Exclusive: Israel encourages Egyptian Hamas ceasefire effort – against military advice
Egyptian intelligence minister Gen. Omar Suleiman Monday, May 12, presented the truce plan he negotiated with Hamas leaders in Cairo to Israel’s prime minister Ehud Olmert, defense minister Ehud Barak and foreign minister Tzipi Livni.
debkafile‘s sources report Israeli ministers essentially accepted the offer with some caveats and sent the Egyptian general back for a second round of bargaining. They accepted his advice to treat kidnapped Israeli soldier Cpl Gilead Shalit as a separate issue from the emerging truce deal and leave it to a later stage.
Israeli military sources reacted angrily to the truce plan’s outline. They accused the prime minister of yielding to Hamas aggression in the same way as Lebanon’s Fouad Siniora capitulated to Hizballah after the Iran-backed terrorists seize large swathes of Lebanon. Those sources found Olmert’s surrender all the more unacceptable because, while the Lebanese prime minister lacks an army capable of taking on Hizballah, Israel has one of the finest armies in the world which the government is holding back from defending half a million civilians under daily attack.
These are the main points of Suleiman’s truce plan, according to our sources:
1. Israel must lift its blockade on the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip and open all the crossings.
2. Israel should heed Hamas political chief Khaled Meshaal’s words to the Egyptian general in private rather than his public rhetoric. He quoted Meshaal as saying on the quiet that Hamas is not a political, military or religious organization; its decisions are not political and not governed by clerics. Hamas therefore deserves to be encouraged in its pursuit of this path.
3. The way to “stifle” Hamas is not by confrontation but rapprochement through a long-tem informal truce (hudna).
4. Once afoot, the truce will develop its own dynamic and start a process of change in Hamas.
5. A ceasefire is the only way to restore Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas to any sort of foothold in the Gaza Strip. Abbas’ Fatah and Hamas must be encouraged to bury the hatchet after a Hamas coup expelled PA forces last year and start talking about a Palestinian unity government.
6. Egyptian guarantees are on offer to halt the smuggling of arms and fighting men into the Gaza Strip through Sinai.
7. Israeli’s insistence on including the Gilead Shalit issue in the truce package will put an put paid to the entire deal. It should therefore be held separate and approached after the truce is up and running smoothly.
The prime minister told the Egyptian visitor that he accepts the Egyptian truce plan in principle but it needs further sweetening before he can bring it before the security cabinet for approval.
Heads of the IDF’s southern command found it hard to see the Israeli prime minister dickering over Hamas concessions when a 70-year old Israel woman was being murdered by a Palestinian missile from Gaza at Mosha Yesha. But, above all, they wished to remind the government that while Suleiman’s offer was smoothly presented and may have sounded reasonable to some, Meshaal’s promises and Egyptian guarantees have never stood up in the past.
The only effect of any cessation of hostilities has invariably been to grant Hamas a breather for upgrading its weaponry and bringing more Israeli targets within range of attack. In any case, rather than meeting Israeli halfway in indirect negotiations, Hamas is expected to run to form and intensify its attacks on Israel’s southwestern towns and villages. They will be trying to force Israel to waive further provisos as well as making a statement to mark US president George W. Bush’s Middle East trip this week, along with Hizballah and Tehran.