Tony Blair’s Peace Deal With Israel-Hamas Said To Be Imminent
by Elhanan Miller
Hamas is about to sign a “comprehensive” agreement with Israel for the lifting of an eight-year blockade placed on the Gaza Strip in return for a long-term ceasefire, a senior Turkish official said on Sunday.
But the agreement is facing domestic opposition from without, as Palestinian factions consider it a potential danger to the political unity of Gaza and the West Bank as stipulated by the Oslo Accords.
In an interview with Hamas daily al-Resalah, Yasin Aktay, an adviser to Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and deputy chairman of the ruling Justice and Development Party, said that Hamas’s political leader Khaled Mashaal came to Ankara last week to update the Turkish leadership on the details of an agreement reached with Israel and mediated by former British prime minister Tony Blair.
Details of the imminent agreement, reported first by London-based daily al-Hayat on Thursday, have begun to emerge on Hamas news outlets as well over the weekend. According to the reports, Gaza will be allowed to import merchandise through a “floating port” located 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) off the coast. An intermediary port will be established in Cyprus, where all Gaza-bound merchandise will be scrutinized by NATO representatives.
According to Hamas daily al-Resalah, Israel would like to see a larger package deal that would include the exchange of “live and dead Israeli prisoners” held by Hamas — likely a reference to Ethiopian-Israeli citizen Avraham Abere Mengistu and a Bedouin man who both entered the Gaza Strip voluntarily, as well as the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during Operation Protective Edge last summer — in return for Hamas prisoners jailed by Israel.
Israeli Arabic-language website al-Masdar reported on Sunday that Hamas’s leadership held a meeting in Gaza on Friday, specifying the deal’s details. According to al-Masdar’s unnamed Hamas source, Israel has also agreed to allow in thousands of Gazan day laborers through the Erez crossing in return for Hamas’s agreement to stop launching rockets into Israel and digging subterranean attack tunnels underneath the border for a period of at least eight years.
Officials in Israel would not comment on the reported agreement with Hamas.
Hamas’s Shura Council, the movement’s highest deliberative body, endorsed the agreement following a three-hour debate. According to al-Masdar, former Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniyeh expressed concern that the agreement may harm the newly improved relations with Egypt.
“This agreement is no longer just rumors or blabber, but will be signed any minute,” said Walid Awadh, a member of the political office of the Palestinian People’s Party (PPP), formerly the Communist Party, in Gaza. Officials of PLO factions, such as PPP, have been receiving updates from Hamas on the talks with Blair over the past month, he told The Times of Israel.
Awadh said that his party, like all other PLO factions, is opposed in principle to the deal reached between Hamas and Israel. The agreement, carried out unilaterally by Hamas without consulting the PA, strengthens the political divide with Fatah and will eventually detach Gaza completely from the West Bank and Jerusalem, he argued.
“Gaza faces an unknown future,” he said. “This agreement leads us from political divide to [Gaza’s] secession, making it impossible for Gaza to be part of the future Palestinian state.”
A peace treaty with Hamas will not be worth the paper it’s written on. And that’s a fact both sides are well aware of!