The United Nations and Egypt are “applying immense pressure on all sides to step down,” so talks on a wide-ranging Gaza deal can progress, a diplomatic source told The Jerusalem Post on Saturday night.
Talks are moving forward on a deal, but nothing can happen unless calm is restored between Israel and Hamas, and there is a reconciliation deal between Fatah and Hamas, the source said.
“This has been an unprecedented initiative but it is still too early to say if it will succeed; the stakes are very high,” the source said.
The source spoke with the Post after Channel 10 reported on Friday significant progress toward a Gaza deal that would include the United Nations, Egypt, Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas.
The initiative also includes the United States. It would involve a cease-fire; the rehabilitation of Gaza infrastructure; the reconciliation of Fatah and Hamas; and the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Gaza Strip after 11 years of Hamas rule.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has told ministers behind closed doors that a diplomatic initiative will be advanced soon for Gaza with Israel’s participation.
But little can happen toward such a deal unless violence is halted and the Palestinian Authority can return to Gaza, a point that is particularly important for those in the international community who want to financially support Gaza rehabilitation.
UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladneov, who has been one of the key players in pushing forward such a deal, tweeted on Thursday night that: “All concerned parties are working very hard to avoid escalation, resolve all humanitarian issues and support reconciliation.”
PLO Executive Committee secretary general Saeb Erekat told reporters on Thursday that Egypt was working very hard toward a Gaza deal and that those efforts were very serious.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Hamas on Friday that it cannot continue its Gaza border violence forever.
Speaking at Kibbutz Or Haner near Sderot, he blamed the humanitarian crisis in Gaza on Hamas’ refusal to spend “not even one penny” on its civilians.
Hamas is “cynically exploiting” Gaza civilians so as to inflame them against the State of Israel and its citizens, he said.
The homes of the Hamas leaders have running water and electricity 24 hours a day. “They lack for nothing,” Liberman noted.
His comments referred to the Hamas-led “Great March of Return”, which began on March 30. The ongoing protest along Israel’s border has included infiltration attempts, sniper fire, burning tires and throwing Molotov cocktails.
Protesters have also launched incendiary kites and balloons against southern Israel, resulting in the burning of thousands of hectares of forests and fields.
Rockets and mortars have also been launched.
Israel has launched retaliatory strikes against Hamas targets in Gaza, as recently as Friday. At least 174 Palestinians including 31 children and 7 Israelis have been killed in Middle East violence so far this year.
Liberman urged Hamas to ensure that both Israelis and Palestinians had a quiet weekend so that the IDF would not be forced to take military action.
“I think we really do not want to be drawn into a war. We do everything to prevent a widescale military campaign. But the ball is not in our court – it is in their court,” Liberman said.
He urged Hamas to refrain from violence and to be wise so that Israel is not forced “to do what we know how to do and do not want to do.”
“I hope it will be a quiet weekend, but if there are warning sirens here, there will be warning sirens there,” he said.
Liberman spoke as numerous cease-fire initiatives have failed.
The UN and Egypt have worked persistently behind the scenes to find a formula that would prevent any further violence.
But at best, they have managed to achieve periods of calm, between violent flare ups, as the Hamas-led violence along Israel’s southern border continued on Friday.
Trump administration officials are expressing skepticism that Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is willing to work with them on a reconstruction package for the Gaza Strip, as reported by Israel Army Radio on Thursday.
A senior administration official told the Post that, despite the definitive report, Abbas has “not communicated this position to anyone on the peace team,” comprised of some of US President Donald Trump’s closest advisers.
Abbas, the official stated, “continues to condemn a plan that he has never seen and has not engaged in any productive discussions [about].”
“Our position on improving Gaza has not changed,” the official said. “As the administration recently stated, ‘without real change accompanied by reliable security, progress is impossible.’” The Army Radio report claimed that Abbas had lifted his opposition to a US plan for reconstruction of the Strip, currently faced with a severe humanitarian crisis. Abbas’s government protested a conference on Gaza held in the spring that convened Israeli, Qatari, Saudi and Emirati officials around the same table for the first time.
The peace team – comprised of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and senior adviser; Jason Greenblatt, his special representative for international negotiations; and David Friedman, US ambassador to Israel – believes that dislodging Hamas’ control over the coastal enclave is critical to the success of their impending peace plan.
“Our position has not changed,” the official added.
“We have made [it] clear about the changes Hamas must make before we can begin a discussion on projects for Gaza.”