Egypt: We expected Israel to act differently

Egyptian official disappointed that Israel adopted unilateral cease-fire, bypassing Cairo's efforts.

By BRENDA GAZZAR, JERUSALEM POST CORRESPONDENT, CAIRO
January 18, 2009 23:35
3 minute read.
Egypt: We expected Israel to act differently

mubarak 248 88 ap. (photo credit: AP [file])

 
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An Egyptian Foreign Ministry official expressed his country's disappointment with Israel on Sunday for adopting a unilateral cease-fire that bypassed Egyptian mediation efforts to end Israel's 23-day offensive against Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip. "We expected the Israeli side to behave in a different way," ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki told The Jerusalem Post. "We expected Israel to respond positively to [Egypt's cease-fire] initiative." When Israel decided to go for a cease-fire, "it didn't do so in consultation with Egypt, meaning that it did not choose to abide by the terms that we were able to negotiate with the Palestinians," he said. For instance, while Palestinians had major concerns about opening Gaza's border crossings, Israel did not commit itself to anything concerning the operation of the crossings - which is a clear point in the Egyptian initiative, he said. "They do not recognize that there is another party in this conflict… They call it the enemy, and that's it. They don't deal with it," he said, referring to Hamas. "The new thing is that they don't deal with the initiative itself." Israel, he said, should have allowed itself and Egypt the opportunity "to fine-tune some details and some clarifications that would have put a more workable solution to this issue." By declaring a unilateral truce, Israel was "basically saying, it is our decision. We don't want anyone to interfere… This is not what we expected," Zaki said. In addition, Israel did not adopt the cease-fire "soon enough," as it came more than 10 days after Egypt announced its comprehensive three-phase initiative to end the fighting and prevent such a conflict from happening again. "The initiative was severely criticized as ineffective because Israel was reluctant to implement it," Zaki said. Zaki said Egypt was working to ensure that Israel's decision did not negatively affect the truce initiative, but warned that a continued unilateral approach would not be beneficial. "I think it would be counterproductive," he said. " It would mean that the Palestinians are also not bound by anything. We want an understanding that is almost binding to both sides." He noted that only treaties between states were totally binding. But Egypt would continue to work, because the Israeli withdrawal of ground troops - whenever completed - should not take place in a vacuum, he said. "It should be within an arrangement that would make sure to prevent such situations from happening again," he said. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak on Saturday demanded from Israel an immediate and unconditional cease-fire and a complete withdrawal of its forces from the Gaza Strip, hours before Israel made the decision to adopt a unilateral cease-fire that would keep its soldiers in Gaza. "I tell Israeli leaders that this aggression will not stop the resistance and will not bring about security to Israel and its people," he said. "Aggression will only augment the steadfastness of the Palestinian people and will deepen the feelings of anger and hatred toward Israel and its people. It will also hamper peace efforts." Mubarak said that Egypt would maintain its efforts toward restoring a truce in Gaza and reopening the crossings, along with lifting the siege on Gazans. The Egyptian initiative urged Israel and Palestinian factions in Gaza to accept an immediate truce for a certain period, such as one or two weeks. This would allow humanitarian aid to be delivered through safe corridors and give Egypt a chance to continue its efforts to achieve a comprehensive and final arrangement. The second phase of the initiative would involve Egypt calling Israel and the Palestinians to attend an urgent meeting to agree on arrangements and assurances to ensure a similar conflict did not recur, including securing the borders, allowing the reopening of crossing points, and lifting the blockade. The third phase would involve Egypt renewing its invitation to the Palestinian Authority and various factions to achieve Palestinian reconciliation. Israel has long acted unilaterally, from withdrawing from Lebanon, to withdrawing from the Gaza Strip, to launching and halting its military operations in Gaza, said Gamal Abdel Gawad, head of the international relations unit at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies. "They should stop the cease-fire that is within an agreed-upon framework that is supposed to address a broad number of issues, the siege, the crossings… international or multinational monitors at the borders, a framework that includes the role for the Palestinian Authority, not only for Hamas," he said. Part of the Egyptian initiative involves national dialogue between Palestinians, which reflects Egypt's attempt to bring the PA back into the Gaza Strip. "I think with the unilateral cease-fire, Israel is not helping to create circumstances that would bring the Palestinian Authority into the negotiations," Gawad said.

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