Gaza Update

January 16, 2009

Some movement toward a peace agreement:

“The most promising element for bringing the conflict to a close occurred in Washington, where Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni signed an understanding on a range of steps the United States would take to stem the flow of new arms to Hamas from the Egyptian Sinai, mostly via tunnels.

The agreement will provide American technical assistance, as well as monitors, to crack down on the tunnels. The composition of the monitoring force was not yet clear, as Israeli and American diplomats were still working out, a senior American official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.”

Meanwhile, US allies Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan boycott a Qatar-organized, pro-Hamas meeting. But it seems that Hamas is gaining greater legitimacy in the Arab world:

“The once dominant regional leadership of Egypt, Saudi Arabia and even Jordan, tried to undermine this meeting, refused to attend, and pressed Arab states to stay away, too. They insist that the lines of communication remain open with Israel and they have each struggled to deny Hamas the kind of legitimacy the conference appeared to confer on [Hamas leader Khaled] Meshal.

But it was those who boycotted the event who found themselves marginalized — at least for the day — as Mr. Meshal spoke before an audience that included representatives from Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Algeria, Iran and about 10 other countries assembled for the meeting in Doha, Qatar’s capital.

The result will likely be even more pressure on Egypt and Saudi Arabia, both of whom have been pushing for a cease fire with Israel and for engaging the United Nations and western capitals to help. Egypt, which has a peace treaty with Israel, and Saudi Arabia, which sponsored the so-called Arab peace initiative, have argued that preserving channels of communication puts pressure on Israel and, in Egypt’s case, gives it a seat at the negotiating table.”

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