Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is trying to persuade cabinet ministers to support the long-term truce with Gaza being negotiated in Cairo – while Economy Minister Naftali Bennett is trying to build opposition to it.
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A senior Israeli official said that after Netanyahu canceled the scheduled noon meeting of the security cabinet to discuss the negotiations, the prime minister held one-on-one meetings with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Communication Minister Gilad Erdan, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Bennett. Netanyahu's apparent agenda was to outline the emerging pact and try to convince the ministers to back it.
But earlier, Bennett wrote on his Facebook page that he opposed the terms of the truce as they had been described in the media. He noted his particular opposition to the transfer of funds via a third country to pay salaries to employees of Gaza's Hamas-run government. Bennett said he intended to try to sway his cabinet colleagues against such a truce.
Quoting senior Israeli officials, Haaretz reported yesterday that while no final true agreement has been reached, Israel is prepared to ease conditions in a number of areas beyond those agreed to after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. They include:
1. Expanding the fishing zone off Gaza from three nautical miles to six. Israel made clear that if security conditions allow in the future it will consider expanding the zone to 12 nautical miles, as Hamas demands.
2. Easing passage for people from the Gaza Strip to Israel and the West Bank and increasing the number of permits given each month to 5,000.
3. Significantly increasing the number of trucks with various merchandise that can enter Israel via the Kerem Shalom crossing.
4. Israel is prepared to allow money to be brought into the Gaza Strip to pay the salaries of Hamas officials through a third country that is not Qatar or through the United Nations. The transfer of the funds will be monitored so it is not used to finance terror.
Israel: No seaport or airport
The official said Israel is not prepared to discuss Hamas demands to build a seaport or airport in Gaza. He said during the talks on easing the siege, the issue came up of returning the bodies of IDF Staff Sgt. Oron Shaul and 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin, which Hamas is holding. Israel would be prepared to release a few dozen prisoners arrested during the Gaza operation in exchange for the bodies.
As for Israel’s demand to demilitarize the Gaza Strip, no breakthrough is expected. In Jerusalem. Talk on this matter turned last week to preventing rearmament or preventing Hamas from growing stronger, rather than disarmament of the Strip.
Meanwhile, the Israeli delegation to the Cairo talks, which are being mediated by Egypt, returned today to the negotiations. The talks are scheduled to last for the duration of the current 72-hour cease-fire, which runs out Wednesday at midnight.
During a visit to the Israel Air Force base in Ashdod, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon said that at this point Operation Protective Edge is still on, adding that he could not forecast if the temporary cease-fire would be extended beyond the deadline, or if the fighting would resume.