Are Israel and Hamas really talking about ending Gaza siege?

Palestinians at the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza wait for permission to enter Egypt, 17 August. Egypt opened the crossing on Monday for four days for the first time in approximately two months.

Ashraf Amra APA images

Israel and the Palestinian resistance organization Hamas may be close to a long-term truce for Gaza, an advisor to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has said.

Although murmurs of a such a deal have appeared in media for months, the official’s comments would appear to give them slightly more weight.

In an interview with Alresalah, a Gaza-based newspaper close to Hamas, on Monday, Yasin Aktay also said that Israel and Turkey were nearing a deal over Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara.

Israel’s May 2010 assault on the ship, part of a Gaza-bound flotilla, killed nine Turkish citizens and a Turkish teen who held US citizenship, badly damaging relations between the two countries.

The Turkish official said there had been significant progress toward a long-term truce that would end Israel’s 8-year blockade of Gaza.

Aktay, deputy chairman of Turkey’s ruling AK party, said that the recent visit of Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal to Ankara was related to the effort.

Up until now there has been no visible progress on the long-term truce that was supposed to be discussed within weeks of the 26 August 2014 ceasefire that ended Israel’s 51-day assault on Gaza.

More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, were killed in Gaza last summer and more than 100,000 people remain in need of permanent shelter due to the lack of reconstruction since then.

Maritime link

“The talks about the Mavi Marmara are taking place in a manner that is linked and intertwined to Hamas’ talks about the truce,” Aktay told Alresalah, adding that the siege of Gaza had become a “Turkish issue.”

In September 2011, Turkey imposed unprecedented sanctions on Israel, reducing diplomatic and military ties over the Mavi Marmara attack.

Turkey has demanded an Israeli apology, compensation for its victims and an end to the blockade of Gaza.

Aktay said that Turkey had pledged to build a seaport and rebuild Gaza’s airport if an agreement is reached.

He also said that there had been talks between Turkey and the government of Cyprus over the establishment of a maritime corridor to Gaza via Cyprus.

A working paper proposing such a link was published by the Gaza-based human rights organization Euromid last year.

But Aktay acknowledged there have been significant obstacles: “Every time we reach an advanced stage in the negotiations on Mavi Marmara, Israel attacks Gaza again and things go back to zero.”

Aktay added that improvement in Turkey’s ties with Israel would necessitate the lifting of the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza.

Dubious Israeli denial

In a strange twist, former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, who was recently eased out as Quartet peace envoy, has assumed a mediating role.

Blair met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in the Qatari capital Doha earlier this month for the second time since June.

Blair has long been criticized by Palestinians for his hardline pro-Israel positions.

The office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has categorically denied its involvement in any such negotiations.

“Israel officially clarifies that there have been no meetings with Hamas,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement. “Not directly, not through another country and not through intermediaries.”

“The denial published by the prime minister’s bureau is not false,” a report in the Israeli daily Haaretz observed. “However, from conversations with a number of Israeli figures – those with official functions and those without but involved in the issue – it emerges that the picture is more complex.”

“Israel is not holding negotiations on a ceasefire with Hamas, but it is certainly checking the feasibility of the matter,” an Israeli source told Haaretz.

The newspaper also revealed that while Blair is not officially regarded as an intermediary by Israel, his efforts have received the blessing of Netanyahu.

“Senior Israeli officials and unofficial Israeli figures involved in the issue said that Blair has made no significant progress so far in his two meetings with Meshaal,” Haaretz reported.

PA panic

Meanwhile, the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority appears to be treating the reports of the truce efforts with growing panic.

A spokesperson for Fatah, the political faction headed by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas, accused Hamas of wanting to set up its own state in Gaza.

Ahmad Assaf said that any agreement along the lines mentioned in media reports would violate the “Palestinian national consensus.”

Ahmad Majdalawi, a member of the Fatah-dominated Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee, denounced the reported talks as a “conspiracy” aimed at setting up “another Muslim Brotherhood-run entity” in the region.

Abbas, who is militarily allied with Israel, may fear that any agreement could make his role as the Israeli occupation’s chief Palestinian enforcer even less relevant.

In March, Abbas called for Arab military intervention to overthrow Hamas in Gaza.

PA documents leaked to Al Jazeera in 2011 showed that Fatah and PA officials supported the Israeli siege of Gaza from its earliest days, hoping it would generate popular discontent against Hamas.

Lifting the siege and an improvement in the lives of the population in Gaza could boost Hamas’ standing and reduce even further Abbas’ chances of restoring his Israeli-backed rule in the territory.

