It’s day 14 of Israel’s offensive in the Gaza strip and fierce ceasefire discussions are taking place in multiple locations across the globe minus one key player — Hamas. Meanwhile, rockets have been launched from Lebanon into Israel as international pressure mounts for Israel to back out of Gaza. Has Israel lost the PR war? Here’s what the pundits say:

Israel and Egypt discuss Gaza truce. Israeli officials discussed a French-Egyptian ceasefire plan in Cairo today, but Hamas officials have yet to turn up and the Islamist group reiterated its reservations about the proposal. The Israeli envoys, Amos Gilad, a defence official, and Shalom Turjeman, a senior aide to Israel’s prime minister, spent the day in talks with Egyptian officials before heading back to Israel. There were no details on who they met and what they discussed. Hamas, which has neither accepted nor rejected the plan, has yet to decide on whether to send anyone to Cairo. — The Guardian

No new Lebanon confronation over Gaza, yet. The firing of Katyusha rockets into Israel from south Lebanon this morning was not unexpected, given that the volatile border between the two countries tends to heat up during periods of heightened Israeli-Palestinian violence, but it is unlikely at this stage that it signals the beginning of a new confrontation between Israel and the militants of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah. No claim of responsibility has been made for the rocket salvo, although Palestinian militants — possibly with the tacit blessing of Hezbollah — are the most likely culprits. The Lebanese Government has opened an investigation into the incident and the army in southern Lebanon is on full alert. — Times Online

Pressure increases on Israel as toll rises. International pressure intensified sharply on Israel on Thursday, the 13th day of its Gaza assault, after the United Nations suspended food aid deliveries, the International Committee of the Red Cross accused the Israelis of knowingly blocking assistance to the injured, and a top Vatican official defended comments in which he compared Gaza to a concentration camp. In New York, the United Nations Security Council appeared to be nearing consensus on a resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire, while in Washington, a State Department spokesman called on Israel to expand access to emergency aid into the Gaza Strip, referring to the humanitarian situation in the besieged Palestinian territory as “dire.” — International Herald Tribune

Israel wary of binding UNSC resolution. The United Nations Security Council was meeting overnight Thursday on a resolution designed to bring a speedy halt to Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Israeli sources said at press time that no such resolution would be acceptable unless it ensured the establishment of a mechanism to prevent a resumption of arms smuggling into Gaza through tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor from Egypt. Draft texts were being amended and shaped as the day wore on, with one British-sponsored draft circulating at press time that stressed the “urgency of an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire.” Other texts, however, called outright for an immediate cease-fire, to be followed by the establishment of an anti-smuggling mechanism, and then by the opening of Gaza border crossings.The Jerusalem Post

Hamas: We will win war in Gaza. Israel’s war on Gaza has left more than 700 Palestinians dead — nearly a third of them women and children — and more than 3,000 injured. But at the organisation’s headquarters in Damascus, 100km miles from the territory, Musa Abu Marzouq, the deputy head of Hamas’ political bureau, told Al Jazeera why he believes his organisation is on the verge of victory against Israel. — Al Jazeera

Ending the War in Gaza. A war neither Israel nor Hamas truly wanted turned into a war both are willing to wage. The six-month ceasefire that expired on 19 December was far from ideal. Israel suffered through periodic rocket fire and the knowledge that its foe was amassing lethal firepower. Hamas endured a punishing economic blockade, undermining its hopes of ruling Gaza. A sensible compromise, entailing an end to rocket launches and an opening of the crossings should have been available. But without bilateral engagement, effective third party mediation or mutual trust, it inexorably came to this: a brutal military operation in which both feel they have something to gain. — International Crisis Group

Israel’s PR war. The question the foreign media really wants answered is invariably not “who’s in the right?” but “how will this round of fighting improve the overall situation?” And on that point, Israel never has a convincing argument. Given the country’s long history of engaging in wars that kill many more of its enemies than its own citizens but only buy a few months or years of calm, it’s a tough call to explain how this latest escapade will change the strategic balance, bring peace and prevent the need for another such bloodbath further down the line. Often that’s because there is in fact no good reason: Wars are fought for short-term gains.Haaretz

Hamas pulling back into crowded cities, beckoning Israelis. Rather than stand and fight against the Middle East’s strongest army, the Islamist movement opted for a tactical withdrawal, with its fighters melting away into the strip’s sprawling cities and refugee camps, according to Gaza residents and Israeli military analysts and officers. Now, Hamas appears to be daring the Israeli troops to follow. For Israel, the temptation to move in is great: After 12 days of air-, sea- and land-based attacks that have weakened the Islamist movement’s capabilities, Israeli leaders are weighing whether now is the time to try to deal a death blow to Hamas. — Washington Post

For Israel, the cost of sympathy would be suicide. In the so-called International PR war, it’s no contest. Israel once again looks like Goliath, and the people inhabiting one of the poorest places on earth, Gaza, are Davids. The only way for Israel to get David status back is to allow Hamas to meet its stated objectives, the destruction of Israel. If Israel chose national suicide, it could once again be David. While the price of that prize is too high for Israel, isn’t it clear that it is precisely the price Hamas is willing to pay to win the news-cycle public relations war? — National Post

Peter Fray

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