Do Saudis Think They Can Buy Palestinians With Sea Route Through Gaza Seige?

Report: Israel Agrees to Gaza-Cyprus Sea Passage Under Long-term Cease-fire

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Deal said to have originated in talks between Hamas and former Quartet envoy Tony Blair.

Jack Khoury

Hamas chief Khaled MeshalKhaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh – Reuters – December 8, 2012.
Hamas chief Khaled Meshal, left, and Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh. Reuters

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Report: Hamas’ Meshal meets Blair in Doha to discuss Israel ceasefire

Palestinian sources say that Israel has agreed to a maritime passage between the Gaza Strip and Cyprus in exchange for a long-term cease-fire of seven to 10 years, the Al-Hayat pan-Arab newspaper, published in London, reports.

According to the report, which cites Palestinian sources in Gaza, Israel is still strongly opposed to rebuilding the strip’s airport and also rejected a Qatari proposal to build an airport in Israel in exchange for rebuilding the airport in Gaza. In addition, Israel is conditioning the cease-fire on negotiations over the body parts and the Israeli citizens who are being held in the Gaza Strip.

Senior Hamas official Mahmoud Azhar, interviewed by Al Jazeera Wednesday, said that the hostage issue is under a deep freeze since Israel is still opposed to releasing the prisoners involved in the Gilat Shalit prisoner exchange who were returned to prison after the kidnapping of three yeshiva students last summer in Gush Etzion.

According to the newspaper report, the proposals arose in the course of meetings between the chief of Hamas’ political bureau Khaled Meshal and the former Quartet envoy to the Middle East Tony Blair. As reported Wednesday, Blair and Meshal met for the second time in a month and a half in the Qatari capital Doha, and discussed the case-fire with Israel.

It should be noted that Hamas has made no mention of the report, and spokesmen and leaders of the organization have made a point of asserting that there are no indirect negotiations with Israel, that the only plan that can be discussed is the cease-fire proposal agreed on during Operation Protective Edge in Cairo, and the organization has no intention of agreeing to other conditions that have not been accepted by all Palestinian factions.

Hamas accused the Palestinian Authority of issuing reports about direct negotiations between Israel and Hamas and the implementation of a plan to establish a state in Gaza. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has made such assertions on several occasions in interviews in both the Palestinian and Arab media.

At the same time, there have recently been increasing reports to the effect that Abbas plans to retire and resign from his position, and has been threatening resignation at meetings of the Palestinian leadership.

According to Palestinian assessments, this kind of reaction by Hamas and its associates is directing the fire at Abbas personally, and in the past two weeks several Hamas officials have said that Abbas is the main obstacle to Palestinian reconciliation.

Abbas’ advisor Mahmoud Al-Habash on Thursday morning vehemently denied reports about Abbas’ resignation or his intention to retire in the near future, but admitted in a conversation with Ashams Radio, which broadcasts from Nazareth, that the Palestinian arena is in a state of stagnation regarding both the diplomatic process and the reconciliation process.

Jack Khoury

Haaretz Correspondent
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