Senior Israeli officials have said that should the Egyptian efforts to forge a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas fail, Western powers will likely try to push for a UN Security Council resolution that would call for an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip.
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An Israeli delegation was expected to return to Cairo Sunday morning for what seemed to be a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement. The talks were expected to continue through Monday night, when the five-day cease-fire is scheduled to end.
Israel’s inner cabinet met for two and a half hours Friday morning to discuss the draft of the Egyptian proposal, which was given to the Israeli and Palestinian teams in Cairo. Senior figures said after the session that judging by the content of the discussion, the chances of reaching an agreement with Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations by Monday were slim, owing to the significant gaps between the parties.
One Israeli official in Jerusalem, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Israel had not yet given an answer to the Egyptian proposal. “We don’t intend to compromise on our security concerns, but everything must wait until Monday night to see whether an agreement is possible,” he said.
If the Cairo talks do fail, Israel is likely to unilaterally declare an end to the military operation and the introduction of a de facto cease-fire based on “answering quiet for quiet.” Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett support this option, in which Israel would reserve the right to strike “terror tunnels” from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory or rocket factories in the Strip.
Senior Israeli officials said that if the Cairo talks fail to produce a negotiated agreement, pressure from the international community for a deal would increase. They said Britain, France and other nations were preparing a UN Security Council resolution calling for an end to the fighting in Gaza, the lifting of the blockade on the Strip, the return of Palestinian Authority forces to the territory and the reintroduction of international monitors at the Gaza border crossings to prevent arms from entering the Strip.
On Friday the foreign ministers of the 28 European Union member states approved a German, British and French proposal to support reconstruction in the Gaza Strip, in exchange for an international arrangement to prevent Hamas from rearming. The EU decision stated that the member states would support an international initiative endorsed by the UN Security Council.
The European foreign ministers said that they would like to see the international initiative include redeployment of EU personnel previously sent to monitor the Rafah border crossing, as well reinforcing their numbers and expanding their mandate. The EU would also support training the Palestinian police in order to deploy them and other PA security forces along the Gaza-Israel border.
During the fighting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected a proposal put forth by Livni and the Foreign Ministry to push for a UN Security Council resolution against Hamas. If such a resolution were proposed now, Israel will be able to influence its content, though in a more limited way.
So far, the U.S. administration has worked to block any procedures in the UN Security Council regarding the fighting in Gaza. Due to U.S. pressure, a Jordanian initiative for a cease-fire in Gaza that called for setting up an international commission of inquiry to look into Israeli strikes on UN facilities did not advance. Sources in Israel believe that if the talks in Cairo fail, the U.S. administration will change its policy and also start pushing for a cease-fire agreement via the UN Security Council.