Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Update on Diplomatic Initiatives

Officers of the EU Border Assistance Mission at Rafah at a Medal ceremony. 
The mission has been on standby since June 9, 2007 (EU BAM Rafah)
Israel has agreed to setting up a "humanitarian corridor," which amounts to a daily, unilateral cease fire around Gaza City, between 1 and 4 pm. This will take some of the pressure off the Foreign Ministry as the diplomatic initiatives being discussed by various powers multiply.

The Israeli cabinet's deferral of a vote (Ha'aretz English) on expanding the ground operation must also be viewed as an attempt to show Israel's interest in a cease fire rather than the continuation of war. However, the conditions for a cease fire to go into effect are strict: an end to rocket fire and a commitment by the powers to combating the arms smuggling in a viable and proactive manner. It's unlikely that these prerequisites can be met soon. For one, Hamas's latest statement rejecting  a permanent truce with Israel only serve to strengthen arguments against a cease fire. More importantly, the proposal to internationalize the struggle against the arms smuggling tunnels still faces Egyptian opposition. It will be difficult to arrive at a solution that significantly upgrades border security. No one will accept a return to the days when impotent EU monitors "observed" the Rafah crossing. Apparently, France and the U.S. are now cooperating to persuade Egypt to implement measures with teeth:
Meanwhile, the international diplomatic effort being led by the United States, France, Britain and Egypt is still focused on an initiative to deploy an international force of experts and troops that would assist Egyptian authorities in dealing with the tunnel system Hamas has built along the Philadelphi Route, which borders Sinai. 

According to a political source in Jerusalem, France and the U.S. are working hard on Egypt to get it to agree to the initiative. 

"If a solution is found, we will have no problem in immediately bringing the operation to an end," the Israeli source said (Ha'aretz). 
Can the Egyptians be convinced that the internationalization of the crossings is in their best interest?

My sense is that the Egyptians themselves do not want the fighting to end yet, and are hoping for further attacks on Hamas's military forces and political infrastructure:
Meanwhile, Egypt denied on Tuesday a report that President Hosni Mubarak had told European ministers on a peace mission that Hamas must not be allowed to win the ongoing war in Gaza. 

Haaretz reported on Tuesday that Mubarak made the comment on Monday to a visiting European Union delegation, which included several European foreign ministers. "If an Israeli newspaper published comments such as these, non-attributed, from a closed meeting, how credible can it be?" said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossam Zaki (Ha'aretz).

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