An Israeli "foot in the door" with the Obama administration (Updated)
One of the awaited reports is from Amos Gilad on his Thursday discussions in Cairo on details of acceptance or otherwise by Hamas of the terms of the Egyptian proposal. This has been reported widely in US media.
But Benn wrote that there is another report that the Israeli war cabinet is also awaiting, and it is from a mission by a senior official in Tsipi Livni's Foreign Ministry, Aharon Abramowitz, whom Livni sent to Washington to try and get Condi Rice to put her name on behalf of the United States to a written agreement that would commit the United States to specific types of assistance aimed at the prevention of arms-smuggling to Gaza. Benn says it appears Livni's idea here is to give the hard-liner Olmert an additional escape-route from the war, in the form of this additional "accomplishment". He adds that the timing for this is very tight, because Condi will be leaving office in a few days, so the idea is to get her to sign it while she is still in office.
"The question is," Benn wrote, "whether Egypt will provide Olmert with an escape-route; and will the agreement with the Americans be finalized?"
Here is what Benn says about the content of the proposed Israel-US agreement:
At the heart of the document, which has crystallized during the past week, is a political commitment--the first of its kind--by the United States to combat weapons smuggling of all kinds and on all levels to Hamas and the other terrorist groups in Gaza.And Benn wrote:
Israel sees in this agreement the chance to "get a foot in the door" with the incoming Obama administration which will be called on to honor the heritage of its predecessor. Defence Secretary Bob Gates, who will be staying in office, has also been involved in the communications with respect to this.Given the fact that the outgoing administration wouldn't sign this without assurance that there will be a real cease-fire, Benn says it is possible to see this as Livni trying to come up with additional PR points for Olmert to convince him to end this war.
The implications of such an agreement for the United States aren't discussed anywhere that I have seen*. There is a reference to the Benn piece on Bloomberg yesterday that didn't elaborate on the implications for US policy. And today AlHayat also refers to the Benn piece. Probably the Arabic translation I have been using is only a summary, because both Bloomberg and Hayat refer to additional details**. For instance AlHayat refers to Abramowitz' discussions with officials in the US foreign, defence and intelligence establishments aiming at finding a way for America to provide "guarantees" with respect to arms smuggling. And Bloomberg had these details:
A senior Israeli diplomat will meet today in Washington with State Department officials to seek a guarantee from the U.S. that it will do more to stop the smuggling of weapons to Hamas from Iran and elsewhere, Haaretz said.
Foreign Ministry Director General Aharon Abramowitz will ask the U.S. for a written agreement that it will share more intelligence information with Israel, spearhead a maritime effort to stop ships suspected of carrying arms for Hamas, and transfer technology to Egypt to aid in the uncovering of smuggling tunnels, the newspaper reported without saying where it got the information. Israeli officials who confirmed the account would not comment further.
* The NYT website say this morning that Livni has been sent to Washington and such an agreement is about to be signed, without giving detail because it says details haven't been finalized yet.
**Actually there was another piece in Haaretz yesterday, not Benn's, that outlined the terms of the agreement in point form. (h/t MoA)