Publication date: October 28, 2018
According to the authoritative pan-Arab London-based daily newspaper Al-Hayat, after indirect negotiations Israel and Hamas have reached a ceasefire agreement, thanks to the unremitting mediation of the Egyptian intelligence.
While winds of war seemed to be blowing with increased strength, the Egyptians managed at the last minute to stop – at least temporarily – the downward spiral towards a new conflict. Until now, the agreement is simply a mutual understanding whose scope is limited to specific issues: Hamas and other fighting groups agreed to avoid violent aggressions during the Friday protests (which therefore may continue), as well as not to launch rockets and missiles, not to utilise explosive devices, bombs, incendiary kites and balloons, and not to break through the border walls.
For its part, Israel agreed to reopen the crossings to trade flows of goods, particularly to Qatar-sponsored fuel convoys that will enable to extend the current 4-hours-per day electric power availability to 8 hours per day. It also agreed to restore the original size of Gaza’s maritime fishing zone, and to allow UN-sponsored humanitarian and relief supplies to reach the Strip.
If the ceasefire holds in the next days, new and broader talks may be launched, on which a draft version of an indirect bilateral agreement had already been devised in Cairo – a document that was subsequently blocked by President Abbas’s harsh intervention.
In this second stage, one of the issues to be discussed will be the exchange of prisoners, as Hamas holds the corpse of an Israeli soldier killed during the latest war and two civilians that trespassed on the Gaza Strip.
Hamas’s proposal of a long-term truce of five years will be discussed as well – a truce (hudna in Arabic) that neither implies the recognition of Israel by the above-mentioned Islamic organisation, nor the acceptance of the idea of sharing the historical region of Palestine.
Such vision basically dovetails with Netanyahu’s, who would rather avoid any negotiation on the “Final Status” and on the establishment of “two States”.
Negotiations are also expected to revolve around emergency measures to help alleviate the appalling living conditions of the people in the Strip, including the possible use of a port in Cyprus or Egypt to break Gaza’s isolation, and the building of an airport on Egyptian territory.
By and large, these are the very same commitments made after the 2014 war (called Operation Protective Edge by the Israelis) and that remained completely unimplemented.
In the last few days of frenetic activity, the Egyptians did frequently visit Ramallah to meet President Abbas, who nevertheless confirmed his opposition to any agreement whatsoever that is signed between Israel and any of the Palestinian factions outside the framework of the Palestine National Authority (PNA), and that is enacted before the reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas – with the inherent complete takeover of the Strip by the PNA, both in terms of civil administration and military forces and apparatuses.
However, Abbas is undoubtedly weakened, his disrepute in the West Bank is extremely high (according to surveys), and more than 60% of the population would like him to resign. In spite of this, he can still rely upon a cast-iron security apparatus that has been closely working with the Israeli security services to defend their common interest of thwarting Hamas’s efforts to expand its influence in the West Bank.
In any case, Abbas is isolated also on the regional and international level, given his fracture with the USA and his marginalisation within the Arab world. Unlike the older generation of Arab leaders – who had embraced the Palestinian cause – the new one sees the establishment of a unified Palestinian state as a potential threat, because of the risk of the emergence of a new Hamastan linked to Iran and to the Muslim Brotherhood. Such circumstance would expose their regimes to the contagion of political Islam; it would fan the flames of the conflict with Israel, now seen as an ally against Iran; and finally, it would bring about instability in the region.
Source: Huffington Post Italia – Janiki Cingoli’s blog
NOTES ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Janiki Cingoli has dealt with international issues since 1975. Since 1982 he has begun to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, promoting the first occasions in Italy for dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians and in 1989 he founded in Milan the Italian Center for Peace in the Middle East (CIPMO), which has since directed until 2017 when he was elected President.