A new initiative meant to create a new foothold in Gaza for the Palestinian Authority and bring in international monitors, has apparently been drawn up by diplomats on Friday, as the UN ceasefire call was dismissed by both sides.
According to a Saturday report in the UK's London Times, the plan would allow for the PA, led by the secular Fatah faction, to reclaim the territory; 18 months after it was expelled by the Islamist Hamas.
Diplomats are considering taking a triangle at the southern end of Gaza, including the Rafah crossing leading into Egypt and the Kerem Shalom crossing leading into Israel, to be policed by Turkish and French military monitors, who would be tasked with thwarting arms smuggling into the Gaza Strip.
The zone would nominally be controlled by the PA, which is the internationally recognized Government. Such a plan would allow the Gaza crossings to reopen for the first time since Hamas seized power in Gaza in June 2007.
The plan is being negotiated as part of the Egyptian peace initiative, announced by President Hosni Mubarak after talks with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The Egyptian-French proposal, calls for an immediate ceasefire to be followed by talks on securing the Gaza-Egypt border and reopening the crossings.
The proposal faces formidable obstacles: Diplomats said Friday that the Egyptian efforts were getting bogged down because of disagreements over how to secure the border.
Hamas has said it would consider allowing observers at the border crossings with Egypt but opposed an international force.
Israel, however, is insisting on a robust international force to destroy smuggling tunnels under the border.
Egypt, for its part, does not want international troops on its territory. Instead, Cairo wants to revive the 2005 agreement on movement and access, under which EU monitors oversaw the passage of people through the Rafah crossing and vehicles through Kerem Shalom, a deal that fell through when Hamas came to power.
The new plan came as the UN ceasefire proposal was flatly rejected almost as soon as the Security Council backed it 14-0, with the US abstaining.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said: “Israel has never agreed for any outside influence to decide on its right to defend its citizens. The firing of rockets this morning only goes to show that the UN decision is unworkable and will not be adhered to by the murderous Palestinian organizations.”