Suleiman to meet Olmert, Barak

Egyptian intelligence chief unlikely to get Israeli response on cease-fire proposal.

Barak Suleiman 224.88 (photo credit: AP)
Barak Suleiman 224.88
(photo credit: AP)
Jerusalem will listen to what Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman has to say, but is not expected to give a formal response to the deal Egypt has worked out with Hamas for a cease-fire in Gaza, diplomatic sources said Sunday, on the eve of Suleiman's long-postponed visit. Over the past few months, Suleiman has been scheduled to arrive for talks a number of times, but each time postponed at the last minute, apparently because of a lack of what to present in Jerusalem. He is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Eli Yishai, who has said he would be willing to meet with Hamas to free kidnapped IDF soldier Cpl. Gilad Schalit. On Monday morning, Barak will host Suleiman for breakfast at his home in Tel Aviv. Officials said Israel had not yet been told all the details of what Egypt apparently worked out with Hamas and that Barak would not immediately accept or reject the deal. They said there would be a continuation in talks between Suleiman and the Defense Ministry's Diplomatic-Military Bureau chief, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, to clarify all outstanding matters. Israel's main concern is that smaller Palestinian factions will not abide by a cease-fire. In addition, Israel wants Hamas to stop all arms-smuggling across Gaza's border with Sinai. A senior defense official said Egypt was making greater efforts in recent weeks to curb the smuggling and to uncover tunnels under the Philadelphi Corridor. Diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said there was a strong alliance of forces in the government, including Public Security Minister Avi Dichter, that was opposed to a cease-fire, concerned that Hamas would utilize it to build up its forces in Gaza. The IDF has also expressed reservations, both for this reason and because it doesn't want any agreement that does not include Schalit's release. Schalit was abducted outside the Gaza Strip on June 25, 2006. The sources said that a sharp increase in Kassam rocket and mortar attacks over the weekend, including the one that killed Jimmy Kedoshim at Kibbutz Kfar Aza on Friday, was meant as a sign from Hamas of what would be in store if Israel did not agree to the cease-fire proposal. However, the sources said, these attacks could have exactly the opposite effect, hardening the positions of those in the government who opposed a cease-fire and favored far-reaching military steps inside the Gaza Strip. Defense officials involved in the talks with Suleiman said Barak would listen to the proposal and voice his reservations. A draft of the truce proposal was sent to the Defense Ministry last week. Its main elements include a cease-fire in Gaza for six months, during which time Israel would halt all military activity there and Hamas would stop its terrorism. The deal also includes the reopening of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt according to the arrangements in the agreement brokered by US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in 2005. Hamas, according to the deal, would not be allowed to maintain a presence at the crossing. Egypt, defense officials said Sunday, was trying to present the opening of Rafah as an opportunity for the Palestinian Authority to return to the Gaza Strip for the first time since Hamas's takeover last June. Under the 2005 agreement, European monitors would redeploy at the crossing and assist PA officers from the PA's Force 17 Presidential Guard - loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas - in running the border terminal.