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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hamas demands that Egypt be replaced as mediator, still demands a seaport

I spent much of tonight at a client's son's wedding (the son was in Gaza until the middle of last week). On the way home, I heard a report on Israel Radio with their 'Palestinian' affairs correspondent, Gal Berger. It was an amazing report. Fortunately, most of it is on his Twitter feed. Unfortunately, his Twitter feed is in Hebrew. So I will have to do some translating for you.

I finished a conversation with a Hamas source who originated the call. He asked to pass on a message. The central problem in the negotiations is the Egyptian mediator, who is not anxious to reach an agreement, and does not want a strengthened Hamas.

Points from the Hamas source: As delivered by the Egyptians, Israel's responses don't give a response to even 5% of Hamas' demands. They are even willing to allow international supervision of a seaport - they have not dropped that demand (contrary to this story).

Agreeing to Hamas' demands including the seaport, will ensure many years of calm. Just the reconstruction of Gaza will keep us busy for many years ahead [on Israel Radio he added that the amount of work that needs to be done to reconstruct Gaza is 3-4 times what it was in the last two wars]. They understand that setting up the port will take time but they demand that Israel consent to it now.

They will not be dependent on the mercies of Israel or Egypt at the borders. There is seriousness in the talks, but there is no real progress and the gaps are wide. The people of Gaza back them up completely.

They do not discount the possibility that Egypt is distorting the Israeli stance and is conveying a harder line than what is being given to them. Egypt does not like Hamas and don't want a strengthened Hamas.

[On Israel Radio he added, If Egypt cannot just be replaced], it is necessary to add European actors who are acceptable to Israel to join as mediators, and not to insist on the Egyptian mediator. [On Israel Radio he added that Hamas understands that Israel would not accept Turkey or Qatar, but suggested Norway]. The continuation of the Egyptian mediation in its current form is a sure-fire recipe to return to fighting.

The Israeli delegation decided to forgo the night in Cairo, and is heading back to Israel tonight [probably here already] for consultations.

The cease fire ends at Midnight Thursday night. Hmmm.

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