by Dish Staff
Early reports were that the two sides were close to agreement on an Egyptian compromise proposal for a long-term cease-fire. On Friday and Saturday, however, declarations on both sides indicated that positions were hardening as fierce internal divisions emerged, pulling the leaderships on both sides away from the center. The Palestinian side appears to be stymied by the refusal of the organization’s Qatar-based political secretary, Khaled Meshaal, and the head of its military wing, Mohammed Deif, to go along with the compromise proposals laid out by the Egyptians and mostly accepted by both delegations.
On the Israeli side, meanwhile, chaos appears to be reigning. Prime Minister Netanyahu, who rode a wave of popularity during the military operation, has been facing a tsunami of criticism over the past week from the left, the right, the residents of Gaza-adjacent communities and his top coalition ministers. Two of his senior coalition partners, foreign minister Avigdor Liberman of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and economics minister Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home party, have repeatedly attacked the prime minister’s management of the Gaza conflict from the right, demanding a continuing assault until Gaza has been taken over and Hamas disarmed or dismantled. Broad circles on the right accuse him of giving away the store (i.e. lifting the blockade) in return for “nothing” (i.e. Hamas-Jihad agreement not to shoot, bombard or tunnel).
David Kenner examines one of the key sticking points, namely whether, how, and by whom Gaza will be rebuilt:
In his remarks on Wednesday, Aug. 13, announcing a five-day extension to the cease-fire, Palestinian delegation chief Azzam al-Ahmed said that there had been significant progress in efforts to lift the Israeli economic blockade on Gaza — but that there were still disagreements over reconstruction issues. These debates will not only determine whether residents can rebuild after the war, they also promise to be an important tool in Israeli efforts to weaken Hamas’s hold on the territory. As Finance Minister Yair Lapid put it, Israel would demand that “there is no rehabilitation without some sort of demilitarization [of Gaza].” …
The importing of building materials to rebuild Gaza’s tens of thousands of destroyed homes is one of the most potentially fraught issues. Hamas used large quantities of cement, allegedly smuggled in across the border with Egypt during the presidencies of Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi, to build its extensive tunnel network, which posed one of the most deadly threats to Israel during the current war. For that reason, Jerusalem has only allowed U.N. agencies to import cement — and is going to be loath to ease restrictions on construction material that could be used by the Palestinian Islamist group to rebuild its tunnel network.
On another major point of contention—lifting the Gaza blockade—the EU is willing to step in and help monitor border crossings in order to make that happen:
The EU has offered to resume its operations at Gaza’s Rafah crossing with Egypt, and to train Palestinian Authority officials who are supposed to take over the bulk of operational work at the crossings. At the U.N. Security Council’s request, it would also expand its operations to other checkpoints. (The EU previously monitored the Rafah crossing between 2005 and Israel’s withdrawal in 2007.)
According to the AP, EU officials said that lifting the blockade is needed for “a fundamental improvement in the living conditions for the Palestinian people in Gaza.” This is one of many outside expressions of disapproval at Israel’s conduct during the latest Gaza operation. The United States recently decided that Israel’s new weapons requests would need individual approval from the presidential administration, rather than going through military channels.