For several weeks or even three months now, official representatives of the Israeli government and defense establishment have been holding a real dialogue with the Islamic terrorist group – Hamas – in a bid to reach a long-term calm on the Gaza border. These secret talks have been “partly direct” and partly through Qatari and European mediators. (Source e.g. YNet ) There has been rumours about this dialogue and both parties have so far denied them, for example a senior Hamas official said earlier that group does not conduct any negotiations with Israel; “We negotiate with the occupation only through the rifle.”
However now Hamas official Ahmed Yousef confirmed to Maan News that Hamas is having “chats” with Israel through mediators but denied direct contacts. Yousef told Ma’an that “we await the formation of an Israeli government so things can get more serious. European diplomats and civil society activists come to the Gaza Strip constantly and pose Israeli viewpoints and convey the reaction of the movement through unofficial chats.”
While both sides are preparing for next Gaza war, estimated start in one year or even this coming Summer, there is slight chance that Hamas and Israel can broke a deal as the war would not benefit either side. If so the outcome might be a longer calm period or even a Gaza state, while Fatah led Palestinian authority on West Bank will stay as bystander or try to build its own state with their unitary actions.
Hamas-Israel Dialogue in progress
It was reported in The Times of Israel that Hamas offers long-term calm in exchange for end of blockade. Senior Hamas officials met with Western diplomats about the ceasefire, and also reached a number of understandings about the character of the ceasefire. During the talks, Hamas officials emphasized that they were willing to agree on a ceasefire of at least five years (though some sources said the offer was for 15 years), during which time all military activities “above and below ground” from both parties would end. At the same time, the blockade on Gaza would be removed, including restrictions on exports, and Israel would allow the construction of a seaport and an airport.
An Israeli official confirmed that the offer was presented to Israeli officials.
In conversations with other diplomats, Hamas presented different terms for a ceasefire with Israel. One of the draft agreements reached The Times of Israel, with the following clauses:
1) All forms of military conflict between Israel and the Palestinians will cease.
2) Israel will commit to removing the blockade on Gaza, including: opening all crossings around Gaza; permitting unfettered import and export from Gaza; allowing the construction of a sea and airport.
3) The tahdiyya [ceasefire, AR] will last between three and five years starting from the moment the agreement is signed, but the two sides will finalize the exact length of the ceasefire.
Earlier there was unconfirmed rumour that three months before the elections, Israel received a concrete and detailed proposal from Hamas for an agreement on a calm period of five to 10 years. The official Israel did not respond but both sides’ interests dictate cooperation without formal decisions in the government. And now this cooperation is changing Israel’s strategy towards Hamas and same time bypassing the Palestinian Authority.
Israeli side it has confirmed a report that Israel had received a concrete and detailed proposal from Hamas for a truce of five to 10 years. Explaining the Israeli rationale, Ynet quotes defense establishment officials believe that the absence of a dialogue that will help ease the living conditions in Gaza will lead an armed conflict in the summer, and Operation Protective Edge will be perceived as a colossal failure. The person pushing for talks with Hamas is the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories (COGAT), in cooperation with new IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot , with assistance from the political leadership. The official Israel continues to conceal the dialogue with Hamas: It would have disrupted the elections, it’s not good for the image of a right-wing government, and it gets in the way of continuing to define Hamas as a terror organization in the world. (Source and more in Ynet)
Palestinian Authority – West Bank remains bystander
According Jerusalem Post Hamas is negotiating with Israel on Palestinian state in Gaza. The Palestinian officials have claimed that Hamas was negotiating with Israel about its plan to turn the Gaza Strip into a separate Palestinian entity. Mahmoud Habbash, the chief Palestinian Authority religious judge, who also serves as PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ advisor on religious affairs, said that Hamas’ “plan” to create a separate entity in the Gaza Strip was a “dangerous Israeli conspiracy.” Habbash claimed that the Israeli “conspiracy” envisages the total separation of the Gaza Strip from the West Bank. “Israel wants to divide the Palestinian people and turn the Palestinian territories into separate entities and cantons,” he said.
Kayed al-Ghul, a senior official with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), said that the idea of establishing a Palestinian state only in the Gaza Strip was first raised by late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1988. Al-Ghul warned that the “plan” would have serious repercussions for the Palestinians. Ahmed Majdalani of the Popular Struggle Front, another PLO faction, accused Hamas of working toward establishing an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip. “There will be no Palestinian state without the Gaza Strip,” he said. He claimed that the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon proposed the idea about 10 years ago, when he decided to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.
