Omar Suleiman 224.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Instituting another cease-fire with Hamas will be at the focus of talks on Wednesday between Defense Minister Ehud Barak and visiting Egyptian Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman.
Suleiman, who holds the Israel file in the Egyptian cabinet, will travel to Israel on Wednesday and will meet with Barak, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, officials said on Monday.
The talks will focus on a wide range of issues, including the current Egyptian investigation into the Hizbullah terror cell that was discovered operating in Egypt, as well as efforts to reach a cease-fire deal with Hamas and Israel in the Gaza Strip, Defense officials said.
Suleiman was mostly coming "to listen" to the new government's plans for the Palestinian diplomatic track as well as the Gilad Schalit negotiations, which Suleiman has been personally mediating since the soldier was abducted outside Gaza in June 2006, officials said.
Barak and Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i have been supporters of a cease-fire with Hamas since they took office in the summer of 2007. Barak spearheaded the last cease-fire, which expired in December, a week before Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. He believes that a truce in Gaza could lay the ground for progress in the diplomatic track with the Palestinian Authority.
"They believe that there needs to be an official and accepted arrangement in Gaza," one defense official explained.
During his visit here, Suleiman will also try to gauge the government's readiness to carry out a prisoner swap with Hamas in exchange for Schalit. His trip comes amid reports that Netanyahu has decided to replace former deputy Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) chief Ofer Dekel as the Israeli coordinator for the negotiations.
Referring to the relative quiet on the Gaza front over the past month, defense officials said that Hamas was busy rebuilding its military capabilities, which were severely damaged during Israel's 22-day offensive against Hamas.
"Hamas is temporarily not interested in fighting with Israel since it needs to repair its infrastructure," an official said. "It is important, though, to try to reach an arrangement so we can move forward with a diplomatic plan in the future."