Egypt has reportedly put forth a “final proposal” to break the deadlock following the Gaza fighting, but Palestinian sources say it’s doubtful Israel and the Palestinians will accept the wording in talks scheduled for the next two days.
Under Egypt’s proposal, Israel and the Palestinians in Gaza commit not to take any action against the other by “sea, air or land,” while the Palestinians promise not to dig tunnels into Israel, Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk reported Friday.
It’s a “final proposal,” but sources say Cairo is still expected to accept any agreement that does not harm Egypt’s interests.
If the wording is accepted, Israel would be signing a document implying full recognition of the Hamas-Fatah unity government. Jerusalem has refused to do this, threatening sanctions on the Palestinian Authority instead.
Such an agreement would strengthen the principles forged by the Oslo Accords under which Gaza and the West Bank are one political entity. The Palestinian government could use these principles in a bid to win international recognition of a Palestinian state, perhaps as a full member of the United Nations.
“All crossings between Israel and Gaza would be opened in a manner that would end the blockade and allow the free movement of goods and people, as well as of materials for rebuilding Gaza,” Al-Shorouk reported. The deal would allow for “the transfer of goods between the West Bank and the GazaStrip in accordance with previous agreements between the Israeli authorities and the Palestinians.”
“All financial matters concerning Gaza” would be coordinated, the paper added, referring to salaries for Hamas employees. It said that under the agreement, the buffer zone at the Israel-Gaza border would be narrowed to 300 meters and, on November 18, to 100 meters. On January 1, PA forces would deploy on the Gaza border.
Under the proposal, Israel would agree to gradually expand the Gaza fishing zone to 12 nautical miles off the coast. It would also take part in international efforts to rebuild Gaza.
The proposal, however, does not include details on key issues likely to be discussed over the next two days. For example, in the agreement, Hamas wants the right to build a seaport and an airport in Gaza. Hamas is worried that if it does not secure this right now, Egypt will fail to force Israel to concede in talks after a long-term cease-fire is set.
Another clause pertains to fund transfers; the main issue is the salaries for 45,000 Hamas employees that were frozen under Israeli pressure. Other issues include the way to transfer funds to rebuild Gaza, and whether Hamas would be allowed to receive other donations and aid.
Also, would the PA be the destination for aid donations? How would Qatari aid donations be sent? Who would supervise funding for construction projects, and how?
Another issue is the terminology; the proposal does not mention Hamas and Islamic Jihad but rather “Palestinian factions” and “the Palestinian government.” Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad want to be mentioned in the agreement, though both Egypt and Israel are opposed.
Meanwhile, Israel needs to agree with the Palestinian government on what kinds of goods and products would be allowed into Gaza, in what quantities, and how they would be inspected. All this must be done in a way that would “end the blockade,” according to the Egyptian proposal.
Even this wording is controversial, as Israel claims there is no blockade and has demanded that the agreement only mention the easing of restrictions at border crossings. If Israel accepts the Egyptian proposal, it would effectively acknowledge the blockade and agree to lift it.