Hamas mobilizes

In a speech on Monday, Ismail Haniyeh, Hamas’ top leader in Gaza, dismissed the PA’s attacks, saying Hamas would never accept a state limited to Gaza.

Haniyeh and other senior Hamas leaders from Gaza are preparing to travel to Cairo in coming days for talks with the Egyptian military and intelligence.

Egyptian agreement would be needed for any plan that involved an end to the closure of the Rafah crossing, currently the only link to the outside world for the vast majority of Palestinians in Gaza.

Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported that Haniyeh has requested Egyptian permission to travel onwards for an international tour “whose most important stops will be Qatar and Turkey to discuss the ideas recently presented by [Blair] in his meeting with [Meshaal].”

Hamas leaders in Gaza also met this week with their counterparts from Islamic Jihad, who are said to be supportive of the thrust of the truce talks.

The distance from these opaque manoeuvers, on the one hand, and an to end the catastrophic situation on the ground for 1.8 million people in Gaza, on the other, still looks vast.

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This looks it could be a very rare and positive development. Animosity between the PA/Fatah and Hamas is decades old and very deep. I'm not surprised the PA is bugging out over these rumors. But I would be VERY surprised if Hamas were to form a state of their own in Gaza, thus splitting it from the people in the West Bank. That would seem to go against everything they have stood for since the beginning of their existence.

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I find it painful to agree with a treacherous propagandist like Abbas, but from what I can tell he is basically right. Turkey and Israel plan to consolidate Hamas rule, the other Muslim Brotherhood entity besides Turkey. He should know, being the official warden of Occupied Palestine. Sadly, the Palestinian people will suffer the consequences.

Muslim Brotherhood-ruled Turkey is coordinating with Wahhabi Saudi Arabia, which is currently playing the joker "Arab" card. The region should have long ago shed the ridiculous "Arab" identity invented by the British and French colonialists.

But the latest news you report has as much to do with Gaza as it does with Syria. Meshaal and Hamas, which incidentally Israel actively promoted in the 1980s to weaken the PLO, have nothing to show for all the suffering they have asked the Palestinians to undergo. There was a purpose to that struggle, despite all of the Palestinian organizations' well-recorded acts of treason in Lebanon and elsewhere.

Hamas has turned from an Islamist movement railing against Israel with laughable grandiosity, singularly incapable of defending its people, to a Wahhabi-type terrorist organization that advises and sends military experts (previously trained by the Lebanese Resistence to fight the Zionists) to advise Israel's terror network inside Syria. It is assisting foreign and Syrian terrorists occupying the demilitarized zone in the Golan Heights and fighting to destroy the state of Syria, not just the Syrian government.

Israel is still at the heart of these machinations, but it is fast becoming a spent force and is nearly useless to the US and the EU. This is one reason why it is crucial to intensify the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The other is that this very weakness makes the genocidal Zionist race colony extremely dangerous to the peoples of the Middle East with its constant attempts at state demolition. It is reported Israel is planning for an incursion into Syria.

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Israel no longer acknowledges the Occupation, at best conceding that Palestinian territory is "disputed", at worst insisting it's all Israel. So it's hard to conceive what Zionists would regard as a lifting of the siege, particularly when they never use that term. But surely nothing so grand and humane as full restoration of trade, movement, maritime rights, development, and so on would be contemplated by Netanyahu and his partners. We may see some amelioration of certain conditions, cosmetic for the most part. Of course Hamas must explore any avenue in this regard, but the record of past talks and promises doesn't bode well. Neither does the inclusion of Tony Blair in these discussions offer a vision of hope for the beleaguered Gazans. He was a committed advocate for Israel in his role as "peace envoy", and nothing has changed in that regard.

It's possible that the Israelis have calculated that their next military excursion- against Hezbollah in Lebanon, or even the PA in the West Bank- will play better in light of an arrangement with Gaza that can be portrayed in western media as the sign of a reasonable government in Tel Aviv.

It's also possible that pressure from the worldwide BDS movement has persuaded Israeli strategists to strike a more conciliatory pose. Doing so in combination with a diplomatic resolution to the Mavi Marmara massacre would restore some of the ruptured relations between Israel and Turkey, an outcome greatly desired by the Turkish military at this time.

Let's hope that some benefit to the people of Gaza ensues from these talks- if talks there are. We don't even know that much with certainty. But the situation in Gaza is absolutely appalling and cannot be allowed to deteriorate further.

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Once again Tom, you have hit the nail on the head. Appeasing potential collaborators to manipulate the annexation of Israel is, and always has been, the primary agenda.

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Anthony Shaker's comment is twisted. Abuminah's article is fascinating
but at this stage still incomplete. (Follow-ups are awaited as events provide
reliable bases.)

