TV report: Ahead of Doha talks, Israeli official sees ‘genuine opportunity for a deal’ but many tough issues to solve

CIA chief William Burns, Egyptian intel chief Abbas Kamel, Mossad chief David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. (Collage/AP/AFP)
CIA chief William Burns, Egyptian intel chief Abbas Kamel, Mossad chief David Barnea and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani. (Collage/AP/AFP)

After talks in Cairo yesterday, and ahead of talks tomorrow in Doha on a hostage-ceasefire deal, a senior Israeli source tells Channel 12 news that “Egyptian reports of progress are premature,” and that “difficult and complex negotiations are expected.”

The unnamed source also notes that “there are still unresolved issues to deal with that are not simple.”

Nonetheless, the source says, “an immense effort will be made to achieve a breakthrough,” and “there is a genuine opportunity to reach a deal. The goal is to produce the best deal possible within a few weeks.”

The Israeli delegation heading to Doha will be led by Mossad chief David Barnea, Shin Bet head Ronen Bar, and the IDF’s chief negotiator Nitzan Alon. CIA head Bill Burns is expected to attend, as are Egypt’s intelligence chief Abbas Kamel and Qatari Prime Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani.

The Channel 12 report says the talks will focus on the latest Israeli proposal, parts of which were detailed by US President Joe Biden at the end of May, which was followed by an initial Hamas rejection and more recent reported Hamas flexibility — notably as regards its previous insistence on an upfront Israeli commitment to end the war.

The TV report says the sides are broadly agreed on a three-stage deal, with a 42-day halt to the war in the first stage, and on the “categories” of Israeli hostages to be released — with the “humanitarian” hostages to be freed in stage one to include women, the elderly and the sick. It says there is also agreement, crucially, that there will be no upfront Israeli commitment to end the war. Without Hamas’s consent to this, it says, the talks would not be going ahead.

Among the areas yet to be finalized, it adds, are the question of how many Palestinian security prisoners will be freed for each hostage, and the identity of those prisoners; whether Israel will have a veto on specific prisoners; and the procedures surrounding the halt in fighting in the first phase and specifics of troop withdrawal.

Most importantly, the sides do not agree on core aspects of the transition from the halt in fighting in the first stage to a potential permanent ceasefire. Israel is demanding “an exit point” between the two stages, in line with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that the war will not end until Hamas is destroyed. Hamas, by contrast, wants the initial ceasefire maintained for as long as is needed until negotiations are finalized on a permanent ceasefire and end to the war.

The report also says that there was “a certain amount of progress” in yesterday’s talks in Cairo, which focused on the Rafah border crossing and the Philadelphi Route along the Gaza-Egypt border.

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