Egypt Reportedly Trying to Give Abbas Power in Gaza
A senior diplomatic source familiar with the details of truce negotiations between Israel and Hamas in Cairo said Sunday morning that Egypt, which is acting as intermediary, is trying to strengthen Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in the talks.
The source, who spoke to Walla! on condition of anonymity, said Egypt's goal in the negotiations is to strengthen Abbas's position, and to negate the honor and esteem Hamas is likely to gain in the Arab world as a result of confronting Israel directly and holding out in an extended conflict.
The agreement Egypt is advancing according to the source would demand that Hamas and other Palestinian movements "recognize being in the second row, whereas Abu Mazen (Abbas - ed.), being as he is supported by Egypt, is the general Palestinian leader who will lead the reconstruction of Gaza."
Abbas's Fatah signed a unity agreement with Hamas and created a unity government in June, although that unity government admittedly has no power in Gaza.
Apparently Egypt is trying to change that status; a Palestinian source involved in the negotiations disclosed last week that Egypt reached a draft agreement whereby Egypt would open the Rafah crossing to Sinai, putting it under PA and not Hamas control. The agreement would not involve Israel.
Perhaps indicating Egypt's favoritism towards Abbas, senior Hamas source Mustafa Sawaf, who is considered a close confidant of the Hamas leadership, called Saturday for Egypt to be replaced by another intermediary.
Sawaf called the Egyptian intermediary "the basic delaying source preventing an agreement." He proposed finding a third-party that would bring to fruition the Hamas demands, and open the Erez and Rafah Crossings to Israel and the Sinai.
Likewise, senior Hamas official Ezzat al-Rishq, who is involved in the Cairo talks, told AFP on Sunday that "the possibility of negotiations to succeed is weak. It is possible that the Palestinian delegation will leave to consult its leaders any minute."
Egypt has held an antagonistic stance towards Hamas given the terror group's connections with the Muslim Brotherhood, an organization Egypt's military-backed government has been cracking down on.
It is worth noting that despite the reports of Egyptian preference for Abbas over Hamas, Abbas has threatened Israel with diplomatic warfare over the counter-terror operation in Gaza. Abbas's Fatah faction has called for the ethnic cleansing of Jews from Israel, and declared "open war" on Israel late last month.
Another detail of the negotiations in Cairo was revealed by the diplomatic source to Walla!. He stated that despite Israel's insistence that it will not continue negotiations until the Hamas rocket fire restarted last Friday is halted, Israel in fact is continuing to coordinate with Egypt.