I’ve been unbelievably busy with the galley-proofs (or whatever they call today’s functional equivalent of them) of my book. Five chapters down, and two to finish tomorrow… Meanwhile, I see that today’s issue of Al-Ahram Weekly (in English) has as expected a number of informative articles on the thorny Gaza-Egypt question.
This is probably the best general wrap-up of the tricky Egyptian-Palestinian dilemma over Gaza. It includes this:
- “The Israelis and Americans can say all they want. But they know that Egypt has to act upon its interests,” commented an Egyptian official who asked for anonymity. And, he explained, it is certainly not in the interest of Egypt to ignore the fact that if the Rafah crossing point was to be completely sealed off again under continued Israeli siege on Gaza another breach will occur. “It will be a matter of time before the Palestinians break into Rafah again. This is a scenario we dread so much. We would rather work to secure a prompt and internationally accepted mechanism for the operation of the Rafah crossing point,” the official added.
For Egypt to secure a prompt and legal operation of the borders it would need to either secure the consent of Hamas for the re-instatement of the borders agreement suspended by the Hamas control of Gaza or alternatively to introduce a new agreement acceptable to both sides and passable by Israel and the international community. Either scenarios, however, would require a Hamas-Fatah agreement, if not full reconciliation.
“I call upon all the Palestinian people, with all their factions, to prioritise the need to end the suffering of the Palestinian people,” President Hosni Mubarak said earlier this week before calling for a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation to be hosted by Cairo.
Mubarak’s call for Palestinian reconciliation is not exactly new. Egypt has tried, on and off, during the past few months to mend the many cracks in the Palestinian rank — but with no success at all.
Mubarak’s call for Palestinian reconciliation this time, however, carries a new firmness. “Before, Egypt wanted to mend the Palestinian differences to secure Palestinian unity at time of Palestinian-Israeli negotiations. Now, it is much more than that. Egypt wants to make sure that Palestinian affairs and differences will be contained within the Palestinian territories and will not spill over to neighbouring Egyptian territories as we have seen during the past week,” the Egyptian official commented.
Mubarak’s call for Palestinian unity was met with overt and covert criticism from American and Israeli officials who make no secrete of their wish to isolate and eventually ostracise Hamas. It was, however, supported firmly by the Arab League and mildly by the Europeans.
For their part, Hamas officials were quick to make a vocal and repeated welcome of Mubarak’s call for Palestinian dialogue. It was Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas who declined the Egyptian initiative, almost in a rough way…