Israel moving towards ‘calm’ agreement with Hamas

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh next to his destroyed office (REUTERS/Handout) (photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)
Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh next to his destroyed office (REUTERS/Handout)
(photo credit: HANDOUT/REUTERS)
Israel made progress toward a ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza, in a two-hour meeting on Wednesday that ended without a vote.
According to an Israeli security official, while most of the clauses in the agreement will benefit Palestinians living in the blockaded coastal enclave, they are in line with Israeli security interests.
Cabinet ministers and security officials have been calling the agreement a “calm” as opposed to an official truce, with sources in the meeting saying that it will likely be finalized.
Aliyah and Integration Minister Yoav Gallant said following the meeting that Israel “needs to realize our potential in this topic called Hamas, in the right moment and the right time.”
Gallant said that Hamas must be defeated, “but there is the question of the price.”
“I know the Gazan mud with my own feet, and I don’t suggest we enter it,” the minister told Channel 13.
Gallant said Hamas is currently weakened and deterred from attacking Israel further.
As part of the ceasefire moderated by the Egyptians, Israel will reportedly increase the number of entry permits for Gazans for trade as well as widen the fishing zone off of the blockaded coastal enclave, currently set at 14 nautical miles.
Infrastructure projects such as the construction of a natural gas pipeline and increased medical assistance and equipment for hospitals are also reported to be part of Israel’s concessions.
The ceasefire agreement does not require Hamas to return the remains of Lt. Hadar Goldin and St.-Sgt. Oron Shaul, which they have held since 2014, or Israeli civilian captives Avera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed.
Goldin’s parents accused the government of putting Hamas before Israeli civilians and soldiers, in comments made ahead of the security cabinet’s planned meeting about a possible ceasefire with the terrorist group on Wednesday afternoon.
“Every [Israeli] mother should know that Gazan strawberries and krembos are worth more than an IDF soldier or Israeli citizen,” Simcha and Leah Goldin wrote on their Twitter account of the food items newly exported from Gaza to Gulf states and Europe.
The Goldins warned that a ceasefire arrangement will “abandon the soldiers and civilians to Hamas.”
The shipments of fruit and the cream-topped, chocolate-covered cookies were part of a loosening of import and export limitations on Gaza earlier this week, which followed a Hamas announcement that they will stop the “Great March of Return” riots at the border with Israel for the next three months.
Israel allowed tires into Gaza this week, for the first time in two years, since the riots at the border began, as well as fishing boats, buses and fertilizer, according to Gazan media reports.
In a speech at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya last week, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi said that he recognizes a “unique opportunity” in Gaza, and that one of the military’s roles is to ensure that there are periods without war.
“I recognize a unique opportunity in Gaza. There is a strong will not to bring about an escalation of tensions on the part of Hamas; and it was Islamic Jihad, under the leadership of its now-dead commander Baha Abu al-Ata, that were responsible for the vast majority of attacks on Israel in the past year.”
Hamas, he said, wants to improve the welfare of its citizens, and Israel is “in the process of assisting the Egyptians within which we will facilitate civilian relief. This is the policy of the Israeli government, and I support it.”
Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, a member of the security cabinet, spoke out against the negotiations in an interview with Army Radio on Thursday, saying Israel must “strike Hamas with a severe blow and not let it breathe.”
Earlier this week, Foreign Minister Israel Katz said “there will not be an arrangement without the return of the captives and missing soldiers, but there could be calm.”
The Egypt-mediated attempt for a ceasefire arrangement does not mean “the wolf will live with the lamb,” Katz said, citing Isaiah 11:6. “Hamas is a murderous organization with a murderous ideology, but they have to make practical decisions in the short term.”
The security cabinet did not discuss the International Criminal Court’s possible probe of Israel for alleged war crimes.