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December 29, 2008
Gaza violence presents challenges for Egypt

People in Cairo demonstrated against the Israeli assault on Gaza.

Escalating violence on the Gaza strip has renewed pressure on Cairo, which maintains a blockade on the territory. Thought the Egyptian public largely opposes the blockade, the government continues to restrict movement of people and goods to and from Gaza.

Egypt, while condemning the current Israeli assault on Gaza, has also come under fire from some Arabs and Muslims for its links with Israel, including efforts to broker a new truce. The previous ceasefire — one that Egypt helped bring about — expired on Dec. 19.

Read more of our ongoing coverage of the escalating violence in Gaza.

Steven A. Cook is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations at writes at the “Middle East Strategy at Harvard” blog about the effect of the violence in Gaza on Egypt.

War in Gaza: No upside for Egypt

The events in Gaza over this weekend present a number of internal and external challenges for the Egyptian government, again raising questions about Cairo’s capacity to deal effectively with regional crises. Needless to say, the Israeli Air Force’s offensive against Hamas coming soon after Israel’s Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni rebuffed Egyptian President Husni Mubarak’s pleas for restraint in Gaza, reminds Egyptians of their manifest weakness. It also plays right into the hands of the Egyptian opposition, whether it is the Muslim Brotherhood, neo-Nasserists, or the nationalist left, who all believe that Cairo’s alliance with Washington has brought Egypt to its knees, unable to oppose effectively Israeli policies in the region no matter how predatory. Israel’s attacks in Gaza will inevitably radicalize Egypt’s political discourse in much the same way they did after the July 2006 war in Lebanon, which placed Mubarak on the defensive.

In an effort to insulate itself from the domestic criticism sure to come and the inevitable calls to take some sort of punitive action against Israel, the Egyptians almost immediately summoned Shalom Cohen, Jerusalem’s ambassador in Cairo, for a dressing down with Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. In addition, in order to avoid the public relations disaster they experienced when Hamas breached Egypt’s border with Gaza last January, the Egyptians swung open the Rafah crossing to facilitate evacuation of the wounded. Still, these actions are unlikely to mollify Mubarak’s many domestic critics, especially since Aboul Gheit—at the same time he was seething about Israeli murder in Gaza—was implicitly laying a good deal of the blame for the outbreak of hostilities on Hamas, who resisted Egyptian entreaties to resume a dialogue with Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah.

Beyond the domestic difficulties that are likely to result from Israel’s airstrikes, a weakened Hamas is likely going to be more difficult for Egypt’s General Intelligence chief, General Omar Suleiman, to corral. The June 18 ceasefire was predicated in part on Hamas’ ability to prevent other militant factions like Islamic Jihad and the Fatah-affiliated Al Aqsa Martyrs brigade from launching rockets on Israel. When the dust settles in Gaza, however, Suleiman and his emissaries are likely to find a significantly altered political environment in which Hamas is unable to impose its will on others or is even amenable to any efforts to reestablish the ceasefire. In other words, the Egyptians are going to be confronted with turmoil, lawlessness, and the increased possibility of factional violence Gaza.

To read more, see the original post.

The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Photo courtesy of Per Bjorklund under a Creative Commons license.

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Unbelievable – could you possibly find more pro Israel Jews to comment on the disgraceful Israel shock and awe? I am not anti-semetic and have Jewish sons-in-laws but the war Israel is waging brutalizing a relatively small population is totally immoral. This program is a shoddy substitute for BBC’s fine news programs. Martin Sevlidge is a safe American face. It’s bad enough that you’ve taken away a worldwide news program you also don’t even bother to provide late night updates or weekend news. As if news was only made from 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. PBS has really let us viewers down with this slick plastic program. What elitist moron decided this program could be and equal with BBC news? Probably the same ones who deluge us with Suzie Orman and other pap feel good nonsense.


Where do you think all of those rockets are coming from? The Palestinians aren’t pulling them out of thin air.

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