Israel reported to have accepted Egyptian offer of talks with Hamas

Negotiations - which will not be direct but via Egypt as an intermediary - aimed at solidifying the cease fire


Egypt is inviting Israel and Hamas to visit Cairo and take part in a series of talks to solidify the ceasefire. 

Jerusalem tends to shun contact with Hamas but according to Israeli Army Radio has already accepted the invitation. “An Israeli delegation is expected to arrive in Egypt early next week,” it tweeted. “The goal: to reach understandings around the ceasefire and options for assistance to the strip.” 

Plans for the talks were first reported by Israel’s national broadcaster, Kan. It said the Palestinian Authority is invited to participate alongside Israel and Hamas and the plan is to focus on achieving “long-term calm”. 

Talks are expected to consist of shuttle diplomacy with Egyptians passing messages between Israeli and Hamas officials, who will be in separate rooms, rather than direct meetings. 
The issue of Hamas holding two Israeli civilians and the bodies of two soldiers is also on the agenda, according to Kan, and Israel is insistent that there is progress on this issue. 

News of the Egyptian initiative comes on the heels of a visit by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Cairo yesterday, after his meetings in Israel and the West Bank — indicating that it is being proposed with the encouragement of America.

As Mr Blinken wrapped up his Middle East trip he gave an interview to Israel’s Channel 12 television, in which he acknowledged that Israel took “very significant steps” during the recent fighting to avoid harm to Gaza’s civilians.

He said that as a democracy Israel has an “extra burden” to ensure it is “doing everything it possibly can to avoid civilian casualties.” He did not voice any criticism of the IDF but did note that on both sides, “men, women and especially children were lost.” 

He said that the two-state solution is “not only the best way but probably the only way” to ensure the best outcome from the conflict for Israelis and Palestinians but indicated that there is no immediate push for peace talks in the pipeline. “Right now the focus is on dealing with the immediate aftermath of the recent violence, trying to build on the ceasefire,” he said. 

In Palestinian society, one of the main talking points from the Blinken visit to the region, which draws to an end today as the Secretary of State flies home from Jordan, was his promise to reopen the US consulate in Jerusalem.

This will offer a way for Palestinian to receive consular services without needing to visit the embassy, which moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem under Donald Trump's administration and is seen by many Palestinians as a symbol of unfavourable US policy under the Trump administration.

Palestinian politician Hussein al-Sheikh waxed lyrical about the promise last night, suggesting it underscores the break by the Biden administration from Donald Trump’s policy towards the Palestinians. 

It is “deemed the most important decision taken by the new US administration” said Mr al-Sheikh, a central committee member in the Fatah party, the main faction in the Palestinian Authority.  

He added that it “sends a clear message that East Jerusalem is part of the territories that Israel has been [occupying] since 1967.”

Showing disdain for the Trump peace plan, which was shunned by Palestinians, Mr Hussein al-Sheikh said: “The announcement on the reopening of the US consulate in East Jerusalem implies the collapse of the so-called Deal of the Century, touted by the former US administration, and serves as a ground for the restoration of normal relations with the US, so that it would function as an effective and influential actor to resume negotiations based on the United Nations resolutions.”

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