Ramallah: Hamas, the Islamist movement that controls the Gaza Strip, is set to sign a comprehensive agreement with the Israeli regime that will lift the eight-year old siege placed on the territory, Israeli media has reported.
The Times of Israel new site reported that Gaza will be allowed to import merchandise through a ‘floating port’ located three kilometres off the coast. An intermediary port will be established in Cyprus, where all Gaza-bound merchandise will be scrutinised by Nato representatives.
Israel would like to see a larger package deal that would include the exchange of live and dead Israeli prisoners of war captured by Hamas. The regime has meanwhile agreed to allow in thousands of Gazan workers through the Beit Hanoun Crossing (known by the Israelis as Erez Crossing) in return for Hamas’s agreement to stop firing rockets into Israeli-claimed territory and refrain from digging tunnels underneath the boundary for a period of at least eight years.
Hamas affiliated news outlets reported that the movement’s Shura Council, its most senior decision-making body, endorsed the agreement following prolonged discussions.
“This agreement is no longer just rumours but will be signed any minute,” said Walid Awad, a member of the People’s Party in Gaza.
According to the Gaza-based commentator and political analyst Talal Okal, Hamas was left with three options: either Palestinian internal reconciliation, preparation for another war with Israel or a ceasefire agreement. “Hamas knows the magnitude of destruction of any possible war with Israel and this is not a preferred option for the Islamist movement given the fact that the eight-year-old blockade placed on Gaza had made Gazans lose faith in the Palestinian cause. The Palestinian public has lost faith in both, the national project and the leadership,” he told Gulf News. “Until when can the residents of Gaza wait? For more than eight years, neither the blockade has been lifted nor have the crossings been opened.”
Rumours of the talks between the Israeli regime and Hamas have reportedly caused outrage in the ruling circles of the rival, West Bank-based Palestinian National Authority, whose officials say that the PNA should not be left out of such talks.
Okal stressed that the PNA cannot reject Hamas’s negotiations with Israel. “A [separate] Palestinian state in Gaza is a central Israeli policy that will be imposed on the Palestinians by force whether Hamas accepts it or not,” he said. “If you [PNA] do not want that, you should do something real [and engage in genuine internal reconciliation] and do not give Hamas the excuses to sign such a deal with the Israelis,” he said.
The West Bank leadership believes that an empowered and autonomous Gaza Strip will hinder efforts to establish a single Palestinian state between the two territories, a move Israeli leaders have opposed. The PNA has however been in and out of negotiations with the Israeli occupiers in order to achieve that aim for two decades to no avail. Hamas and the PNA-rulers from Fatah have been at odds for some eight years.
Okal said that the Palestinians are not in a position to point a finger and indict each other, adding that Hamas’s repeated announcements that “there will be no Palestinian state in Gaza and there will be no Palestinian state without Gaza” put the movement in several tough positions in the near future.
Hamas’ funds have reportedly dried up after its break with former ally Syria and a cooling of relations with Iran, which is believed to have funded the group.
A Turkish official told Hamas’ Al Risala paper that his government’s decision to normalise relations with the Israeli regime is contingent on the ceasefire deal with Hamas, the Times of Israel reported on Monday. Turkey and Israel significantly downgraded relations after the regime killed nine Turkish citizens on board an aid flotilla to Gaza in May, 2010.