Will such a deal be worked out? It doesn't help that the region is so badly divided. The failure of Egypt-led mediation efforts this week touches on a broader schism, over the future of political Islam. El-Sissi's Egypt has led the charge against the Muslim Brotherhood group that decades ago spawned Hamas as its Palestinian offshoot: authorities are prosecuting the Brotherhood's leaders including deposed president Mohammed Morsi and have declared the entire organization a terrorist group, to the applause of Saudi Arabia and much of the Gulf as well as others. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri accused Hamas' regional allies, Turkey and Qatar, of sabotaging its mediation. Turkey has been critical of the mediation so far, saying any cease-fire deal must have guarantees of an end to the closure. Interesting, therefore, that Abbas has just visited Egypt and is headed to Turkey and Qatar next.
THE REGIME CHANGE TEMPTATION
Almost no one in Israel believes Hamas can change its spots, and few expect the group to be toppled by the long-suffering Gazan population or to run away from airstrikes. Yet the group does now seem weaker, key players like Egypt clearly wish it ill, and the world at large seems sympathetic to Israel's dilemma and appreciative of its acceptance of the Egyptian proposal. So already there are calls to exploit the aligning of the stars, enlarge the mission, push into Gaza City and uproot the militants for good. There are some problems with this scenario. Israel does not want to incur the likely military casualties that would accompany such a project. It also doesn't want the responsibility of occupying almost 2 million more Palestinians. Abbas would appear like a quisling if he had Israel capture the strip and hand it to him. And the civilian Palestinian casualty count, now above 270, could go through the roof, swiftly ending the world's uncomfortable, tentative acquiescence.
Associated Press writer Yousur Alhlou contributed to this story from Jerusalem.
Dan Perry has covered the Middle East since the 1990s and currently leads Associated Press' text coverage in the region. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/perry—dan.