While Israeli and Palestinian negotiating teams remained in Cairo on Sunday, the chances of reaching a long-term agreement before the current ceasefire expired a day later were almost nil, according to Israeli participants.
On Friday, Egypt leaked to the press details of its comprehensive truce proposal, which calls for a gradual easing of the blockade of Gaza to be overseen by Israeli and Egyptian forces and future talks on a Gaza seaport and airport, as demanded by Hamas.
Israel responded to the proposal with some wariness, noting that it wasn’t prepared to dilute its security demands, and that agreeing to a seaport and airport as part of the overall ceasefire package, regardless of when they would be built, would be seen as a prize for Hamas’ aggression against the Jewish state.
“If Hamas thinks it will make up for its military losses with a political achievement, it is wrong,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
But Israel’s cautious approach to the new Egyptian proposal was of little consequence, as Hamas had already rejected the deal a day earlier. Hamas leaders said that Israel would accept all their demands, including the immediate and unconditional lifting of the Gaza blockade, or face a new war of attrition in its southern regions.
Netanyahu said if Hamas believed Israel would play along with this blackmail, it was sadly mistaken. “If Hamas thinks that by continuing the steady trickle of rocket fire it will force us to make concessions, it is wrong,” the prime minister insisted.
Israel was far more accepting of recommendations issued on Friday by the European Union, which called for the lifting of the Israeli blockade in exchange for the disarming of all militant groups present in Gaza.
Many Israelis, including most members of Netanyahu’s government, are adamant that the demilitarization of Gaza be a firm condition of any long-term ceasefire.