The seventh truce in the ongoing Israel-Hamas passage of arms is generally expected to end Wednesday night Aug. 13, with a fresh outbreak of hostilities triggered by resumed Hamas rocket fire. The indirect Egyptian-brokered talks between the parties in Cairo have never got off the ground. From the start, all three realized that the gaps between Israel and the Palestinians were unbridgeable and, moreover, that Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were totally at odds on a common negotiating stance.
debkafile’s intelligence sources report exclusively that Egyptian intelligence mediators presented separate papers to the Israelis and Palestinians, knowing – as they acknowledged informally – that the two papers were miles apart.
A source close to the talks told debkafile Tuesday night that the Israeli envoys had nothing to do all day in Cairo except to drink hot cups of strong tea in the hotel room assigned them by their Egyptian hosts.
In any case, the Egyptian mediators were in no hurry to push for results and, in fact, appeared fairly unconcerned by the prospect of hostilities resuming in a day or two.
This indifference was also noticeable at the joint news conference addressed by Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and President Vladimir Putin at the Russian resort of Sochi, Tuesday, when neither made any reference to the Gaza conflict.
The Palestinian team is in no shape to hold practical negotiations on any sort of resolution in Gaza, because it is deeply divided two ways.
For one, Hamas rejects the PA-PLO group as not fit to represent its interests because they say PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas is locked onto the Egyptian side.
The rancor between the two Palestinian factions came to the fore Tuesday night, our sources disclose, when PA security forces began detaining Hamas activists on the West Bank for the first time since the current conflict broke out in July. The arrests took place in the Qalqilya and Tulkarm refugee camps.
And for the second, the Hamas team itself was split between the envoys from Gaza and the delegates from Qatar. The Gaza group want the Cairo talks to lead off by setting conditions for a prolonged ceasefire, during which their political and military demands would be negotiated.
The Qatar envoys insist on reversing this order: first agreed solutions for the long term and only then a deal for extending the ceasefire.
Our Washington sources report that the US tried interceding with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, and also with Israel and Egypt, to persuade them to accept another extension of the three-day truce. This effort fell on deaf ears because the Obama administration has not carved out a role or gained levers of influence in the Gaza conflict.
The coming issue of DEBKA Weekly, out next Friday, Aug. 15 will examine the process leading up to the US administration’s loss of standing in the Gaza crisis. If you are not a subscriber, you may click here to sign on.
The one thing that can avert a fresh outbreak of violence Wednesday night is a declaration by Hamas’ military wing, Ezz e-Din al-Qassam, unconditionally halting further rocket fire and other aggressive activity.
Israel is not holding its breath for this to happen. Our military sources say that Israel’s government and military leaders are ready for the next stage of the confrontation with Hamas. This time, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are preparing action a lot tougher than limited air strikes in response to Palestinian rocket fire of any intensity. They know that public patience has run out and will no longer tolerate a return to the situation that leaves Hamas holding the initiative to shoot rockets or not.
Not only the public, but the army too will no longer put off with half-measures and is ready to fight Hamas until it is no longer capable of harassing Israel with threats of violence.