Last week The Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) and Israel issued statements announcing a breakthrough in Pan-Arab efforts to broker a comprehensive ceasefireagreement between the two parties. Even as Israel launched a fresh round of attacks on civilian areas in Gaza in recent days, the Egyptian and Qatari mediated talks have continued to gain momentum, with the escalation described as an effort by Israel to emerge dominant in the negotiations.
The proposed agreement was prompted by international calls to restore calm following months of protes near the fence separating Gaza from Israel in which thousands of Palestinians were wounded and killed. But leaked details of the deal, which has been pushed by the White House and UN envoys in the region, point to longer term objectives.
Widening the gap
A broader peace agreement between Gaza and Israel aims to establish mechanisms for dealing with the enclave that are separate from the rest of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank in order to make Gaza more manageable for Israel.
The failure of the Palestinian Authority (PA) to end the political division with Hamas and take control of Gaza helped give momentum to the initiative. This paved the way for shifting the international community’s mediation agenda away from achieving internal Palestinian unity to brokering a bilateral Hamas-Israeli truce agreement, thus widening the diplomatic rift between the rival factions and consolidating the fragmentation of Palestinian territories.
To solidify the administrative divide between the two areas (Gaza and the West Bank), architects of the deal have proposed easing the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza and establishing economic projects in the decade-long besiege strip and along Egypt's border, creating a contiguous economic area with North Sinai to serve the residents of the overcrowded enclave, and effectively render it a separate entity from the West Bank.