Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will on Monday brief the three-member delegation that Israel is sending to indirect talks in Cairo Tuesday on extending the Israel-Hamas ceasefire. Israel’s two first demands at the talks will be that Hamas return the bodies of two soldiers killed during the 50-day conflict, Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, and that Hamas agree to disarm and have Gaza demilitarized, officials said.
There is no expectation in Israel that Hamas will agree to disarm, Israeli political sources said Sunday, and thus no expectation that the talks will yield any significant breakthrough, at least at this stage.
Netanyahu is retaining the same security-minded trio — senior Defense Ministry official Amos Gilad, Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen, and the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai — who negotiated the open-ended ceasefire that halted the conflict on August 26. This serves to underline that these talks — indirect negotiations mediated by Egypt between the Israelis and a Palestinian delegation that includes Hamas representatives — are not seen by Israel as heralding any kind of political resolution, the Israeli sources told Channel 2 on Sunday.
The sources said that even though no significant progress is anticipated, Israel considers the possibility that Hamas would resume fire at Israel to be “very low.”
Egypt had initially invited the Israeli and Palestinian delegations to come to Cairo on Wednesday, but accepted Israel’s request to move the session to Tuesday because Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year) begins Wednesday evening.
Fifty days of fighting between Israel and terrorists in Gaza that killed approximately 2,100 Palestinians — about 1,000 of them combatants, Israel says — and 72 Israelis, ended on August 26 with an open-ended truce agreement. Israel said it would ease restrictions on movement of personnel and goods through the two crossings into Gaza that it controls, but core issues of dispute were set to be negotiated in indirect talks in Cairo after a month.
During the conflict, Hamas fired 4,600 rockets at Israel, mainly into the south, and killed 11 soldiers when its gunmen emerged from some of the attack tunnels it had dug under the border.
Under the terms of the ceasefire deal, the parties agreed to resume the Egyptian-brokered negotiations to discuss, among other issues, a Hamas demand for a port and an airport, a prisoner swap and Israel’s insistence on Gaza terrorists disarming. Israel has ruled out removing controls over access to Gaza, as has Egypt, unless or until Hamas disarms, which Hamas refuses to do. Hamas, designated a terrorist group by Israel and much of the international community, seized control of Gaza in a violent coup against the Palestinian Authority in 2007.
On October 12, Cairo is set to host an international donor conference on the reconstruction of Gaza.
Israel has only negotiated directly with President Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority. Backed by the so-called Middle East Quartet of the US, EU, UN and Russia, it demands that Hamas recognize Israel, accept previous agreements and renounce terrorism as preconditions for direct negotiations with the Islamist group.