Egypt brokering package deal for Gaza

Offers redoubled security efforts on border, Hamas presence at Rafah, PA control of other crossings.

Egypt is putting together a package deal in the South that will include a cease-fire in Gaza, an Egyptian commitment to redouble anti-smuggling efforts on the border, give Hamas a presence at the Rafah crossing, and reinstate Palestinian Authority control over other crossings from Gaza into Israel, government officials told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. Both Fatah and the Americans have been pushing for a long time for Hamas to agree to allow a Fatah presence at the Gaza crossings into Israel. Israel has been reluctant, out of concern that it would not be able to exert control over who or what crossed, while Fatah has been keen on getting something of a foothold back into Gaza. According to the officials, the package deal is being brokered by Egypt, without any direct contact between Israel and Hamas. The package is expected to be a verbal understanding, with nothing in writing. According to the officials, the deal does not include a prisoner exchange for kidnapped soldier Gilad Schalit, although talks on this matter are taking place in parallel. Despite progress in putting together this package, Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman, who was scheduled to arrive in Israel for talks this week, has postponed his visit. This is the third time he has postponed a trip here since fighting in Gaza escalated just over two weeks ago. No reason for the postponement was given. The package deal will still need to be approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. Olmert has said over the last two weeks that Israel is not negotiating a deal with Hamas, and that the organization knew that if it stopped shooting rockets at Israel, Israel would respond in kind. Even as this package deal is moving forward, government officials said Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni will meet Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qurei for the first time this week since the PA suspended bilateral negotiations with Israel two weeks ago, following the upsurge in Gaza fighting. Meanwhile, US General William Fraser met Friday with PA Prime Minister Salaam Fayad and Amos Gilad, head of the Defense Ministry's diplomatic political bureau, for a trilateral discussion of the two sides' implementation of the road map. Almost no details have emerged from that meeting, beyond reports that Israel was taken to task for not removing more roadblocks in the West Bank, not dismantling settlement outposts, and not halting settlement construction. On Sunday, Barak visited the headquarters of Israel Police's elite Yamam counterterror unit in the center of the country. Yamam officers killed four Islamic Jihad operatives in Bethlehem last Wednesday night, an operation that was used as an excuse by the terror group to renew its Kassam rocket attacks against Israel. "You are a group of quality fighters who demonstrate courage, self-sacrifice and devotion combined with experience," Barak told the policemen. "You have many challenges ahead of you to ensure the security of Israeli citizens."