"It is reported..." etc. is flimsy. Some kind of guilt by association stuff,
Wahhabis etc.

Anyway as the old American adage goes, "You can't negotiate with (Russians,
Israelis, Iranians etc.). They can't be trusted..."

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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I don't know why my letter sounds so strange to Mr. Peter Loeb. Anyone familiar with the politics and has lived during its worst knows that Hamas is a fundamentalist movement that used to collude with the Israeli military "administration" of Occupied Palestine. That it participates in the resistance against this vile Zionist race colony does not make it angelic.

Like every Palestinian organization since the PLO in Beirut, Hamas has a long history of treachery against fellow Palestinians, Lebanon and now the Syrian people. Israeli snipers used to pick off "moderate" PLOs sunbathing on top of Beirut apartment blocks, even before killing the "radical" riffraff. Those drunks almost destroyed Lebanon. And now it is Hamas's turn to stick it to everyone. It thinks the Wahhabi Saudis, who sold Palestine a long time ago, will save them. Hamas confuses its interests with those of the Palestinian people, who do not deserve "more of the same."

I can tell you with certainty that no Hamas leader will ever again show his or her face in Syria. And, yes, Turkey is ruled by the same Muslim Brotherhood ilk that first spearheaded the foreign intervention in Syria. They've been lobbying for them ever since.

But the Brotherhood never recovered its "base" in Syria after its eradication just before Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982. Its function then, it turns out, had been to destabilize Syria in preparation for the dismemberment of Lebanon. But I don't think it was a hapless pawn back then. This is the same fundamentalism that has warped the Islamic world since the 1920s, when the Brotherhood entered the scene under the watchful eye of the wily British.

It's all in the history books! MB history is well-known and Hamas is a branch. That said, ideology is little more than a cover for popular manipulation and to attract more cannon fodder, with no value in itself. I have supported the struggle of Gazans, but thankfully everything is so much clearer now after Syria!

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Your reply still seems confused.

1. I support the resistance in Palestine. Not in each and every decision but overall. There is
no other resistance. (Whether they should act now---strategy) is another question.)

(Support is not to be interpreted as economic support or communication of which there
is none. It is illegal in the democratic US.)

2. I support the integrity and preservation of the (Assad) Syrian regime. So did the
US in the UN Security Council Resolution they signed with the unanimous council.
In a few days they came out with rhetoric supporting "regime change", illegal
according to international law.

There has been torture in Syria much of it on contract with the US CIA
program of "extraordinary renditions". But the US never talks in public
about its CIA programs. Syria is not the only participant. Many sources.

Are those Syrians "fleeing" their native land fleeing the Assad regime....
or are they fleeing IS and al-nusra who are violent. Here reports
usually just say "Syrians fleeing" with no specification.

Are you confusing Lebanon and Hamas? I have seen no reports
of Hamas support of Syria. Perhaps you say. (Perhaps that is
just "accidental"...and "oversight"???)

Are you suggesting an embargo of and invasion of Saudi Arabia
for regime change? Or Egypt whose regime definitely needs
regime change. The US and West never supported the Morsi
government (at Israeli promtings??) but kept the billions
flowing to the military oppressor (al Sisi). The US is much
more than complicit in the Egyptian murders etc.

From your point of view, Mr. Shaker, a regime such as
Morsi's would be intolerable despite its democratic
origins. It's heartening the US is so supportive of
democracy. Morsi had planned a visit to the US
Congress for increased aid. This was never consummated
as the US-Israel overturned Morsi just "in time" (from
their perspective).

(See S/Res/2139 (2014)

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

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What the heck are you talking about, Loeb? You keep imputing false personal motives and using ignorant clichés about a region you see only through your own idiosyncracies. This isn't the Politburo. I really don't care whom you support or what you think I am implying. The Middle East is not even your problem beyond what you buy at the store and whom you vote for. And I wasn't talking to you to begin with, just commenting on Ali's report based on long years of experience, not just gleanings of Internet articles.

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I'm not sorry to have upset you Mr. Shaker. I don't speak for
EI but I should assume that you are aware that when you
choose to comment in these spaces your words and ideas are
there for anyone to respond to. I intend to comment on
others' ideas in future without assuming that I am excepted
and without any smear being thrown about my vote , my
so-called "idiosyncracies" and the like. I don't care to
be called a communist (the "Politburo"remark) or
"ignorant", thank you very much.

I will just assume that you "lost your cool".

---Peter Loeb, Boston, MA, USA

Ali Abunimah

Ali Abunimah's picture

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.