Israel and the US have already coordinated and agreed on the details of a future agreement for a long-term ceasefire with Hamas, and a gradual lifting of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Ynet reported early Tuesday.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is reportedly expected in Israel next week to support the Israeli government headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the report indicated, citing diplomatic sources.
The sources told Ynet that the agreement between Israel and the US on the terms of a deal with Hamas was reached secretly and entails Israel opening the land crossings into Gaza, followed by sea access, not objecting to the payment of salaries to Hamas men in Gaza, and facilitating the reconstruction of Gaza with international aid.
The US, according to the report, will support Israel’s demand to prevent the rearmament of Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, and will help Israel promote this goal in the international sphere. Israel reportedly gave up on the demand that terror groups in Gaza disarm.
During Kerry’s visit, the PM and the secretary of state are expected to emphasize the close, solid relationship between Israel and the US and say that any recent disagreements were on specific issues only.
The US and Israel have been publicly at odds since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge, most recently following a Wall Street Journal report that said the US had suspended a shipment of Hellfire missiles to Israel amid worsening ties over fighting in Gaza.
Last month, Israeli officials and the media publicly lashed out Kerry for furthering a US ceasefire bid that was perceived as being favorable to Hamas, an attack that angered the US administration and which prompted it to admonish Israel, with a State Department spokeswoman saying that allies do not behave this way.
On Monday, hours before a temporary truce between Hamas and Israel was set to run out, Palestinian officials said that Israeli and Palestinian teams had signed an outline ceasefire agreement that details issues to which both sides have agreed, and issues that will be discussed in a second round of negotiations at a later date, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported. Israel denied the report.
The ceasefire outline would call for the complete removal of the blockade on the Gaza Strip, Ynet reported, citing Palestinian sources.
According to the unconfirmed outline, Israel will agree to open all of its crossings into the Gaza Strip, and Egypt will open its Rafah crossing. The fishing zone will be expanded, and Israel will release Palestinian prisoners recently arrested in the West Bank.
The discussions on the airport and seaport will be delayed to the second round of negotiations.
Qatari news channel al-Jazeera reported unconfirmed initial details of the long-term agreement :
1. The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings will be opened permanently, with building materials allowed to enter under international supervision.
2. The area allowed for fishing in Gaza waters will be expanded from 6 to 9 miles, and then to 12 miles (as Hamas demanded) within 6 months.
3. Gaza’s electrical crisis will be solved within a year.
4. An agreement was reached in principle to build a seaport in Gaza, a matter to be discussed in a month.
5. The release of Palestinian prisoners will be discussed one month from the signing of the agreement.
Earlier in the day, less than 24 hours before the end of the five-day truce between Israel and Hamas, members of the Palestinian negotiating team told London-based daily al-Hayat that two options were on the table: either a detailed agreement based on the Egyptian ceasefire proposal; or a formula prescribing “quiet in return for quiet.” In either case, Hamas officials have informed the Egyptian mediators that they will not resume the war.
However, public statements by Hamas leaders indicated that optimism might be premature, and Israel was braced for a possible resumption of hostilities.
Sources in the Israel Defense Forces’ Southern Command said Monday afternoon they anticipated Hamas would try to launch a surprise attack and strike a significant blow to Israel — either by way of an infiltration through a cross-border tunnel that has gone undetected by Israel; through small aircraft that can carry explosives; or by firing an anti-tank missile at IDF patrols on the Gaza border.
There has also been speculation that Hamas might allow smaller radical groups to resume rocket fire at Israel, if it does not resume rocket fire itself.
Netanyahu warned earlier Monday that Israel was prepared to respond forcefully if Hamas resumed rocket fire.
“We are preparing for any outcome — the Israeli team was instructed to insist firmly on Israel’s security needs, and the IDF is gearing up for a very forceful response if the fire resumes,” he said.
Elhanan Miller contributed to this report.