Abbas negotiates with Egypt to solve border crisis and provide power for Gaza
ZAA NKWETA, PRESENTER: The siege in Gaza show no signs of letting up. Gazan residents continue to have meager fuel and power supplies. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas met Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak this week, his aim to secure more support from Egypt. The Real News spoke earlier to Osamah Khalil in Cairo.
OSAMAH KHALIL, JOURNALIST: The meeting yesterday between Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was an attempt to resolve the crisis, essentially, that’s been brewing in Gaza since Hamas blew down the border wall in January. This is still an unresolved issue. And what they’re attempting to do is resolve several different components, to again try to reinstate some kind of border control between Egypt and Gaza. The Palestinian authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas is essentially at this point supported largely through aid from the United States and the European Union. And, of course, Egypt is backing the Palestinian president and his Fatah factions and Israel is as well. So essentially what you’re seeing is a three-way alliance there and Egypt in support of the peace process with Abbas and negotiations between Abbas and the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert. So there is a real desire on the part of Egypt for the peace process to move forward for Abbas to be successful. However, they also have been trying to negotiate with Abbas to reconcile with the Hamas leaders in Gaza and to attempt for a broader reconciliation within the Palestinian national movement.
ZAA NKWETA: Rerouting or using Egyptian electricity, getting Gaza on the Egyptian power grid, is this going to be successful? And are there any complications inherent in trying to do this?
KHALIL: Well, it’s still very early and it’s still difficult to say. And I think it’s important for your viewers to understand that Gaza is still currently, in terms of the power it receives, southern Gaza and particularly the city of Rafah already get electricity from Egypt, but not enough. Rafah right now is subject to about eight hours of blackout a day. In the rest of Gaza—and that includes the main city of–Gaza City, which has a population of about half a million people, and the city of Khan Yunis—their electricity is supplied through Israel and the Palestinian power plant. And, of course, the Palestinian power plant [inaudible] running at roughly a quarter to half capacity. So they’re having a very difficult time maintaining adequate power supplies in the rest of Gaza. It’s almost the flip side of Rafah, where Rafah has eight hours of blackout a day. The rest of Gaza is lucky to have eight hours of power a day. It’s a very difficult situation.
NKWETA: Trying to get more Gazans onto the electricity grid in Egypt, are Gazans more relieved that this proposal has been put forth between Abbas and Mubarak?
KHALIL: Gazans and Palestinians in general would prefer to be for an open commercial access and more aligned with the Arab states than relying on Israel, whether it be for power or for commercial movement. In fact, this is where in particular Hamas movement, as they blew down the border fence, and in subsequent negotiations having attempted to negotiate with Egypt a renewed commercial agreement, the use of Egyptian ports and the Egyptian power grid. So I think there’s a real belief that for a Palestinian state to be truly independent, it would need to have commercial and political and economic agreements with the Arab states.
NKWETA: This proposal, does it have any teeth? Is it going to go anywhere? Is it going to get more Gazans electricity, more power?
KHALIL: Well, it’s unclear. It’s still at a very early stage. It’s unclear that the Egyptians even have the capacity, the electricity capacity, to [inaudible] supply of Gaza. It sounds to me as though it’s stopgap measure. At the end of the day, the only thing that’s going to resolve the power issues in Gaza is for there to be an agreement to end the siege.
NKWETA: A little bit of political maneuvering as well, would you say?
KHALIL: I would agree with that. I think that this is definitely some political maneuvering on the part of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. I think it’s important to understand that the Egyptian press was reporting in the past couple of weeks that Hamas has been attempting to reach out both to Abbas and to Israel, that it is willing to both recognize Israel and to do what needs to be done in order for the siege to be lifted. The peace process is not moving forward in a way that he had hoped. So I think what Abbas is really struggling for is trying to find and trying to demonstrate to Palestinians in Gaza, as well as in the West Bank, that he does care about them, he does care about their interests, and that he is not, you know, kind of a subcontractor to the Israeli occupation as he has been charged by the opposition.
NKWETA: In the latest development, violence between Israel and Hamas is escalating as both sides continue to trade both rocket and gunfire. 17 people have been killed in the last two days.
Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.