Cease-fire talks resume as delegations return to Cairo

No deal in sight two days before Gaza cease-fire expires; Hamas says Egyptian proposal unacceptable, threatens to renew fighting; Israel says they have yet to agree to a proposal.

Cease fire talks in Cairo  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Cease fire talks in Cairo
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Israeli and Palestinian teams are set to restart indirect Gaza cease-fire talks in Cairo on Sunday, with Hamas saying the Egyptian proposal on the table is unacceptable and threatening to renew fighting, and Israel saying quiet and security will be restored “one way or another.”
Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas representative in Lebanon, said none of the proposals presented to the Palestinians meet their demands.
Offers made to the Palestinian delegation in Cairo do not meet the aspirations of the people, Hamdan, Hamas’s head of foreign affairs, said.
Israel “must accept the conditions of the Palestinian people or face a long war of attrition,” he said in speech before students in the Sudanese capital of Khartoum.
During the talks, the Palestinian delegation faced attempts to “break its unity,” he claimed.
Izzat al-Risheq, a Hamas member of the Palestinian delegation, said Egypt’s latest proposals were “unacceptable.”
The Qatar-based official said the Palestinians did not and will not accept the offers made to them.
“The Palestinian delegation has affirmed its rejection of any formula that does not meet the demands of the Palestinian people,” Risheq said.
“Many of the issues offered by the Egyptians are unacceptable.”
He said consultations were continuing among Hamas, Islamic Jihad and PLO factions to reach an agreement over a final position toward the indirect negotiations with Israel.
Another Hamas official, Musa Abu Marzouk, also sounded defiant over the weekend. “Those who were victorious will not comply with the occupation’s conditions,” Abu Marzouk said in a Facebook post.
He claimed that Hamas won the war because it prevented the IDF from entering the Gaza Strip and forced it to withdraw before the ceasefire.
In Jerusalem, meanwhile, government officials took the Hamas statements in stride, with one official saying Israel did not get excited when Hamas spokesmen were saying on Friday that a deal was just around the corner, and was not getting excited now.
The five-day cease-fire will expire at midnight on Monday.
“We will not agree to any arrangement that does not take into account Israel’s security interests,” one government official said. “They remain our primary focus. The goals of Operation Protective Edge remain the same: long-term quiet and security. And this will be achieved either diplomatically, militarily or through a combination of both.”
The official defined Israel’s security interests as a cessation of all rocket fire, preventing rearmament in Gaza, and no new tunnels.
The Israeli delegation to Cairo is made up entirely of security officials, and the diplomatic officials said the directive Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave them was not to compromise on the country’s security interests.
Israel, the official said, has not agreed up to this point to any proposal, and will only agree to understandings if they they answer Israel’s security concerns.
The eight-member security cabinet met on both Thursday and Friday to discuss the negotiations and the situation in the Gaza Strip, but no decisions were made public.
There are two overarching models on the table: a negotiated agreement, as was done after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012; or a unilateral Israeli cessation of hostilities not anchored in any agreement, but resting instead on deterrence – as was the model put into play after Operation Cast Lead in 2009.
Israel, the official said, is remaining prepared for any contingency, “well aware” that Hamas could violate the truce at any time.
“If they do, we will be ready to respond if need be,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hamas spokesman Ismail Radwan denied his movement has agreed to postpone the discussion over its demand for an airport and seaport in Gaza – a demand included in the latest Egyptian proposal for a long-term cease-fire.
Bassam al-Salhi of the Palestinian People’s Party and a member of the team at the Cairo talks, said the chances of reaching a long-term cease-fire with Israel were “not great.”
He accused Israel of using the talks to “organize and reproduce the siege on the Gaza Strip in a different way.”
Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah, head of the delegation, said the Palestinian leadership was expected to hold a meeting in Ramallah on Saturday night to discuss efforts to achieve a long-term truce.
Progress had been achieved during the talks over some issues, while differences remained over others, such as the airport and seaport and the release of Palestinian prisoners, he said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had made a clear decision that the issue of disarming Palestinian groups in the Gaza Strip is nonnegotiable, Ahmed said.