Economy Minister and member of the Security Cabinet, Naftali Bennett, has gone on the offensive on Tuesday against an agreement taking shape in Cairo with the Palestinian factions, the details of which were published for the first time on Ynet on Monday night.
Details of an agreement obtained by Ynet show Israel has agreed to ease the blockade on Gaza, but not lift it entirely. 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.
- Gaza ceasefire talks: Easing of blockade, but no demilitarization
- Israeli delegation returns to Cairo after ceasefire maintained
- Egyptian ceasefire plan introduces PA control in Gaza
Bennett called the expected salary transfer "a dangerous euphemism. It's a diplomatic protection: Pay us - we'll shoot at your later, don't pay us - we'll shoot at you now."
Bennett said that if this proposal goes to a vote in the cabinet, he will work with all of the tools at his disposal to convince the other ministers to reject it.
"The money will be transferred to the terrorists who are digging under our feet, to the rocket manufacturers, and to those who shoot at us. It's very simple. It's a 'calm for money to terrorism' formula," he said.
The economy minister claimed this would "both leave the state of Israel with the continuation of Hamas' strengthening, and harm our deterrence."
"You can't fight Hamas with one hand, and fund it with the other. The claim the money won't go to terrorism when you give it to Hamas is false, to say the least, and this is exactly why Hamas is insisting on getting this funding," he added.
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.
A member of the Palestinian delegation told a Islamic-Jihad affiliated news site on Tuesday that a long-term ceasefire agreement could be reached by Wednesday.
The source claimed the agreement would include the lifting of the Gaza blockade, but failed to provide any details on that.
Islamic Jihad spokesman Yusef al-Hasayina told the site the Palestinian delegation is halfway through discussions on the major issues on the table.
"The Egyptian side has agreed to significant easing on the Rafah border crossing. There's great determination among the Palestinian delegation to reach a real agreement that will bring to the end of the aggression and removal of the siege. Things in the Cairo talks will become clearer during the next 24 hours," al-Hasayina said.
An Israeli official, on the other hand, was quoted by the media on Tuesday morning as saying no progress has been made in the talks.
"The gaps between the sides are big and there is no progress in the negotiations," said an Israeli official, who declined to be named. There was no immediate comment from Hamas, the Islamist group that dominates Gaza.
A Palestinian official with knowledge of the Cairo talks told Reuters, on condition of anonymity: "So far we can't say a breakthrough has been achieved ... Twenty-four hours and we shall see whether we have an agreement."
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.
Attila Somfalvi and Reuters contributed to this report.