Egypt engages in talks with Palestinian umbrella delegation

Talks proceed despite Israel’s boycott and the failure of US deputy secretary of state William Burns to arrive

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon meets with Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah last month. REUTERS/Alaa Badarneh

Formal talks in Cairo involving a Palestinian umbrella delegation and officials from Egypt's powerful intelligence agency were held yesterday, in spite of Israel's boycott and the failure of US deputy secretary of state William Burns to arrive.

Egypt’s official news agency, Mena, quoted Palestinian sources as saying Cairo had pledged to ensure Palestinian demands were met.

Islamic Jihad representative Ziyad Nakhala said Egypt has adopted the Palestinian call for an urgent ceasefire and revealed that Israel's demand that Gaza's reconstruction should depend on demilitarisation was not being discussed.

The Palestinian delegation, headed by Azzam al-Ahmed of the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), comprises figures from leftist members of the organisation as well as non-members Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and Maged Farag, head of Palestinian intelligence.


Position paper

The Palestinian position paper calls for an immediate Israeli withdrawal from Gaza;

a halt to air strikes; an end to Israel’s siege and blockade; the release of Palestinian prisoners; and the urgent provision of food, water, medical supplies and electricity.

Following Israel’s attack on Gaza’s sole power station, the power supply has been sharply reduced to Gaza city and cut to outlaying areas. Hospitals have been forced to rely on generators for which there is little fuel.

Palestinian prime minister Rami Hamdallah has asked several countries to dispatch ships carrying huge generators to supply Gaza with power until its plant is repaired. He said he has had positive responses.

The Palestinian delegation also proposes an international donors’ conference and the reconstruction of devastated Gaza by the UN and the Palestinian consensus government, a technocratic cabinet chosen by Fateh and Hamas.

Reconstruction costs

Deputy prime minister Mohamed Mustafa said reconstruction could cost at least $6 billion and expressed the hope that donors would honour pledges. Only a fraction of $5 billion promised after Israel’s 2009 attack was delivered. He said 100,000 housing units have to be built for the half million displaced Gazans.

The PLO-Hamas-Islamic Jihad delegation and the active involvement of the consensus government – established in June after years of wrangling – are seen by Palestinians as proof that their leaders have finally formed a united front.

Palestinians argue that the rivals have no alternative due to the challenges posed by Israel's latest war on Gaza and the collapse of US secretary of state John Kerry's effort to secure a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. His failure is seen to have seriously undermined the position of president Mahmoud Abbas – who has relied on negotiations to secure Palestinian statehood.

While Hamas’s stock has risen during the 28-day conflict due to its fighters’ performance, it could be blamed for widespread devastation once a ceasefire takes effect.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times