Ban Ki-moon weighs long-term humanitarian ceasefire

Ban Ki-moon weighs long-term humanitarian ceasefire

UN chief has plan based on Egyptian ceasefire, but for now, few are on board

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (photo credit: Don Emmert/AFP)
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (photo credit: Don Emmert/AFP)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is weighing the possibility of announcing on Tuesday in Cairo a long-term humanitarian ceasefire, in the presence of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian sources told The Times of Israel.

Ban plans to first present an initiative based on the Egyptian ceasefire proposal, with the addition of Egypt giving security guarantees for the opening of the Rafah crossing, with PA forces present. In addition, Gaza residents would enjoy the easing of restrictions on goods coming into the Strip from Israel. There would be a mechanism to transfer the salaries of Hamas government clerks in an organized fashion, distinguishing between those who worked in Hamas’s civil offices and those who work in its military wing.

But it’s not clear that the UN chief’s plan will be implemented. For now, there is no Egyptian agreement about border crossing guarantees, and Cairo again demanded that Hamas first stop firing, and only after would the other issues be discussed. Hamas is not responding positively to the initiative, either. It is still unclear whether Ban will declare his ceasefire on Tuesday.

But the UN secretary-general did manage to convince Abbas during their meeting to join his call for the truce.

In order to advance the initiative, Ban is expected to arrive in Israel Tuesday, after he met Sunday with Abbas and Qatar’s emir, Hamid bin Khalifa II. Ban will arrive Monday in Cairo to meet with President Abdal-Fattouh el-Sissi, at the same time US Secretary of State John Kerry arrives.

State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Sunday that the US is “deeply concerned about the risk of further escalation, and the loss of more innocent life.” She also said that her government believes that a ceasefire should begin as soon possible, based on the November 2012 understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense.

She added that Kerry is working to advance the Egyptian ceasefire framework, and will arrive in the region for that purpose.

In New York, the UN Security Council expressed “serious concern” about Gaza’s rising civilian death toll and demanded an immediate end to the fighting following an emergency session.

The Hamas spokesman in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, said Monday that the international efforts are meant to “save the defeated occupation. The Resistance will not respond to pressure, and will impose its demands.”

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