Israeli negotiators to ‘insist on security’ at continuing Cairo talks

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s delegation to the Cairo ceasefire talks has “clear instructions” to “insist on the security needs of the State of Israel,” Benjamin Netanyahu said.

“Only if there is a clear response to our security needs will we agree to reach understandings,” Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said Sunday at the start of the regular weekly Cabinet meeting.

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“If Hamas thinks that it can cover up its military loss with a diplomatic achievement, it is mistaken. If Hamas thinks that continued sporadic firing will cause us to make concessions, it is mistaken. As long as quiet is not restored, Hamas will continue to take very harsh blows. If Hamas thinks that we cannot stand up to it over time, it is mistaken,” Netanyahu said as Israeli negotiators returned to Cairo for indirect negotiators through Egyptian mediators on Sunday.

A five-day ceasefire ends late Monday night at midnight.

The talks on Sunday reportedly will be centered around an Egyptian proposal calling for an indefinite ceasefire, with talks on Palestinian demands, including a Gaza seaport and airport, to begin in a month. Under the proposal, negotiations for the remains of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners would be postponed.

On Saturday, Hamas leader Khaled Mashal said his group would not back down from any of its demands, which include opening all border crossings with Gaza; building a seaport and an airport, and an end to Israeli settlement building.

Hamas’ foreign affairs spokesman Osama Hamdan said Saturday that Israel could accept the group’s terms or prepare for a prolonged war of attrition. He also said that Hamas tunnels will continue to be a “strategic threat” to Israel and its rockets will be more precise “next time.”