THE BLOG
08/27/2014 10:48 am ET Updated Oct 27, 2014

3 Major Questions That Will Decide Future Developments in the Gaza-Israel Conflict

They are celebrating in Gaza, much less so in Israel. Celebrations can be spontaneous and manufactured, it is in the eye of the beholder. Gazans can believe their leadership that a ''victory'' was achieved, or they simply show a public sigh of relief that the worst may be over.

Being a Middle East watcher makes me intuitively skeptical, so I, for one, am not at all sure that all the armed factions in Gaza will adhere to the cease fire, in fact I suspect they will not, though I see the interest of both Hamas and Islamic Jihad in observing the cease fire, at least to enable them a quiet time for refreshing and reassessing.

Being skeptical means, also, that I am far from being impressed with the authenticity of the mini festival in Gaza. I remember a similar festival in South Beirut after the end of the Israel-Hezbollah confrontation in summer 2006, but then, few days later, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah declared that had he known how the war would have developed, he would not have started it. In fact, for eight years the Lebanese-Israeli border has been peaceful, save for some minor incidents, all of them without Hezbollah, including the most recent one, the two rockets fired at Israel a day ago.

Again, in my skeptical mood, I doubt whether any Hamas leader is capable of saying what the Lebanese terrorist said, but actions here will speak louder than words. Remains to be seen. Too early to make summations, not too early to raise the questions, which I believe will stay with us for time to come, and will enable us to assess what actually happened and with it, what can still happen.

1) What Hamas, and for that matter Hezbollah, really think about what happened. In fact, if they really celebrate a ''victory," then Israel is in real, and not too distant, danger. When these people say, that they wish to march all the way to Jerusalem, they mean it. Another question is, of course, that of capabilities and priorities. About Hezbollah, the answer is, that fighting the Sushi war [Sunnis vs. Shias] in Iraq and Syria, and protecting Lebanon from the "Islamic State" jihadists is numero uno in their list of priorities, and Palestine can wait. That does not necessarily preclude an attempt to check Israel's resolve in the North, by ordering small-scale provocations.

Hamas may be much quicker called to the test of wills, if the negotiations about the final cease fire will not develop to their liking. For them, it is a life or death question, and with this stark choice in mind, they can very well be tempted to try and drag Israel into another round of attrition war. An open question, and the answer to it can be determined by the strength and extent of Israel's reaction to any violation of the cease fire.

2) Egypt's future role. From day one of the current round, this blog consistently indicated that there has been a tacit cooperation between Israel and Egypt. No sudden burst of uncontrolled love, but something even more significant than that; a commonality of interests. In fact, but for saying it in public, the two sides did everything conceivably possible to show to all interested parties that this is the true state of affairs between them. Among the very interested parties are the Palestinian Authority (PA), Hamas and the US. John Kerry is not the matchmaker, it is President Al-Sisi, the man that the current American administration is not so fond of, just to say the least.

There are some sources which still whisper, perhaps will go public very soon, that the Egyptians are actually disappointed with the Israeli military performance, as they wanted a more decisive clobbering of Hamas. Sounds somewhat far fetched? Not really, as the Egyptians never in public put any pressure on Israel to stop the campaign.

Be it as it may, the fact is, that any lasting security and political arrangement in Gaza depends on Egypt's active participation and good will. So, the question is whether the Israeli-Egyptian understandings during the war will last the current stage, and with that we come to the last important question.

3) PM Netanyahu did yesterday something that he has refrained from doing for his entire long political career. He went against Israeli public opinion when agreeing to the Egyptian-brokered cease fire. Why did he do it is becoming a key question. Did he do it because he lost trust in the effectiveness of the military option? Did he decide that the political and PR price paid by Israel was too much? Or did he do it as a prelude to a big political move, one which will rid him of the dependence on the right wing within Likud and the constant attacks from his coalition partners -- Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman -- who are up in arms against the cease fire?

The answer to that question will determine the level of his cooperation with Egypt and the PA in advancing a political option in Gaza, which will curtail much of Hamas' power. Egypt will exact a political price from Netanyahu for its support during the fighting and the US is lurking in the wings.

So, Netanyahu is, therefore, the key man. What is his perception of the war will be the basis for his future course of action. A big political/diplomatic move or wasting time waiting to what exactly?

Those who want him to move politically can be encouraged by his handling of the war and the cease fire talks. But this is the Middle East and the jungle of Israeli politics. Hope is in place, but not too much of it.