Gaza talks reconvene in Cairo; truce could expire Monday night

Gaza talks reconvene in Cairo; truce could expire Monday night
Men sit in a destroyed apartment building in the neighborhood of Al-Shaas in the Gaza Strip. The men's families live in a U.N.-run school where they had taken refuge, but the men remain and sleep overnight in the shell of a building to watch over what little is left. (Roberto Schmidt / AFP / Getty Images)

Israeli and Palestinian delegations reconvened in Cairo on Sunday to continue Egyptian-mediated talks for a long-term cease-fire to end the Gaza crisis.

Egypt is trying to secure the parties’ agreement to a proposal it hopes could be a bridge between Hamas and other militant factions’ demands to lift the blockade to allow free flow of goods into the isolated coastal strip, and Israel’s demand for an end to rocket fire and strict supervision of dual-use materials to curb Hamas’ military enterprises.

Last week's optimism about the chances for an agreement before the current truce expires Monday night dimmed over the weekend as both sides expressed reservations to an 11-point Egyptian proposal, saying it falls short of fulfilling their interests.

The proposal calls for an immediate cessation of fire and partial lifting of restrictions. Additional issues, including the exchanging of bodies and prisoners, would be concluded within a month, once the cease-fire has stabilized and life in Gaza normalized.


While efforts resumed in Cairo, elsewhere officials talked tough, hinting rejection.

Israel will agree to reach an understanding only if there is a clear response to its security needs, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said ahead of a Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Sunday.

Hamas was mistaken if it thinks "it can cover up its military loss with a diplomatic achievement," Netanyahu said, warning that continued sporadic fire would not yield Israeli concessions.

Hamas spokesperson Sami abu Zuhri dismissed Netanyahu's comments as designed to placate domestic criticism while another official, Osama Hamdan, called Israel to choose between accepting the Palestinian people's demands and preparations for a "prolonged war."

It is not immediately clear whether hostilities would resume if the truce expired Monday night without an agreement.

Several Israeli officials suggested Israel might prefer a unilateral move over an agreement that doesn't include stipulations for long-term demilitarization and bars the army from acting against militants' actions, if these continue.

Israel could ease restrictions to allow humanitarian goods into Gaza but nothing beyond, so long as an arrangement to block Hamas' military buildup hasn't been reached, Security Cabinet member and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan told Israeli media.

Thousands demonstrated in Tel-Aviv on Saturday night and called for a diplomatic resolution with the Palestinians instead of war. Opposition lawmaker Zehava Galon called on Netanyahu to resign, citing the government's failure to conduct genuine peace talks during Netanyahu's five years in office.

Sobelman is a special correspondent.