Israel has agreed to ease the closure on the Gaza Strip, according to information obtained by Ynet regarding an apparent agreement between Hamas and Israel, achieved via Egyptian mediation at the negotiations currently underway in Cairo. In contrast, there is no agreement to demilitarize Gaza, as demanded by Israel.
Ynet has learned that Israel will agree to transfer the Hamas government salaries through a third party – facilitating the payment of Hamas officials' salaries. It was further agreed that Israel would gradually expand the fishing area off the Gaza coast, initially expected to be six nautical miles. It was also decided that construction materials will enter Gaza under close supervision.
Another issue close to agreement is that Israel will double the number of trucks entering Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing to approximately 600 trucks per day. Similarly, a decision by Israel to increase the monthly quota of permits for entry into the Gaza Strip through the Erez crossing is also close to being finalized. At the same time, criteria for entry into Israel from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank will be broadened.
In the negotiations held Monday, the parties did not reach an understanding regarding the Gaza ports. Hamas sources in the Gaza Strip said Monday evening that it would be possible to delay in dealing with the airport and seaport if Israel agrees to the rest of their requirements. The sources noted that such a situation would still require an agreement in principle for the establishment of the ports.
Israel is at present opposed to the establishment of air and sea ports in Gaza for fear they would be used by Hamas and other factions to smuggle weapons.
"The problem is not just the port," said former Military Intelligence chief Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin several days ago. "If it were only the port, I think it could be stipulated that only monitored, civilian arrivals would be allowed. It would take four years to build, and Israel has already agreed in the past to a port in Gaza, during Yasser Arafat's time."
Regarding the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt - not a direct issue for Israel - it seems that the Egyptians and the Palestinians are moving toward handing control over to Palestinian Authority forces loyal to Mahmoud Abbas.
A source close to the Palestinian delegation in Cairo said Monday night that the talks between the Palestinian delegation and Israeli delegation had been continuously ongoing since 1 pm, with Egyptian mediation, with no set schedule. According to the source, the negotiations have been thorough and difficult, but the common denominator is that all parties are interested in reaching agreement and not returning to a further escalation of violence.
Israel's delegation returned home Monday evening, and is expected to head back to Cairo Tuesday for further talks. The delegation includes Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen; Defense Ministry Director of Policy and Political-Military Affairs Amos Gilad; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's envoy Yitzhak Molcho; Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Gen. Yoav Mordechai and Head of the IDF Planning Directorate Major General Nimrod Shefer.
No demilitarization, no port
Meanwhile, the Security Cabinet was to convene at noon Tuesday to hear the details of the agreements reached so far. A political source said that the issue of demilitarization, although it became a key talking point for Netanyahu during the fighting, was not expected to be included in the final agreement, and certainly not by Hamas.
"Hamas cannot say that it agreed to demilitarization, but the important thing is that the issue was raised," the source said. While Israel wanted rehabilitation in return for demilitarization in Gaza, it is will likely to have to make do with making life easier for the Gazans without Hamas giving any guarantees it will decommission its weapons.
It seems that during the talks in Cairo, the demilitarization requirement was shelved along with Hamas' demands for a seaport and airport. Cabinet ministers have made it clear that a port will be built if Hamas agrees to extreme demilitarization."
Several ministers have expressed dissatisfaction with the fact that the talks in Cairo were conducted without informing them of their progress.
"When the agreements are presented, the ministers will rubber-stamp them because it would be very difficult to change any items," said one minister.
It has not yet been clarified whether there will be a Cabinet vote on the agreements reached in Cairo.
Elior Levy and Roi Kais contributed to this report