Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Egypt is pivotal to the future of Gaza

Israel's most important ceasefire condition in the current Gaza conflict is an end to weapons-smuggling via tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border. The Hamas-created fiasco in Gaza may force them to act:

Egypt is in a bind. Its own national interest isn't far from Israel's, yet it dare not inflame its domestic Islamist opposition, the Muslim Brotherhood, which is closely tied to Hamas. It is understandably loath to allow a free flow of Gazans - who might have Brotherhood or Iranian ties and stir up more unrest inside Egypt.

Keeping the current situation on a low flame may strike Egypt as the least distasteful of a poor menu of choices. Yet it is a recipe for further bloodshed. If the Philadelphi Corridor isn't permanently secured, another - worse - round of warfare is inevitable. It would leave Hamas approaching Hizbullah in strength and posing an even greater risk of destabilization within Egypt.


Meanwhile, an influential Egyptian editor openly blamed Hamas for the violence. The Egyptians (and the Sunni Arab world in general) are tiring of Iranian Shia interference in their backyards:

Karam Jaber, editor of the semi-official Egyptian weekly Roz Al-Youssef magazine, said that Hamas was caught between the Syrian anvil and the Iranian hammer. The Iranians, he said, prevented Hamas from negotiating a cease-fire with Israel, while the Syrians were blackmailing and intimidating the Hamas leaders in Damascus.

"History won't forget to mention that Hamas had inflicted death and destruction on the Palestinians," he said. "We hope that Hamas has learned the lesson and realizes that it has been fighting a war on behalf of others. We hope the Hamas leaders will realize that they are fighting a destructive war on behalf of the Iranians and Syrians."

Egyptian political analyst Magdi Khalil said he shared the view of the Palestinian Authority and Egypt that Hamas was responsible for the war in the Gaza Strip. "Ever since Hamas seized control over the Gaza Strip in 2007, they turned the area into hell," he said. "They imposed restrictions on the people there and even prevented them from performing the pilgrimage to Mecca."



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