A Palestinian waves a flag near a destroyed section of the border wall between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
During the heyday of the Oslo Accords, Yasser Arafat was wont to taunt and mock Israel publicly by declaring that, whether it likes it or not, Jerusalem will be the capital of Palestine.
Whoever doesn’t accept this, the late Palestinian leader often said, “can go drink from the sea of Gaza.”
A great deal of water has flowed in the Mediterranean since then. One year after the most recent conflagration, Gaza remains besieged by both Israel and Egypt, and plans to build a detached, seaborne port under international supervision remain a pipe dream, for the time being.
This issue nowadays preoccupies Palestinian public discourse.
The idea currently being entertained – even though it’s been discussed previously – is a long-term cease-fire (hudna) that would last between five and 10 years and bind Israel, Hamas, and the PA.
In exchange for Hamas holding its fire, the siege on Gaza would be lifted, and a floating port would be built where containers would be unloaded under international supervision.
The goods would then be transferred to the Gaza shore.
Despite the fact that there has been no significant breakthrough, there are rumblings beneath the surface. This can be attributed primarily to the fact that Egypt appears to be showing a bit more flexibility, somewhat softening its heretofore hostile stance toward Hamas.
It was only recently that President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and senior officials in his regime were equating Hamas with their archenemy, the Muslim Brotherhood. Cairo has even accused Hamas of making common cause with Islamic State-affiliated jihadists in the Sinai Peninsula.
The apathy demonstrated by Egypt toward Hamas’s distress has sabotaged every attempt to launch talks aimed at clinching a long-term truce.
Moussa Abu Marzouk, Khaled Mashaal’s deputy, visited Egypt recently and met with a number of top intelligence officials. With Cairo’s permission, Marzouk entered Gaza and huddled with Hamas’s senior echelon, including its military wing. He later returned to Cairo for more talks.
Perhaps Egypt’s altered stance stems from Hamas’s willingness to cooperate with Sisi’s intelligence services in curbing terrorism from Sinai. Hamas, for its part, may be apprehensive over the rise of extremist, pro-ISIS Salafist groups in the Gaza Strip.
Unofficially, Israel is not a party to these discussions, though it is reasonable to assume that it is being informed about the dialogue through its Egyptian channels.
For the time being, all Israel can do is to continue to try and help along the rehabilitation of Gaza by easing the hardships of its residents, as the coordinator for government activities in the territories, Maj.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai, announced on Tuesday.
Abu Marzouk will travel from Egypt to continue the talks with Qatari officials, who will be the paymasters for building the seaport if and when it is constructed.
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