Isaac Herzog, the Chairman of the Israeli Labour Party, has praised the role played by the Egyptian Minister of Defence, General Abdul Fattah Al-Sisi, in pressuring the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and containing it. He considers such behaviour as "contributing to providing the groundwork for reaching a political settlement for the Palestinian-Israeli crisis that serves Israeli purposes."
Speaking to Israel Radio on Sunday morning, Herzog said, "We are observing Al-Sisi's actions closely as well as the efforts made by other Arab regional forces in order to redevelop the internal Palestinian situation and make it suitable for reaching a settlement for the conflict."
Herzog stressed that a political settlement cannot be reached "as long as Hamas continues to assume its current positions", noting that achieving a peace agreement requires Palestinian representation for every area where Palestinians live, including the Gaza Strip and the global diaspora.
Today, the same radio revealed Housing Minister Uri Ariel's plans for settlement projects in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem over the next 50 years. Ariel, who is a member of the National Religious Party, insisted on putting the plans forward "despite the sensitive conditions facing Israel at the moment".
The Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett, a member of the Jewish Home Party, justified Ariel's plans by saying that Israel "will include Area (C)", which makes up 60 per cent of the West Bank, "in any future agreement" and that "settlement expansion will be implemented in this area".
According to an Israeli official quoted by Haaretz newspaper, the US has adopted Israel's position in demanding security guarantees before reaching a permanent agreement on the conflict. The anonymous official noted that US Secretary of Defence John Kerry told his Israeli hosts during his latest visit that if the agreement with the Palestinians does not provide for improvements to the personal security of the Israelis, then it will not be signed.
Furthermore, the newspaper pointed out that a group of American security and diplomatic experts, led by General John Allen, the former commander of US Forces in Afghanistan, prepared a plan for security arrangements to be approved by the Palestinian Authority. Haaretz explained that the plan involves disarming a future Palestinian state and tasking its main security agencies with preserving security and confronting "terrorism".
Israeli commentator Shalom Yerushalmi said that Kerry is driven to adopt the Israeli position by his desire to avoid engaging in a new confrontation with Tel Aviv over the Geneva II Conference on Syria involving Iran and the superpowers. In a report published by Maariv newspaper, Yerushalmi noted that the prevalent impression in the Israeli government is that the Americans will not pressure Benjamin Netanyahu into settling with the Palestinians while they have "upset" him with their agreement with Iran over its nuclear programme.
Contrary to the optimism expressed by Kerry regarding an agreement with the Palestinians, Israel's Minister of Defence told participants at an economic conference in Tel Aviv that the chances of agreeing a deal are "almost impossible". Moshe Ya'alon claimed that "Israel has no partner on the Palestinian side in the negotiations", a position shared by far-right Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
This is a translation of the Arabic text published by al Jazeera net on 8 December, 2013
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.