to an American troop deployment for Israel’s defense, recognizes that the US force also insures Israel against Cairo revoking or failing to honor the peace treaty Egypt signed with Israel in 1979’, adds Debka.  According to their sources, US troops are expected in Egypt early next week”.

The Guardian reported here that “Barack Obama heaped praise on Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire plan and offered increased US funding to beef up Israel’s air defence batteries.  The White House, in an unusual twist, highlighted that Netanyahu had followed Obama’s advice, which was to accept the ceasefire deal…[The White House statement] publicly stressed the fact that Netanyahu had taken Obama’s advice. ‘The president commended the prime minister for agreeing to the Egyptian ceasefire proposal – which the president recommended the prime minster do – while reiterating that Israel maintains the right to defend itself’, the White House said.”

The Guardian reporter is seeing this through the perspective of Obama-Netanyahu relations [recent tensions]. I see this as even more significant in terms of Israel-Egyptian relations. Netanyahu agreed “to give the Egyptian ceasefire proposal a chance”. [Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar, who just retired from years of distinguished service at Haaretz, and who was a whole-hearted advocate of the Arab Peace Initiative of the early Second Intifada years, once wrote that the main Israeli problem with the Arab Peace proposal was its name…]

This may also be Netanyahu trying to flatter Egypt. There are reports that he’s tried to get in touch several times with Egypt’s new President Mohammed Morsi, a long-time member of the Muslim Brotherhood who resigned from the party after taking office. Morsi has reportedly so far not taken Netanyahu’s phone call.

Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu’s office issued a statement reporting that the Prime Minister “spoke with US President Barack Obama and acceded to his recommendation to give the Egyptian ceasefire proposal a chance and thereby give an opportunity to stabilize and calm the situation before there is a need to use greater force”…

But,there may be trouble ahead. In the euphoria tonight, Hamas’ Khaled Meshal told journalists at a press conference in Cairo that all the crossings into Gaza would be open. But, Rafah is not mentioned. And, when the UN Security Council later agreed on a statement on Gaza [the first it was able to issue during this crisis], it effectively bypasses Hamas — particularly with what it says about the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip. The UNSC statement was posted on un-report blog by Nabil Abi Saab here and it seems intended to effectively enshrine this cease-fire. The statement says:
“The members of the Council called on the parties to uphold the agreement and to act seriously to implement its provisions in good faith. They expressed their continued support for the ongoing international efforts to consolidate this agreement The members of the Council strongly commend the efforts of Egyptian President Morsi and others to achieve the ceasefire. The members of the Council also expressed strong appreciation for the efforts of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in this regard. The members of the Council affirmed the need for the people of Israel and the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip to live without fear. They called on the international community to contribute to improving the living conditions of the people in the Gaza Strip, notably through providing additional emergency aid through appropriate established channels to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and to work in this regard with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Egypt for the expeditious and unimpeded delivery of such humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment. The members of the Security Council deplored the loss of civilian lives resulting from this situation and reiterated the need to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and well-being of civilians and their protection in accordance with international humanitarian law. The members of the Council stressed the urgency of the restoration of calm in full and reiterated the importance of achieving a comprehensive peace based on the vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognized borders”.

News reports say that Israel will not open the border crossings into Gaza, but a copy of what is said to be the agreement, posted on Twitter by JonDonnison of the BBC, says that the opening of the crossings etc will be dealt with 24 hours after the start of the cease-fire:

“Opening the crossings and facilitating the movement of people and transfer of goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents in border areas. Procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours from the start of the ceasefire”.

Egypt is described as “the sponsor of this understanding”.

The other provisions are that:
1) Israel shall stop all hostilities on land, sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals; and
2) All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including rocket attacks and attacks along the border.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a unilateral press statement, with Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Alexander Lieberman by his side.

Then, in Cairo, Khaled Meshaal said that Israel’s objectives failed. He read out the agreement’s first provision — 1) Israel shall stop all hostilities on land, sea and air, including incursions and targeting of individuals — and said, that’s what we wanted.

He said other matters can be discussed later — and said that in 24 hours, at 21L00 tomorrow night, we will discuss how to fulfill the demands of the Palestinian people:  “Gaza and the West Bank are two parts of the dear Palestinian people”.

[[ A longer interview with Khaled Meshaal by with Christiane Amanpour can be viewed here. In it, Meshaal said: “Palestine is from the river to the Sea, but because of the circumstances of the region,the Palestinians today and Hamas agree to a national programme that accepts the ’67 borders…but it is up to the Israelis”. And, “I accept a Palestinian state on ’67 borders with Jerusalem as its capital and the right of return”.]]

Then, there was this Tweet:

@idfspokesperson: After 8 days,the IDF has accomplished its goals in Operation #PillarofDefence. A ceasefire agreement has come into effect.

But, what can erase the images of the lifeless bodies of dust-covered children being carried out of the broken rubble of their homes?

A whole population here watched the worst images being played over and over, in a loop, on the Arabic-language television stations, with small children running in and out of the rooms where the adults were paralyzed by being mesmerized with what was was being shown. on the screen… And the children saw everything: the violence, and the mesmerized paralysis of the adults. How will their lives be shaped by this?

As Egyptian writer Nervana Mahmoud wrote tonight on her blog, Nervana, here: “The current Gaza war is one example; not just of the futility of the whole episode but of the predictability of it. Now, the Palestinians know exactly how the Israelis will respond: through a series of target assassinations and air strikes that initially began restrained, then gradually become wild, with higher civilian death toll…Confrontations have become increasingly like a reproduction of the same movie with different cast, but with the same script. Frankly, it has become boring, disgusting and nauseating—a lose-lose situation”.

And, as Nervana noted, “There was something deeply unsettling in watching the Hamas leader Khalid Meshaal (in a Cairo press conference) claiming defiance and victory, while innocents are still been targeted by Israel. He did not even ask for a minute silence to honor the victims”.

Debka reports this week that Sinai will soon be occupied by US troops, who were promised by President Barack Obama to Israel’s leaders as a condition that a ceasefire be called. Once deployed, the Americans will intervene with the rumored arms trade orchestrated by Iranians, ideally cutting off supplies for Hamas while at the same time serving as a thorn in the side of Iran.

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