Very little is known about what happens behind closed doors in Cairo, as part of the negotiations between Israel and Hamas in an attempt to reach an agreement following Operation Protective Edge. The tough statements made by both parties suggest hard deliberations, but it seems that both Israel and Hamas will eventually have to compromise on some of their initial positions.
Hamas, as expected, will not declare these concessions in public, but its representatives already understand that some of the demands in the document it presented in Cairo are unacceptable – not by Israel nor by Egypt.
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On Wednesday, the Palestinian delegation held a second meeting with the Chief of Egyptian Intelligence, Mohammad Fareed al-Tuham, where it was made clear to them that building sea and airports is not on the agenda at the moment, and that control of the Palestinian side of Rafah crossing will be in the hands of Mahmoud Abbas.
Israel has given general requirements: Calm and demilitarization. Although a complete demilitarization is not expected, the country insists on establishing an international body that will handle the issue. This will require creativity and originality, which is why officials are striving to find a formula – or the politically correct term – that will give a feeling of the beginning of a process that will end with the disarmament of Hamas in Gaza. One way or another, Israel must collect an achievement in this field.
A similar case is that of the seaports. Israel defines it as a "psychological threshold demand" of Hamas, and although no one believes that it will be accepted in full, officials may come up with a formula which will define the issue as part of a "future development."
Meanwhile, the Cabinet held discussions on the possibility that the entire round of negotiations – as in Operation Cast Lead – will end without an agreement of a well-ordered calm, but with a peace that will be long-lasting.
An Israeli official close to the negotiations in Egypt referred to reports from Cairo on Hamas' intentions to renew attacks on Israel on Friday, saying: "We have to wait and see what they really want. Currently, the intent of statements is not entirely clear. This might be some kind of test, but we are preparing for every scenario."
A senior cabinet minister, when asked how Israel will react if the rocket fire is renewed on Friday told Ynet: "We'll fire back, heavily."
What does Hamas want, and what may it get?
1. Reopening Gaza border crossings
Regarding the possibility of opening the bordering crossings from Israel into Gaza, Israel is expected to ease some restrictions. Regarding the Rafah crossing, which is under Egypt's control, Israel cannot help, but is of the same mind as Egypt, which does not want Hamas involved in the border crossing's operation.
Expected result: Israel will work with Egypt to find way to open the Rafah crossing, on the condition it won't be operated by Hamas. As well as increasing the flow of both civilian and military goods and materials into Gaza, on condition there is international oversight of the process.
2. Expansion of fishing zone off Gaza's coast
Hamas demands an expansion of the Strip's fishing zone by 12 miles. According to international law, that is legal the span of territorial waters from a nation's shore to its maritime border. In other words, Hamas demands the same amount of territorial waters a regular nation state would receive.
Expected result: Israel will accept the demand and expand the permitted fishing zone.
3. International summit
Hamas is demanding an international donors' summit to help raise funds for rebuilding the Gaza Strip. The summit will be led by the Palestinian unity government headed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas
Expected result: Israel has no way or need to object to such a summit and is expected not to interfere when it takes place.
4. Passage from Gaza to the West Bank
Israel objects to connecting Gaza to the West Bank, both at a psychical and political level, and is therefore expected to fight this demand and its subsequent articles – for example, the demand to release prisoners from the West Bank.
Nonetheless, it is likely Israel will ease travel restrictions on movement between the two Palestinian territories, while reserving the right to implement security procedures necessary to prevent to movement of terrorists and arms.
Expected result: No complete freedom of movement, but ease in restriction can be expected.
5. Sea and airport for Gaza
Hamas raised the demand and reiterated it on a number of occasions – most recently Thursday night – but Egypt has already informed them it was off the table.
Expected result: Israel will veto the demand and Hamas will be forces to concede.
Abbas hopes that through the current round of talks he will be able to secure the release of a group of prisoners Israel agreed to free as part of US-led peace talks, but never did so citing lack of progress in the talks that ended uneventfully April 29th. Israel could agree to release the group, but only as part of an attempt to strengthen Abbas at Hamas' expense.
On the other hand, after three Israeli teens were murdered in the West Bank by Hamas affiliated terrorists, one of which was freed in the prisoner exchange deal that saw Sgt. Gilad Shalit go free, Israel changed its policy regarding prisoner releases.
As of the beginning of the week, during Security-Cabinet meetings held on the issue this week, there was a strong and fundamental objection to the release. A large number of Hamas operatives were arrested following the teens' kidnappings, a large number of which were freed as part of the Shalit deal.
Expected result: Israel will refuse to release prisoners who were rearrested after being freed as part of the Shalit deal, but could be open to freeing the last group of prisoners promised to Abbas during peace talks.
7. Targeted killings
Hamas wants Israel to stop targeted killings of its commanders and rocket launchers, however it is unlikely Israel will accept such a demand. It seems Israel has decided to keep its position on the killings vague.
Regardless, Israel is likely to retain the right to attack clear threats – like rocket launches – as well as a general right to enter Gaza on a limited basis to unearth and destroy tunnels threatening Israel.
Expected result: Hamas will give up its demand, but not state so publicly.
One of Hamas central demands has nothing to do with Israel, and focuses on the need to find a way for some 40,000 Hamas employed officials to receive their paychecks. The officials in Gaza have not received pay since the Palestinian unity government was formed mid-April and stems from political and technical issues related to PLO-Hamas relations.
Expected results: Israel will not object.