Another PLO official, Wasel Abu Yusef, warned that Hamas’ effort to create an “Islamic emirate” in the Gaza Strip would hinder the establishment of an independent Palestinian state and solidify divisions among the Palestinians. He urged Palestinians to work toward scuttling Hamas’ alleged scheme. Fatah spokesman Ahmed Assaf claimed that Israel and Hamas have already reached understandings regarding the separate state in the Gaza Strip. “This is an Israeli plot designed to eliminate the Palestinian cause,” he argued. “What is the price that Hamas will pay to Israel in return for allowing the movement to establish its mini-state in the Gaza Strip?” (Source Jerusalem Post )
Preparations ongoing for the next war
Despite dialogue both sides are preparing themselves for the next war. Hamas is intensively rebuilding its terror tunnel infrastructure, that were used to attack Israelis during previous war, with the digging reportedly taking place six days a week with three shifts each day. Over 1,000 diggers are said to be employed by Hamas to construct the tunnels, and the current estimation is that the tunnels lead up to Israeli territory – Hamas will extend them beyond when it feels the time is right to strike.
Iran has sent Hamas’s military wing tens of millions of dollars to help it rebuild the network of tunnels in Gaza destroyed by Israel’s invasion last summer, intelligence sources have told The Sunday Telegraph. It is also funding new missile supplies to replenish stocks used to bombard residential neighborhoods in Israel during the war, code-named Operation Protective Edge by Israel. (Source: i24news )
From the opposite side the Israeli military is actually training for the reconquering of the entire Gaza Strip next time a confrontation flares up between the two sides. A new tunnel detection system developed by Elbit Systems will protect Israeli citizens from the threat of infiltration by Hamas terrorists. Now, after two months of development, the Israel-based international defense electronics company says that they have created an effective system which uses sensors to detect tunnel building activity. The system will be implemented along the entire Israel-Gaza border, Elbit said. The system includes a series of sensors. The information they receive is analyzed using a control system based on algorithms. This method enables the precise identification of tunnel building and its location without false alarms. The system is the first of its kind in the world and was developed in Israel in record time by the Director of Research and Development in the Defense Ministry in cooperation with Israeli industries. (YNetNews )
The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah group, Iran’s Lebanese surrogate, has clearly taken a leaf out of its Palestinian ally, Hamas’ book, for a fully mobilized terror tunnel project against northern Israel. Its manpower, including engineering units, is working under the guidance of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers to sink a large network of tunnels leading under the border into Galilee. They are working efficiently and at top speed with the aid of modern Western-made earthmoving equipment and foreign professionals paid top dollar to manage the project. Debkafile
A Hamas State of Palestine in Gaza?
Hamas is consolidating its grip over the Gaza Strip and making plans to turn it into a separate state. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah consider the purported plan a “severe blow” to the two-state solution and unity among Palestinians. As the U.S. Administration and the international community continue to push for a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians, Hamas seems to be working toward establishing an independent state of its own in the Gaza Strip. In recent weeks, reports have surfaced in a number of Arab and Western media outlets to the effect that Hamas leaders have decided to establish a “higher committee” for managing the affairs of the Gaza Strip.
Mahmoud Zahar, a senior Hamas leader, last week confirmed that his movement was working toward turning the Gaza Strip into an independent state. “There is nothing wrong or shameful about labeling the current situation in the Gaza Strip an authority or administration,” Zahar said. “If we establish an emirate or state in the Gaza Strip or in any part of Palestine, this would not mean that we are prepared to give up one inch of Palestine.” (Source: Gatestone Institute )
The bottom line
During last year there has been talks about national reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. The Hamas-Israel dialogue is the last example that instead unity the split between Hamas and Fatah as well between the West Bank and Gaza Strip is even wider than before. It might be that the international community must define their two-state solution with new content including two Palestinian state – one Islamist emirate in the Gaza Strip and an other Fatah-controlled state in the West Bank.
Related to possible deal between Hamas and Israel there is a risk that internal disagreements between Hamas’ political and military wings could endanger it. The rift within Hamas is widening amid disagreement over several issue: First the organization’s position on the recent turmoil in the Arab world, specifically over its stance on a Saudi-led coalition against Yemen’s Huthi group and second Hamas’ policy in Gaza concerning the confrontation with Israel and the deterioration of ties with Egypt. Ezzedeen Al-Qassam Brigades might take advantage of this instability within the organization to carry out attacks on the border with Israel without getting a green light from Hamas’ political leaders.
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Earlier related to Hamas e.g:Ari Rusila