Responding to Israel’s unilateral declaration of a ceasefire, Hamas now says it will hold its fire for a week as well. I didn’t expect that, and it’s very welcome. PM Olmert doesn’t give a timetable for withdrawing from Gaza, but did say, according to the WSJ, that "Israel will consider a troop pull-out" if the ceasefire holds. Within the timetable of the current declarations, there will be a new U.S. administration in power, and all factions will undoubtedly look to it for immediate signals for where to go next. Hillary Clinton indicated at her Senate confirmation hearing that moving from the Gaza crisis to some sort of productive way forward for Israel/Palestine will be an early administration priority. Here’s the test.

Good debate in the previous thread. Sghiteinfla asked where my head is at. I don’t know yet, and am waiting to see if this is a false dawn or something more productive. Macaquerman surveyed the situation like this:

By not firing, but by not indicating that they are withdrawing, the Israelis are turning the tables on Hamas. Hamas’ rocket fire was meant to make Israel either not respond and look weak or to respond and be an aggressor. Now Hamas can either not fire on the Israeli Army and be perceived as cowardly as well as weak, or have to prove their commitment to matyrdom while making the Israelis look less like the blood-crazed killers.

I think that’s right, in general, but I’d take it a step further. To whom does it matter if Hamas looks weak? The population of Gaza, first and foremost. And there I’d wonder whether the population would think Hamas looks weak by declaring a ceasefire or looks responsible for taking a face-saving path out of the crisis. The test will be what happens this week and beyond — to be banal; it’s not like I have any great insight here — and there the new administration really will have a chance at changing the situation. If the history of U.S. negotiations during Israeli/Palestinian crises is any indication, expect incremental, confidence-building steps rather than empty grand gestures. (It really is true, after all, that Bush was the first president to call for a Palestinian state, but rhetoric without implementation is self-congratulation.)