Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?

Why did Israel reject Kerry’s ceasefire proposal?

Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that its ally in Cairo gets the credit, rather than the Hamas-allied Turkey and Qatar? 

By Elizabeth Tsurkov

There is hardly any difference between the draft agreement presented by Kerry and the Egyptian proposal, apart from the question of who will be its sponsor: Cairo, or Turkey and Qatar?

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addresses reporters at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, on July 22, 2014, amid a series of discussions with Egyptian leaders focused on creating a cease-fire for fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. (State Department photo/ Public Domain)

On Sunday morning, Haaretz’s excellent diplomatic correspondent, Barak Ravid, published a commentary on the new draft proposed by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry:

The draft Kerry passed to Israel on Friday shocked the cabinet ministers not only because it was the opposite of what Kerry told them less than 24 hours earlier, but mostly because it might as well have been penned by Khaled Meshal. It was everything Hamas could have hoped for.

At the end of his article Ravid added:

[Kerry’s] conduct in recent days over the Gaza cease-fire raises serious doubts over his judgment and perception of regional events. It’s as if he isn’t the foreign minister of the world’s most powerful nation, but an alien, who just disembarked his spaceship in the Mideast.

A report published in Haaretz reveals the text of the draft, compares it with the draft presented by Kerry last Thursday and discusses the negative aspects that appear in the draft. We do not have access to the full text of Thursday’s draft, but we do have the full text of the Egyptian draft of the ceasefire proposal, which Israel accepted and which was rejected by Hamas.

A close reading of the full version of Kerry’s “Hamas-inspired” draft and that of the Egyptians reveals insignificant differences between the two. The Egyptian draft, which was put together with Israel, while excluding the Hamas from the process, was formulated before the land invasion of Gaza and therefore does not address the question of Israel’s continual destruction of the underground tunnels.

           Click here for +972′s full coverage of the war in Gaza

According to Haaretz, the Thursday draft allowed Israel to continue destroying the tunnels for a period of one week following the beginning of the ceasefire, whereas the “Hamas-inspired” draft does not allow it. Effectively, the current draft states that immediately after the onset of the ceasefire ”both sides will refrain from carrying out military or security activities that could lead to confrontation between them.” It is obvious that the draft forbids targeted assassination attempts against members of Hamas and the other organizations, but it is not at all clear that the continued destruction of the tunnels is forbidden as well.

Haaretz lists other problems in Kerry’s draft, the most important being the lack of any reference to the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip. However, the Egyptian propsal does not deal with this issue, and it is clear to Israel that the demilitarization will not be achieved by a ceasefire agreement with Hamas. Therefore demilitarization was not stipulated as the objective of its current operation in Gaza.

Another claim presented by Haaretz is that the new draft requires both sides to return to the understandings reached after Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012. This agreement was put in place in order to secure the reopening of the border crossings, as well as to enlarge the area to which Gazan fishermen have access. However, the Egyptian draft presented the agreement of 2012 as the basis of negotiations between Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Israel. It is important to note that Hamas considers the return to this agreement an accomplishment, in light of Israel’s breaching of the agreement and the tightening of the blockade on Gaza, which took place in the time since the agreement was signed. It was also claimed by Haaretzthat the draft does not mention the Palestinian Authority and thus weakens it. However, Egypt’s proposal also did not refer to the PA.

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

Secretary of State John Kerry with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, September 15, 2013 (State Dept. Photo)

According to Kerry’s draft, it was claimed that the negotiations for a permanent arrangement with Hamas will address the organization’s demand to open a sea harbor and an airport in Gaza. There is no reference in the text of the draft to these demands, and the chances that they will be supported by the U.S. are next to nothing. The airport in Gaza was bombed in 2001 and has not been in operation since. The site of the harbor under construction was also bombed in 2001. Since Israel did not adhere to its commitment (part of the 2005 agreement regarding border crossings), to enable the construction while Mahmoud Abbas was in control of the Gaza Strip, it will not do so under Hamas rule.

There is only one difference between the drafts: the identity of their respective sponsors. According to the Egyptian draft, Egypt will supervise the implementation of the agreement, whereas in Kerry’s draft the role of supporting the agreement and providing humanitarian assistance was given to the European Union, the Arab League, the UN, the United States, Qatar and Turkey.

A senior official in Kerry’s delegation was therefore justified in stating that the Kerry draft was based on the Egyptian proposal, which had been wholeheartedly endorsed by Israel. Thus, if Israel is opposed to the Kerry draft, it is opposed to its own plan.

Is Israel willing to prolong the fighting and to intensify the killing and bereavement on both sides just so that the regime in Cairo gets the credit rather than Turkey and Qatar? Or maybe the fact that 86.5 percent of Israelis currently oppose a ceasefire is driving the spin masters who need to look for excuses to continue the fighting?

Elizabeth Tsurkov is a human rights activist and a graduate student in Middle East studies.

Read this post in Hebrew on Local Call.

Related:
Why Israel won’t sign any ceasefire that’s fair
What does Israeli ‘acceptance’ of ceasefire really mean?
Protective Edge: The disengagement undone

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