Sunday, July 27, 2014

Kerry's cease-fire draft revealed: U.S. ignored most of Israel's security demands

Haaretz obtains U.S. proposal for weeklong cease-fire which Israel's cabinet rejected; Kerry did not recognize Israel's demand to continue working against the tunnels and presented Hamas as equal to Israel.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference June 22, 2014 in Cairo, Egypt.U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a press conference June 22, 2014 in Cairo, Egypt. / Photo by AFP
By Barak Ravid
The cease-fire draft U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry presented to Israel on Friday evening contained practically no mention of Israel's security needs or of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip of rockets. The draft also forbade Israel from demolishing terror tunnels running from Gaza into Israeli territory during the seven day "humanitarian cease-fire" that were meant to end the fighting, according to a draft of the document obtained by Haaretz, revealed here for the first time.
The one-page document, marked "confidential," was submitted to the Prime Minister's Bureau on Friday at 5 P.M. as the security cabinet was meeting. The draft is titled "Framework for Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza."
Draft of Kerry's framework for Gaza cease-fire.Draft of Kerry's framework for Gaza cease-fire. /
The draft described the urgent need of "protecting civilian lives, ending all hostilities in and from the Gaza Strip and achieving a sustainable cease-fire and enduring resolution of the crisis." The draft said that as such, the two sides - "the Palestinian factions and the State of Israel" have agreed to make the following commitments, detailed in three subsequent clauses:

a) Establish a humanitarian cease-fire, ending all hostilities in and from the Gaza Strip, beginning in 48 hours [Sunday evening], and lasting for a period of seven days
b) Build on the Cairo cease-fire understandings of November 2012 [reached following Operation Cast Lead]
c) Convene in Cairo, at the invitation of Egypt, within 48 hours to negotiate resolution of all issues necessary to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and enduring solution to the crisis in Gaza.
The third clause goes on to spell out, in one way or another, Hamas' demands: arrangements to secure the opening of crossings, allow the entry of goods and people and ensure the social and economic livelihood of the Palestinian people living in Gaza, transfer of funds to Gaza for the payment of salaries for public employees and address all security issues.
Israel's demands were mentioned in the most general of terms in the phrase "address all security issues." There was no one mention of demilitarizing the Gaza Strip of its rocket supply or advanced weapons, and not the dismantling of the terror tunnels.
The draft Kerry submitted on Friday evening stipulated that over the course of a week in which Israel would preserve a humanitarian cease-fire, Hamas and the rest of the Palestinian factions would refrain from any military or security offenses against the other side. Both sides were to allow the transfer of humanitarian aid, including food and medicine to the residents of Gaza. According to the terms of the draft, the Israel Defense Forces would not be asked to withdraw from the Gaza Strip during the cease-fire, but would be forbidden from continuing to operate against the tunnels it has located.
The final clause of the draft determined that "members of the international community, including the United Nations, the Arab League, the European Union, the United States, Turkey, Qatar and many others, support the effective implementation of the humanitarian cease-fire and agreements reached between the parties, in cooperation and coordination with the parties, and will join in a major humanitarian assistance initiative to address the immediate needs of the people of Gaza."
This clause bore no mention of Egypt – the country which borders the Gaza Strip, which has many vital interests pertaining to any cease-fire agreement to be signed, and which filled a central role in similar agreements in the past. Within Kerry's draft, Egypt's traditional role of supervising implementation of the agreement has been passed to Turkey and Qatar – two states which support Hamas and are hostile to Israel.
Last Friday evening, when the draft reached the Prime Minister's Bureau at the Defense Ministry's headquarters in Tel Aviv, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and the rest of the security ministers could not believe what had been written down on paper.
The cabinet ministers, most of them familiar with the other and better American drafts shown to Israel over the course of Wednesday and Thursday, were in shock. The ministers voted unanimously to reject the document. Nevertheless, Israel decided not to issue an official announcement on the matter, so as to avoid embarrassing the U.S. secretary of state and burning the bridges at work. Instead, it was decided that Netanyahu would call Kerry personally and demand significant improvements to the draft on the matter essential to Israel.
Senior Israeli officials expressed great anger regarding Kerry's proposal over the weekend. Cabinet ministers described it as a "prize for terror," claiming that the U.S. secretary of state had completely adopted the positions presented by the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers negotiating on behalf of Hamas.
On Saturday, apparently following his telephone conversation with Netanyahu, Kerry tried to patch up the damages caused by the proposal he submitted to Israel the day before.
Kerry released a statement to the press at the end of his meeting with the Turkish and Qatari foreign ministers in which he said that he understood that Israel could not accept a cease-fire agreement under which it would be forbidden from operating against the terror tunnels in Gaza. He said that the Americans were aware of this and were working on a solution to that problem, but that at the same time, the Palestinians could not accept a cease-fire agreement without assurance that the status quo in the Gaza Strip today would be changed and without being granted more freedom of movement.
Senior Israeli officials said that the draft presented by Kerry had been removed from the table, and was no longer under discussion. "We succeeded in foiling that document and now we are discussing other options," said the officials.
An associate of Kerry responded as such: "There is no paper and no proposal. The draft was based on the Egyptian proposal that Israel whole heartedly supported. So if they are opposed. They are opposed their own plan."

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