Cairo interrupts Palestinian unity talks for US-EU approval of deal
debkafile‘s Cairo sources report that last week, Egypt’s senior mediator, Gen. Omar Suleiman flew to Washington and foreign minister Aboul Geith traveled to Brussels to ask their governments to underwrite the proposal for a Palestinian unity government. Without this input, they explained, there is no point in bringing the negotiations to a close. The Palestinian Fatah and Hamas negotiators are standing by in Cairo for answers.
The fate of the captive Israeli soldier Gilead Shalit also hangs on the outcome of these talks.
The two Egyptian officials asked to clear with the US and EU sections of the text that circumvent the Middle East Quartet’s stipulations for talking to Hamas.
Those sections are itemized exclusively here by debkafile:
1. Hamas’ admission to the umbrella Palestinian Liberation Organization amounts to the radical Palestinian group’s acceptance of all past agreements the PLO signed with Israel, including the Oslo Framework Accords.
2. Hamas is absolved from publicly announcing its recognition of Israel on the grounds that its rival Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah never formally recognized the Jewish state either, except for Yasser Arafat in person.
3. The Palestinian unity government’s guidelines will not recognize previously signed agreements, including those with Israel, but state that the new ministers will “respect” them.
Suleiman and Gheit informed US and European officials that Saudi King Abdullah had approved the text and Syrian president Bashar Assad had promised the king and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak to sell it to Hamas leaders.
International endorsement by the West was essential before a Palestinian unity government was installed, to spare it from boycott.
Cairo believes that once American and European endorsements are in hand, Israel’s designated prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu can be persuaded to quietly agree to live with the deal without saying so publicly.
The Egyptian brokers believe he can be won over by Cairo consenting for the first time to the complete severance of the Gaza Strip’s ties with Israel. The border crossings would be shut down permanently except for fuel supplies and Gaza provisioned in future through Egypt. This arrangement has always been adamantly rejected by President Mubarak.
debkafile‘s Middle East sources add that if this can be arranged and the two Palestinian factions can bury their differences over the composition of their shared government and electoral system before the Palestinian general election on Jan. 25, 2010 (they agree on the date), then the way ought to be clear for Gilead Shalit to be freed as part of the Palestinian package.
This may the long way round, but our political sources report that if Netanyahu is able to build a government with Labor’s Ehud Barak aboard to stay on as defense minister, he will go along with this formula as offering the best prospects. With this in mind, Barak proposed returning Israel’s negotiating team to Cairo to continue working on the Shalit case after the talks broke down. The defense minister has always insisted in trusting Egypt to act as go-between for Israel’s dealings with the Palestinians.
There are still a great many ifs before this package assumes final form, but several processes are afoot in this direction.