US, UK in new diplomatic push as Gaza truce plan hangs by a thread
Western powers are pushing for a new ceasefire deal for Gaza as the UK foreign minister and a top US official visit the Middle East, while Israel and Hamas refuse demands made by one another.
Egypt, Qatar, and the US are attempting to strike a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas after a deal in November saw fighting subdued for at least six days with hostages and detainees exchanged between the two sides.
British Foreign Minister David Cameron, who is visiting Israel and occupied Palestinian territories, announced that he was working with Qatar to facilitate more aid for Gaza, where over 25,700 people have been killed since 7 October in three-months of relentless Israeli bombardment.
"More must be done, faster, to help people trapped in this desperate situation," Cameron said.
"We have trebled our assistance for Gaza ... But our efforts will only make a difference if aid gets to those who need it most."
He met separately with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.
He reportedly told Netanyahu that the UK still believed in the need for a two-state solution, something the Israeli PM publicly rejected last week.
US Middle East envoy Brett McGurk was also in Cairo earlier this week to discuss a new truce for Gaza.
White House spokesperson John Kirby wants a humanitarian pause in Gaza to ensure hostages can be released and aid brought in. He declined to specify a timeframe and cautioned he would not characterise the discussions as negotiations.
Despite their unwavering support for Israel, the US and UK have expressed their concerns about the colossal civilian death toll in Gaza, and have said they do not want to see the war develop into a wider regional conflagration.
Consensus between Egypt and Hamas
In an exclusive interview with The New Arab’s Arabic-language sister site, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, an unnamed Egyptian source revealed that meetings McGurk held in Cairo focused on "guarantees" required by Palestinian factions in Gaza, namely Hamas.
Despite the uncertainty and Israel's adamance to carry on its offensive, the source revealed that discussions in the past few days between mediators and Hamas' leadership were able to make a breakthrough after Egypt and Hamas initially agreed on the necessity of associating any ceasefire deal with 'the day after' in Gaza.
There is "a great consensus between the Hamas leadership and Egyptian officials to establish clear frameworks and mechanisms for reconstruction", the source said.
Rebuilding Gaza: The huge cost of Israel's devastating war ⬇ https://t.co/ZgTL3lLBE6— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) December 1, 2023
McGurk reportedly proposed the reconstruction of Gaza in return for Arab states normalising ties with Israel. Saudi Arabia has made clear it would not establish ties with Israel unless Palestinian statehood was guaranteed.
The plan would serve as "a catalyst for the reconstruction of Gaza, in which Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states are scheduled to participate", according to the US official.
Discussions also centred on what a new Palestinian Authority would look like in Gaza after the war. Washington is in favour of reuniting Gaza and the occupied West Bank under a unified and revamped Palestinian Authority, something Israel has also outright rejected.
Hamas has said it wanted a full ceasefire, but Israel has only expressed readiness for a pause in hostilities.
Netanyahu has vowed to continue the war until Hamas is dismantled, something that even Israeli officials have agreed was farfetched.
Other than wanting to release more hostages and prisoners, neither side appears willing to back down on key points.
Netanyahu is under increasing pressure from the families of hostages to bring their loved ones home.
Israel says just over 130 hostages remain in the enclave, out of more than 250 taken by Hamas on 7 October.
Some have died in Israeli strikes or were shot dead by Israeli troops, after being mistaken for Palestinians.
Hamas wants all Israeli troops out of Gaza and the return of all displaced people to their homes, much of which has been turned to rubble.
Some officials from Israel’s far-right have reiterated demands to empty Gaza of its inhabitants and repopulate the territory with Jewish Israeli settlers.