Israel backs Cairo talks, dismisses U.N.


WASHINGTON (JTA) — Israeli officials said the resolution to the Gaza Strip war would most likely emerge from talks in Cairo and not at the United Nations.

The Cairo  talks were the likeliest path to a "political solution," the officials told journalists on Thursday, adding that they did not regard as serious the current negotiations in New York aimed at arriving at a U.N. Security Council consensus on ending the Gaza war.

Few details about the "Mubarak initiative," named for the Egyptian president, are known, but reports have said it proposes an end to attacks from Gaza and an end to the smuggling of weapons into Gaza in exchange for an opening of commercial crossings into the strip. Two top Israeli officials arrived in Cairo on Thursday to pursue the talks; top Bush administration officials, including Condoleezza Rice, the secretary of state, have also backed the Cairo initiative.

The Israeli officials who spoke to journalists said the cease-fire and the end of smuggling were Israel’s bottom lines; they did not reject other aspects of the "political solution" that might emerge from such an agreement, including the possibility that it would re-join Hamas to the moderate Fatah in a Palestinian national unity government.

The Israeli officials said, however, that it was critical that Hamas not emerge as having scored diplomatic gains during the war.

Israel opposes any Security Council-imposed end to the war, saying it would confer undeserved legitimacy on Hamas, a terrorist group that controls Gaza. Top officials from western nations, led by the United States, are in New York negotiating the wording of a Security Council resolution introduced by Libya on behalf of the Arab League.

Israel launched major operations in Gaza on Dec. 27, two weeks after Hamas suspended a cease-fire with a barrage of rocket attacks on southern Israel.

The Israeli officials said they were working closely with Bush administration officials on efforts to end the war; they had not been in touch with officials of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, observing the principal of foreign entities working only with a sitting president.

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