Egypt to Hamas: Take Gaza truce before Netanyahu is voted PM
A-Sharq al-Awsat quotes Egypt officials as telling Hamas it will 'lose everything' when Likud chair elected.
Officials in Egypt are attempting to persuade Hamas to accept Israel's current offer of a cease-fire in Gaza before a far less accommodating government under Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu is elected, the pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat reported Monday.
The newspaper quoted the officials as telling Hamas that polls in Israel show the opposition leader is likely be voted prime minister in February's general election, adding that he would form a coalition with "extremist parties."
They reportedly said that Hamas stands to "lose everything" under these circumstances.
Hamas' Gaza spokesman Ayman Taha, meanwhile, has said recently that Israel has offered his Palestinian Islamist group a 10-year cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.
Egypt is also demanding a truce of a number of years' duration. But Taha said the group would agree to a cease-fire of anywhere between one year and no more than 18 months. Another Hamas spokesman, Ismail Radwan, said a long-term cease-fire "kills" the right to resistance by the Palestinians.
Also Monday, the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat reported that Israel has offered Hamas a cease-fire for an unlimited amount of time and the opening of Gaza's borders in return for abducted Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.
According to the report, Hamas rejected the offer on the grounds that it linked the opening of the border crossings to Shalit's release.
Shalit was kidnapped by Gaza militants in a 2006 cross-border raid. He is believed to be still held in the Strip.
Hamas and Israeli officials have also indicated that much of the discussion has centered on control of the border crossings in and out of Gaza. Hamas wants the blockade on Gaza lifted. Israel wants assurances that weapons smuggling into the Gaza strip will stop.
"Hamas listened to the Israeli proposal presented by [Defense Ministry official] Amos Gilad, and with it a proposal for a ceasefire for a year and a half, but Hamas presented a counterproposal of one year only," Ayman Taha told reporters in Cairo after talks with Egyptian intelligence officials.
The Hamas delegation met with the heads of Egyptian intelligence on Sunday who transmitted to them Israel's positions. Jerusalem has not yet clarified what stance it had presented.
Meanwhile, Taha reiterated the group's calls for a lifting of the blockade imposed on the impoverished and devastated Gaza Strip by Israel and Egypt as a condition for the truce. "[Hamas] called for a complete lifting of the blockade and an opening of all the crossings," Taha said.
Hamas proposed to Egyptian mediators that European and Turkish monitors be present at the border crossings, but rejected the presence of Israeli monitors, saying Israeli monitoring was "a large part of the problem," according to Taha.
Asked if Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' forces would be present at the crossings, Taha said: "Hamas is the existing government in Gaza."
Hamas wrested control of the Gaza Strip from Abbas's Fatah faction in fighting in 2007. Egypt has ruled out opening the Rafah crossing in the absence of the Palestinian Authority and European Union observers.
Commenting on the talks, Hamas's representative in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, told Al Jazeera satellite television on Sunday that Hamas was unwilling to alter its positions to Israel's benefit.
"The Israelis must understand that they will not achieve through politics what they failed to do militarily," Hamdan said.
Israel launched an offensive in the Gaza Strip in late December with the declared aim of ending Hamas rocket attacks on its southern communities. About 1,300 Palestinians, at least 700 of them civilians, were killed during the 22-day offensive, while Israel put its death toll at 10 soldiers and three civilians.
Hamas: No reconciliation with Fatah until it ends Israel peace talks
Hamas official Hamdan also said Sunday that Fatah movement must end peace negotiations with Israel before any reconciliation talks can take place.
The remarks were bound to complicate Arab efforts to reconcile Hamas, which controls Gaza, and the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
Speaking at a rally in Beirut Sunday, Hamdan - a close ally of Hamas political leader Khaled Meshal - said that the group welcomed Palestinian dialogue, but any reconciliation should be based on a resistance program to liberate territory and regain rights.
He also demanded that the PA end security coordination with Israel, and maintained that the Israeli-Palestinian peace process had ended.
"Those who committed mistakes must correct their mistakes through a clear and frank declaration to stop security coordination with the [Israeli] occupation, release [Hamas] prisoners and later end negotiations [with Israel] because the peace process is irreversibly over," said Hamdan.
"It's time for us to talk about a reconciliation based on a resistance program to liberate the [occupied] territory and regain rights," he added.
Asharq Al-Awsat also reported Saturday that Hamas had suggested representatives of the Palestinian Authority be stationed at the Rafah crossing, but that they be residents of Gaza, not the West Bank.
Israel has been allowing some supply convoys into Gaza, though its borders remain largely closed. The Israel Defense Forces says more than 125 trucks a day - on some days nearly 200 - have entered Gaza since fighting ended on January 17th, but aid workers say the numbers are not enough.