Fishermen ride a small boat into the harbour on August 18, 2014 in Gaza City.AFP PHOTO/ROBERTO SCHMIDT (Photo credit should read ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Rival Palestinian Leaderships Divided Over Reported Israeli Offer To Build Cyprus Port To Serve Gaza

Fatah slams potential move, whereas Hamas assumes wait-and-see approach

The rival Palestinian leaderships in the West Bank and Gaza Strip reacted in contradictory fashion to a reported Israeli offer geared towards alleviating the humanitarian plight in the Hamas-ruled enclave. According to an Israeli television report, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman has advanced a proposal to build a port in Cyprus that would serve as a hub for the transfer of goods to blockaded Gaza.

The plan is contingent on Gaza’s Islamist rulers returning to Israel the bodies of two soldiers killed during the 2014 war, in addition to three living Israelis being held captive by Hamas.

The proposed agreement is believed to have been discussed in meetings between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and senior White adviser Jared Kushner and Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt, who just finished a regional tour focused on improving the situation in Gaza.

“I can’t confirm or deny the deal,” Abdl Al-lateef Qanou, a Hamas spokesperson, told The Media Line. “We were informed about it from the media, but I need an official offer from the [Israeli] government to reveal my official position. If that happens, we have to first study and then reply.”

Dahoud Shihab, an Islamic Jihad spokesperson, revealed to The Media Line that “up until now what has been presented isn’t clear or specific. But in general,” he continued, “ending the terrorist aggression in the form of the siege is a Palestinian demand and legitimate right of the Palestinian people.”

Shihab also stated that if Israel insists on discussing the fate of its missing soldiers and citizens in Gaza, it must keep in mind that there are “a huge number of members of the Palestinian resistance in Israeli jails.”

When asked whether Gaza-based Palestinian factions would circumvent the Palestinian Authority by forging an agreement directly with Israel, Shihab explained that “Palestinian unity is the key to accomplishing national achievements, but the [PA] doesn’t abide by its obligation to ease the sanctions on Gaza in order to end the suffering and achieve reconciliation.”

For its part, the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank immediately came out against the purported initiative, with a Fatah spokesperson telling The Media Line that, “we warn Hamas not to deal with these American and Israeli ideas as they are just an illusion of helping the humanitarian situation in the Strip.” Osama Qwasme further contended that the Trump administration is responsible for the conditions in Gaza as the White House cut-off aid to both the PA and the United Nations Relief and Work Agency, which supports Palestinian refugees in Gaza along with the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

“[Trump] is trying to pass the deal-of-the-century, which was calculated to serve Israel,” Qwasme affirmed, “and he is using Gaza’s crisis as an excuse by which to achieve this. The aim of this deal is to manipulate the Palestinian national position to benefit Israeli interests.”

The PA already rejected out-of-hand the Trump administration’s yet-unveiled peace plan, and has, in fact, been boycotting American officials for the past six months; this, in the wake of Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Hani al-Masri, a Palestinian political analyst who on Monday met with Hamas and Islamic Jihad representatives in Gaza, explained that the ability to finalize a deal depends largely on Israel’s demands. “Israel wants to disarm the resistance groups in the Strip and have them recognize Israel as a state,” he noted to The Media Line, adding that these are absolute non-starters for Gaza’s rulers and therefore any proposal based on such conditions is not worth discussing.

Al-Masri also stressed that “the collapse of the situation in Gaza will impact negatively on Israel, Egypt, Europe and the United States.” He thus believes that it is in the interest of all parties to arrive at a compromise.

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