There have been clear setbacks in recent days in the negotiations over the truce between Palestinian factions and the Israeli occupation, which parties to the agreement had anticipated would be finalized last Friday at the latest.
“After the Eid holiday, God willing,” a number of Palestinian parties tell Mada Masr when asked what had become of the deal, which had progressed to the point that its details had made their way into the media.
The first indications of a setback came from Hamas political bureau member Ezzat al-Rashq, who had come to Cairo last week as part of the Palestinian factions’ delegation to put the final touches on the deal being mediated by Egyptian officials. He tweeted on August 17 that the round of negotiations between Palestinian factions had concluded and that efforts would be continued after Eid.
Political analyst Hany al-Masry tells Mada Masr that the finalization of the deal had been imminent but was delayed at the last minute since the Palestinian Authority (PA) rejected the Cairo talks.
Despite the picture painted last week of a deal nearing completion, meetings between Palestinian factions and Egyptian mediators in Cairo during the past few days were beset by contention over a range of points.
A Palestinian source with knowledge of the Cairo talks tells Mada Masr that Palestinian factions struck out against the one-year truce on the table. Instead, they demanded that the duration of the deal’s terms be contingent on Israel’s adherence rather than on a predetermined timeframe. If Israel were to violate the truce, the Palestinian factions would retaliate immediately.
According to the source, one of the most important points of disagreement with the current iteration of the deal concerns a demand for a safe water passageway to ensure freedom of movement to and from the Gaza Strip. A source within Hamas previously told Mada Masr that the deal provided for the creation of a maritime corridor, subject to surveillance by Israeli security agencies, between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus.
“It is clear that the Israeli occupation is stalling in the matter of a water passageway between the strip and Cyprus, and is talking about several stages in its implementation,” Yehia Moussa, a Hamas member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, tells Mada Masr. Moussa doubts the sincerity of Israel’s intention to implement the measure.
Moussa adds that the disputed issues of arming Palestinian factions and the use of tunnels running under Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel have not been discussed yet and were not included in the initial agenda of the Cairo talks.
After it was announced that Palestinian factions would be coming to Cairo, Abbas Kamel, the head of the Egyptian General Intelligence Service (GIS), flew to the occupied territories last Thursday, intending to hold direct discussions with PA President Mahmoud Abbas.
However, the meeting in Ramallah did not take place.
A Palestinian source tells Mada Masr that Mahmoud Abbas apologized to the head of the GIS, saying that he was preoccupied with the session of the Palestinian Central Council and would be unable to hold discussions.
Reports in Israeli media had asserted that an Egyptian security delegation would head to the West Bank tomorrow to hold talks with the president of the PA. However, a Palestinian official tells Mada Masr that these reports are untrue, and that any meeting with Egyptian officials will be directed by Fatah’s central committee member and reconciliation representative Azzam al-Ahmed.
“A delegation from Fatah led by Ahmed is going to visit Cairo after Eid to follow up on the reconciliation issue only,” the source says, stressing that Fatah would not be discussing conditions of the truce between Gaza factions and the Israeli occupation.
The PA’s legitimacy to act as the political representative, both within the occupied territories and internationally, raises the question of whether the parties to the truce agreement would be willing to circumvent Mahmoud Abbas and agree to a deal despite his opposition.
Hany al-Masry thinks this is unlikely. “In Egypt’s vision, the issues of the truce agreement and the reconciliation are one package,” Masry says. “Egypt wants to engage with a legitimate entity — the PA — and wants the PA to be part of the solution.”
In the same vein, Abdallah Abdallah, a member of the Revolutionary Council, Fatah’s parliamentary body, tells Mada Masr that the council was moving forward with talks regarding reconciliation, emphasizing that these talks do not include the truce agreement. Abdallah thinks that the way the truce agreement has been handled is a danger to the entire Palestinian cause, and that no faction or party can replace the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.
Despite Fatah’s lack of political appetite for the deal, Egypt has tried to bring Fatah into a conversation regarding the truce. “Egypt pressured the PA in all possible ways to join the truce agreement discussions,” an informed Palestinian source tells Mada Masr. “But all attempts were refused categorically, which could push the other factions to move forward without approval from Fatah or the Popular Front.”
Fatah is not the only party objecting to the truce agreement with the Israeli occupation. A high-ranking member of the revolutionary socialist party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, tells Mada Masr that the front opposes moving forward with the truce agreement in the absence of a consensus across all Palestinian factions. According to the source, the front’s delegation explicitly informed Egypt of this position.
Yehia Moussa thinks that the truce agreement between the Palestinian factions and Israel is dependant on the Israeli occupation itself, which has put forward demands to maintain peace and to implement the points agreed upon by the Palestinian factions.
For Moussa, the other part in this equation is Mahmoud Abbas, who opposes these talks, leading him to believe that all parties to the talks should disclose their position on circumventing the PA and moving forward with the deal.
The Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, a network of military groups associated with Fatah, has issued a more explicit position than Fatah itself.
“Our conditions are a mutual, concurrent and comprehensive truce which guarantees the complete lifting of the siege and the rebuilding of the airport and the commercial port,” the brigades asserted in a statement issued last Thursday, adding that they would not recognize any agreement that did not encompass both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.