Israel and the Palestinians are said to be near agreement on the terms for a long-term cease-fire for Gaza, following a day of talks in Cairo under Egyptian mediation. The Israeli team was reported by Yediot Ahronot’s Ynet news site to be heading back to Israel this evening to present the tentative agreements to Israel’s security cabinet.
The 11-member Palestinian delegation includes five representatives of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority, including Azzam al-Ahmed, the delegation head, and delegation spokesman Qais Abd el-Karim of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine; four representatives of Hamas, including deputy political secretary Moussa Abu Marzouk; and two representatives of Islamic Jihad. The Israeli delegation includes Shin Bet director Yoram Cohen; Defense Ministry political-diplomatic director Amos Gilad; coordinator of government activities in the territories Maj. Gen. Yoav “Pauly” Mordechai; director of the IDF planning directorate Maj. Gen. Nimrod Sheffer; and Yitzhak Molcho, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s personal lawyer.
Following are the terms of the emerging agreement, as reported on Israel’s Mako-Channel 2 News by veteran Arab affairs commentator Ehud Yaari and reporter Udi Segal:
Demanded by Israel:
A complete halt to firing and hostile action from Gaza.
Israeli control of border crossings to be opened between Gaza and Israel in the framework of the agreement.
Payment of money and any other cash transfers to public workers in Gaza will be carried out only via the Palestinian Authority.
Demanded by Palestinian negotiators:
Expansion of the coastal waters permitted by Israel to Gaza fishermen. The new limit to be determined by Israel according to its security needs.
Reopening by Egypt of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Sinai. Egypt conditions this on the placement of Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority security forces on the Gaza side. Egypt is reportedly demanding 1,000 troops, a number that might be beyond the authority’s capacity.
Significant expansion of the range and quantity of goods imported from Israel to Gaza. Ynet reports that the number of trucks entering Gaza daily will be roughly doubled to 600.
Mako reports that there’s no agreement on the Palestinian demand to permit free passage of Gaza residents to the West Bank and specifically to Al Aqsa mosque in East Jerusalem. Ynet reports, however, that Israel appears ready to increase the number of entry permits issued to Gaza residents for work in Israel and to broaden the criteria for admission of Gaza residents to the West Bank.
The Palestinians have agreed to drop for now their demands for a Gaza seaport and reopening of the Dahaniya airport in Gaza. Israel and Egypt had opposed the opening of a Gaza seaport out of fear that Hamas would use it to import weapons. Israel’s position is that it will not agree to opening a Gaza seaport until agreement has been reached on a verifiable, enforceable disarmament of Hamas and demilitarization of Gaza.
For the present, Israel is said to have dropped its demand for demilitarization of Gaza. There was never any chance that Hamas would agree to it, and as such it would require a complete reconquest of Gaza and defeat of Hamas. That, as the heads of the Israel Defense Forces warned the cabinet last week, would require a massive operation that would devastate Gaza and lead to Israel’s complete isolation internationally. Ynet’s
Israel is still hoping to receive the remains of two soldiers, Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin. In return, Hamas is seeking the release of the 51 security prisoners released in the Shalit deal and rearrested this June following the kidnap-murder of the three yeshiva boys. Hamas is also seeking the names of West Bank Palestinians collaborating with Israeli security forces. That last demand appears to be, as Mako News 2 delicately puts it, “unrealistic.”
Several cabinet ministers remain opposed to any negotiated end to the Gaza conflict. Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said today that a negotiated agreement amounted to rewarding terrorism and would encourage further terrorism. Economics minister Naftali Bennett, head of the settler-backed Jewish Home party, said in a television interview that Abbas is a “partner to terror” and called for a decisive defeat of Hamas, not a negotiated cease-fire.
Jonathan Jeremy “J.J.” Goldberg is editor-at-large of the Forward, where he served as editor in chief for seven years (2000-2007).