Report: Palestinians in Cairo talks agree to cease tunnel construction
Deal reportedly reached to see calm in Gaza extended based on two-pronged formula: Ceasefire in return for rehabilitation of Gaza and redevelopment in return for demilitarization; meanwhile, Israeli Cabinet convenes, Islamic Jihad says: War has ended.
A report from an Egyptian news source on Friday published additional details of the current ceasefire draft from talks in Cairo, saying that the document stipulates that organizations in Gaza will concede to cease the construction of new smuggling tunnels in and out of the Strip.
Palestinian officials expressed optimism regarding the proposal currently on the table, meant to reach a long-term ceasefire in Gaza, as Israel's Cabinet convened, presumably to discuss the looming deal.
Palestinian source close to the talks spoke with Ynet and said the current ceasefire deal was based on two simple formulas which together formed the agreement: (1) A ceasefire deal in return for Gaza's rehabilitation, and (2) redevelopment of Gaza in return for demilitarization of the Strip.
The two pronged deal will be gradually implemented, the sources said.
Economy Minister Naftali Bennett seemed to hint a deal existed, but said that Israel should make unilateral concessions to Palestinians in Gaza without actually reaching an agreement with Hamas, which he claimed would empower the terror group.
Speaking at the end of Cabinet meeting Friday morning, Bennett said Israel should open Gaza's border crossings and expand the Strip's fishing zone unilaterally, without reaching a deal with Hamas, which he said "harms our right to target (terror) tunnels."
Speaking to Israel Radio, Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz said Friday before the meeting that that Israel "in the midst of the final stages of negotiations."
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad's second-in-command, Ziad Nahala, said Friday that the "war was over."
Speaking to Al Hayat, Nahala said that "at this point we have no choice but to reach a truce. That stands at the head of our priorities. I believe that we are approaching an agreement."
"The great destruction caused by the war obligates us," he said, adding that though the majority of the Palestinian delegation's demands were not met, "Our achievements are acceptable."
Two-pronged deal: From ceasefire to demilitarization
The 'ceasefire for rehabilitation' and 'redevelopment for demilitarization' formula will be gradually implemented, and each will be conditioned on the other.
In the first stage, a deal will be signed promising a calm period during which time Gaza will go massive rehabilitation efforts, and stipulates a number of international projects for rebuilding the Strip.
In the second stage, in return for a demilitarization of Gaza, larger infrastructure development projects will begin, also under international oversight.
Nonetheless, it is far from certain a Palestinian commitment to a demilitarization of Gaza will include a complete disarming of all of the terror factions in Gaza.
Moreover, the relative level demilitarization will influence the level of redevelopment, and therefore, as Hamas will retain some of its arms and military capabilities, there will not be a sea or air port in Gaza; however, movement from sea and land will be permitted under international oversight.
Israel's goal in such a deal is to block potential rearming by terror factions, first and foremost by Hamas and the Islamic Jihad.
Egypt for its part wants to create a situation in which Hamas cannot create its own arms and rockets through materials smuggled Rafah tunnels, diverting these materials to international forces working on reconstructing the Strip. Thus Egypt, with the support of Israel, is de facto tightening its hold over Hamas.
Palestinians claim that the current five day lull is not a sign of progress, but only a sign that the sides believe that a deal can be reached given more time. They further claim that the discussion regarding sea and air ports – one of the Palestinians central demands – have been postponed to next month.
A Palestinian involved in talks told Asharq Al Awast that the chances of reaching a deal were more than 50 percent, but noted that "a number of issue remains." According to him the chances of reaching a deal were contingent on "Israel's desire to reach a long term accord."
Speaking to the paper, Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamadallah reuitered that the Palestinian delegation is unified, after initial talks exposed anger at Hamas by more moderate Palestinian factions.
"These are not Hamas’s conditions, Hamadallah said, "they are Palestinian demands. There is a unified delegation in Cairo which represents all political factions, even of those in the diaspora.
"The demands are the lifting of the blockade and the opening of the crossings, among others. And these are not the requirements of a particular faction but the Palestinian people and leadership."