Israel’s participation in Egyptian-brokered talks on consolidating a Gaza ceasefire is aimed at bolstering its security not a peace deal with the Palestinians, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in remarks published Wednesday.
“These are negotiations on security issues, not peace negotiations,” Netanyahu told pro-government freesheet Israel Hayom.
“I was careful to ensure that this delegation focuses solely on security. I did not include my peace envoy, attorney Yitzhak Molcho, and none of the (cabinet) ministers.”
A ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s de facto ruler Hamas came into effect on August 26 after 50 days of conflict that claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 Palestinians and 73 on the Israeli side.
Israeli and Palestinian negotiators met briefly with Egyptian mediators on Tuesday to discuss the terms of a broader truce before adjourning their talks until late October.
Netanyahu said that Israel would consider Hamas demands for the opening of an airport and seaport in Gaza only if the Islamist group agreed to lay down its arms, a condition it has repeatedly rejected.
“When Gaza is demilitarised and abandons the goal of destroying Israel, we are open to considering anything,” he told the English-language Jerusalem Post.
“The real issue is whether we can ensure Israel’s vital security interests, and enable the reconstruction of Gaza and humanitarian assistance under our security requirements. That, I think, will be the focus of what will be discussed, and certainly the focus of our current policies.”
Briefing journalists on Tuesday, retired Israeli brigadier general Mike Herzog, said that the interim ceasefire declared on August 26 was holding, despite minor skirmishes.
“On the ground, the situation is stable, the ceasefire is holding,” said Herzog, who played an advisory role in US-led Israeli-Palestinian peace talks which collapsed earlier this year.
“The focus of this upcoming conference in Cairo is to see how one can stabilise this and make it sustainable and at the same time, opening the road for major reconstruction of Gaza without undermining Israel’s security,” he said.
Last week, the United Nations said it had negotiated a framework for the easing of Israel’s eight-year blockade of Gaza to enable the delivery of building materials for post-war reconstruction.
All deliveries would be supervised to ensure that materials were not diverted by militants for military purposes, the UN said.
Herzog said the details of the supervision mechanism would be thrashed out when the Egyptian-brokered negotiations resume next month.