Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Cairo Negotiations

During the indirect ceasefire negotiations under way in Cairo between Israel and the Palestinian delegation, namely Hamas and the PA (although that the PA is playing a subsidiary role), Israel has been quite accommodating.  According to reports, Israel has accepted the following Hamas demands: 1. Open borders; 2. Release of former prisoners and of Hamas leaders arrested in the West Bank; 3. Expanded fishing areas; 4. Greater number of truckloads of food and other material into Gaza; 5. Greater number of Gazans allowed to enter/exit via Israel.  Israel has rejected the following Hamas demands : 1. A new port and airport; 2. An open connection between Gaza and the West Bank.  Israel has also agreed to the opening of the Rafah border crossing from Egypt into Gaza as long as it is not controlled by Hamas, presumably it would be controlled by the PA on the Gaza side, but the Egyptians have to approve this.  Israel is demanding in exchange: 1. The demilitarization of Gaza (which was agreed in the Oslo Protocols of 1999, and that still applies to the West Bank and should apply to Gaza); 2. The supervision of all building materials imported into Gaza (this would probably be done by an international agency, perhaps through the UN).  However, so far Hamas has not responded to the demilitarization demand and that could be a deal breaker.  It is unlikely that Israel would accept all of Hamas's demands without Hamas agreeing in return to demilitarize Gaza, namely to give up all their missiles and other offensive weapons.
There is a possibility that the issue of the demilitarization of Gaza could be left for another negotiation that might occur in relation to the donor's conference for Gaza planned after the fighting stops.  In this case the providing of aid and building material for Gaza could be made contingent on Hamas demilitarizing Gaza.  On the other hand, Israel might not be prepared to wait until after these negotiations in case Hamas then reneges and accepts aid from other countries (such as Qatar and Turkey) that will not require it to demilitarize.
In case an agreement is not reached between Israel and Hamas, then both sides have threatened to continue fighting (although perhaps after another 72 hr ceasefire).  Which side will lose the most from a continuation of hostilities?  It must be Hamas, because there is a lot of pressure in Israel, particularly from the inhabitants of the south saying, "take care of Hamas, now."  They question why it is that after a month of fighting, Hamas is still able to launch 50-100 missiles into Israel every day.  The same scenario happened in the 2nd Lebanon War of 2012 when the IDF was unable to prevent Hizbollah firing missiles into northern Israel.  But, then Hizbollah was so damaged by the IDF that they practically capitulated, and the test is that since then they have not dared to provoke the IDF.  Also, Hamas has few allies, the moderate Sunni states aren't supporting them, the Arab League is not going to bat for them and even the Shia axis of Hizbollah, Syria and Iran are not actively supporting them.  Their only allies are Qatar, Turkey and the western Muslims and liberals (also in principle the Islamic State). But they are not going to send any armies to assist Hamas.  Even the PA, whatever they say, have accused Hamas of causing death and destruction for the Palestinians by unnecessarily provoking Israel, which is true. So Hamas have a lot to gain if they agree up front to demilitarize and a lot to lose if they don't .


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