Israel, Palestinians poles apart at Cairo talks

By AFP
Published: August 6, 2014
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A Palestinian man holds his bicycle as he watches people salvaging their belongings from under the rubble and debris of destroyed buildings in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014, after a 72-hour truce agreed by Israel and the ruling Hamas movement went into effect following intense global pressure to end the bloody conflict. PHOTO: AFP

A Palestinian man holds his bicycle as he watches people salvaging their belongings from under the rubble and debris of destroyed buildings in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 5, 2014, after a 72-hour truce agreed by Israel and the ruling Hamas movement went into effect following intense global pressure to end the bloody conflict. PHOTO: AFP

JERUSALEM: Israeli and Palestinian officials set for crunch talks in Cairo will decide whether to extend a fragile truce and who can best profit from the latest fighting in Gaza.

Analysts say the jury is still out on who won or lost the most from the one-month conflict that killed 67 in Israel and more than 1,870 Palestinians, cautioning that a tentative ceasefire could erupt quickly into further bloodshed.

A small Israeli and a joint Palestinian delegation, representing the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, have been dispatched to the Egyptian capital with demands all but impossible to reconcile.

The United States will “likely” participate in the talks, a State Department spookesperson said in Washington.

Palestinian analysts agree that Hamas, the organisation that controls the Gaza Strip but blacklisted a terrorist organisation by Israel, must act quickly to consolidate their position.

The losses it inflicted on Israel have increased its popularity among Palestinians and Arabs, said Mukhaimer Abu Saada, political science professor at al-Azhar University in Gaza.

“It achieved military successes that no one could imagine,” he said.

Isolated and weakened by Israel’s eight-year blockade on Gaza and deteriorating relations with Egypt, Hamas is back to the political fore, taking a central role in representing Palestinian interests, he said.

But for the Palestinians and Hamas in particular, Abu Saada says the real challenge is not only the truce, but reconstruction, education and the fate of hundreds of thousands of people displaced by the fighting.

One of the Palestinians’ key demands in Cairo will be the lifting of Israel’s blockade, which suffocates the tiny sliver of territory, home to 1.8 million people and smaller than Britain’s holiday island, the Isle of Wight.

The Palestinian delegation also wants Israel and Egypt to open Gaza’s border crossings.

“If results don’t tally with attacks then Hamas won’t come out stronger, quite the contrary,” said George Giacaman, professor at Bir Zeit University in the West Bank.

Lifting the blockade looks uncertain at best.

Israeli officials want nothing coming into Gaza that could be used to build tunnels used by Palestinian fighters to infiltrate Israel and a major reason for Israel’s ground offensive.

Asked about a possible lifting of the blockade, Yigal Palmor, spokesman for the foreign ministry, said Israel allows the passage of “almost everything, including building materials, provided they are intended for projects led by the UN, international organisations, foreign countries.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists that Israel’s security must come first.

The army says it dealt a heavy blow to Hamas, that 900 “terrorists” were killed, and its network of tunnels and thousands of rockets destroyed.

But it also concedes the threat has not been eliminated entirely.

“We expect that they still have about 3,000 rockets left. This is a challenge we have to address,” army spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner said.

There are those on the political right in Israel that are clamouring for even tougher action to come.

“If the rocket fire resumes, I would be in favour of a total reoccupation of the Gaza Strip,”  Communications Minister and Netanyahu ally, Gilad Erdan, told army radio.

But Israeli analysts see more mixed results.

“The military capabilities of Hamas were not destroyed and the Israeli army failed to eliminate important military and political officers in Hamas,” said Ely Karmon, a researcher at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center.

“That’s why the results of the operation are mixed,” he added.

Analysts stress that the truce is fragile.

“I’m not sure at all that the ceasefire will hold a long time because the raison d’etre of Hamas is the destruction of Israel,” said Mark Heller, a member of the Centre for Strategic Studies, at the University of Tel Aviv.

And comprehensive peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians are something else.

“Peace negotiations are separate from the situation in Gaza,” said Yossi Kuperwasser, director general of Israel’s ministry of strategic affairs.

“No one is more interested in peace than we are, but in order to resume peace talks something has to happen on the Palestinian side. And what we see now is the Palestinians still launching rockets.”

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Reader Comments (4)

  • unbelievable
    Aug 6, 2014 - 7:44PM

    The losses it inflicted on Israel have
    increased its popularity among
    Palestinians and Arabs, said Mukhaimer
    Abu Saada, political science professor
    at al-Azhar University in Gaza.

    That’s typical with past battles as well … but when the dust settles and Palestinians count the casualties, lost houses and damage to infrastructure etc eventually their going to ask what started this whole thing and was it worth it. In hindsight I doubt many Palestinians are going to support to decision to capture/execute three Israeli teenagers – not worth the carnage.

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  • AJamal
    Aug 6, 2014 - 11:38PM

    @unbelievable:
    Unbelievable mindset. Although kidnap of three Israeli teens was initially mentioned as the reason, there was enough evidence available to believe this was the work of a rouge faction, most likely working for Moassad and was done to provide the smoking gun. Anyway it is well known that Hamas doesn’t operate in the West Bank where this incident took place and in retaliation a Palestinian youth was kidnapped and burned to death by Zionist settlers – an incident not worth reprisal and mention as it didn’t involve Israeli blood.
    Secondly, the stated reason by Israel was “alleged” tunnels between Gaza and Israel and Hamas rockets fired into Israel (though there was no rocket fired into Israel for the last two years). Remember that International law requires any response to be proportionate and not indiscriminate. That Israeli response amounts to WAR CRIMES has been repeatedly mentioned by UN Secretary General, UN Human Rights and UNWRA.
    Palestinians did suffer far greater losses but remember in the struggle for liberation, nations do suffer far greater losses than the enemy. A recent example is Vietnam war in which the ratio was 1×1000 and total destruction of the country. That is why liberty is so precious and priceless.

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  • AJamal
    Aug 6, 2014 - 11:56PM

    Remember the demands made by Hamas are only humanitarian. These are
    1) Lifting siege of Gaza (a violation of last cease fire terms) and lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and humans. Open up the biggest open air prison in the world.
    2) Release of all political prisoners. Note that Israel is keeping thousands of Palestinians in its jails “illegally” without any legal basis.
    3) Pay for the reconstruction of Gaza and compensate the victims.
    4) Allow Palestinians access to Gaza sea waters. Remember, four Palestinian boys were shredded into pieces by Israeli navy fire while playing on Gaza beach recently (you only hear repeatedly about 3 Israeli youths – but Palestinians have been dehumanised, and therefore don’t count).

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  • AJamal
    Aug 7, 2014 - 5:59AM

    Few more points to note, which reveal criminal mindset of Zionist enterprise are;
    1) Why was it necessary to bomb the civilian population and massacre 2000 to achieve the stated “objective” of destroying alleged tunnels between Gaza and Israel which could have been destroyed at the Israeli end without even entering Gaza? Does a tunnel not have two ends?
    2) All independent information confirmed that Hamad had not fired a rocket at Israel for the last two years.
    Therefore, the reason for this criminal attack by Israel was to scuttle Palestinian unity efforts and kill Palestinians to gain public support in Israel which thrives on Palestinians sufferings.

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