Israel Examining Option of Renewing Egypt-mediated Truce Talks

Several cabinet ministers have voiced fierce opposition to negotiating with Hamas, but a government official says Israel believes the end of the operation 'must go through Cairo.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Netanyahu, August 20, 2014.
Netanyahu, August 20, 2014.Credit: Oder Vaknin
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Israel is examining the option of renewing the Egypt-mediated truce talks in order to reach a long term deal with Hamas, a government official said on Thursday, even as the possibility of indirect talks with the Palestinian organization drew sharp criticism by several cabinet ministers.

"Israel is currently pursuing the path of the Egyptian mediation," the official said. "The end of the operation, we believe, must go through Cairo."

The indirect talks between Israel and the Palestinians in Cairo broke down Tuesday. Rocket fire from Gaza resumed that afternoon, several hours before a temporary truce between the sides expired, to which the Israeli army responded with airstrikes. Following the breakdown, the Israeli delegation was recalled.

Cabinet ministers, among them Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, voiced their opposition in recent days to negotiating with Hamas. During a stormy debate on the issue in the last cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Netanyahu reprimanded Bennett for his public stance on the subject.

In a televised statement on Wednesday, Netanyahu took the cabinet ministers to task for their criticism, and said that when he was a cabinet minister, he "lent a shoulder and spoke less."

"The defense minister and I must act responsibly. I expect all of you to be responsible and not to toss around words, slogans and empty statements that have no bearing on the many considerations we have to address," Netanyahu told the ministers during a news conference in Tel Aviv, calling on them to follow his example.

As published in Haaretz on the weekend, Senior Israeli officials believed that if the Egyptian efforts to forge a long-term cease-fire between Israel and Hamas failed, Western powers would likely seek a UN Security Council resolution to call for an end to the fighting in the Gaza Strip. After the indirect talks collapsed on Tuesday, Germany, France and Britain indeed decided to push for a Security Council resolution.

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