Officials from Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian groups traveled to Egypt Tuesday to continue talks about a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation and a long-term truce with Israel.
It was not clear whether officials from the Palestinian Authority, or from its ruling party, Fatah, will travel to Cairo as well.
On Wednesday and Thursday, the Palestinian Central Council, a kind of parliament of the groups that comprise the Palestinian Liberation Organization, will meet in Ramallah. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, whose Fatah is the PLO’s dominant faction, will deliver a speech. One of the issues it is expected to address is the reconciliation with Hamas.
Fatah officials said the party has already given its comments on Egypt’s proposal for reconciliation to the Egyptian intelligence agency, and it is now awaiting Hamas’ response to these comments.
Al Risala, a Hamas-affiliated media outlet in the Gaza Strip, reported that Egyptian intelligence is continuing to try to arrange a meeting between Hamas and Fatah officials sometime in the next few days.
The Egyptians are making great efforts to involve the PA in the talks on a long-term truce with Israel and avoid a situation in which Hamas and Israel agree on a truce without the PA’s involvement, a Hamas official told Haaretz.
“Any agreement that excludes the Palestinian Authority from the decision-making mechanism will be very fragile, because it won’t gain the PA’s cooperation, and that is liable to thwart any progress,” he explained.
Even if a separate Hamas-Israel truce is agreed on as a first stage, Egypt will continue to try to get the PA involved, on the understanding that no deal which excludes the PA can be durable, he added.
But officially, Hamas is still refusing to talk about a long-term truce with Israel, and it has posed very high demands for any such deal. For instance, it is demanding a complete end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza, whereas Israel is offering only to ease the blockade, including by reopening its Kerem Shalom crossing with Gaza — which was open in any case before the current crisis erupted on March 30.
“At this stage, we don’t know what additional steps the plan will actually include, and it all depends on Israel,” another Hamas activist told Haaretz. “Reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing and returning to the situation that prevailed until March 30 offers nothing new, and since then, the Palestinian people have paid with the blood of hundreds of Palestinians who were killed and wounded along the [border] fence.”
Reports from Gaza say that Kerem Shalom’s closure over the past month has caused an estimated $100 million worth of damage, because more than 3,500 trucks carrying goods for Gaza have been unable to enter.
“The crossings are mainly crossings through which humanitarian goods and equipment are brought in, so the opening of the crossings must not be subject to narrow political considerations and Israeli extortion,” said Palestinian parliamentarian Jamal al-Khudri, who heads the National Committee to Break the Siege of Gaza.