An Egyptian soldier keeps guard on the border between Egypt and southern Gaza Strip.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Imagine the following: Israel declares its intention to create a buffer zone between itself and the Gaza Strip.
The rationale is trenchant. After the discovery of numerous attack tunnels leading from Gaza into Israeli communities – to say nothing of ambushes, attempted abductions, and mortar fire – Israel resolved to clear a swathe of territory from any habitation. This would deny the terrorists cover for their tunnel-digging, ambushes, etc.
It’s no stretch to suppose that, immediately upon Israel’s announcement of its intentions, the entire international community would explode into a deafening recriminatory uproar. Condemnations and threats would flow in from around the globe. The UN would censure, the US would threaten, and the EU would preach.
If Israel were to proceed with its plans despite the pandemonium, a horrific spate of terrorism would erupt, rockets would rain on Israeli civilians, Israel would be ostracized even further than it is already, sanctions would ensue, and a maelstrom of malevolence would engulf the Jewish state.
Footage of hapless families evicted with all their worldly belongings and of their homes being blown sky-high would seal Israel’s fate as the pariah of the civilized world.
Gaza’s sins would go unmentioned.
Not all of the above scenario is make-believe. A buffer is being created, families are evicted with all their worldly belongings, their homes are being blown sky-high and the rubble is bulldozed. A deep canal is mooted along the demarcation line, as is a tall concrete separation wall.
The only thing that keeps this from outraging world opinion is the identity of the side provoked into this action.
It is Egypt and not Israel. The border is between Gaza and Egypt rather than the Gaza-Israel border.
These distinctions alone suffice to make it all not much of a big deal. Apparently, if Israeli culprits can’t be fingered it’s apparently of no consequence to the world or the media.
That said, Egypt deserves no worldwide rebuke. It knows, as do foreign governments and the media, that Gaza is both a terrorist nerve center against Israel and its fanatic reach extends elsewhere. The gangs of jihadists who roam through Sinai often infiltrate via Gaza or are manipulated from there. The same goes for the military-grade weaponry which these Islamist extremists openly deploy.
Gaza’s hub of sedition and insurrection not only affects Israel. The many Egyptian casualties, the bombed oil pipelines, the rampant sabotage, the kidnapping of tourists, and much more have led Cairo to recognize that no modus vivendi with the current Gazan powers-that-be is feasible.
Gaza’s Hamas warlords had enjoyed a honeymoon phase while the Muslim Brotherhood (of which Hamas is an offshoot) ruled Egypt. But Cairo’s patience has ended with the recent slaying of more than 30 of its troops.
The Egyptian public appears to be giving its government wide latitude, the expelled residents of Rafah know not to tangle with Arab forces (which are hardly as soft-hearted as Israelis), journalists have been barred from the scenes of destruction, and the Arab world hasn’t yet resorted to the shrill hysteria that would doubtless be unleashed against Israel for far less.
But it would be naïve to suppose that Israel would escape with no flak.
In popular Arab commentary – even inside Egypt – Israel is described as somehow being behind the Egyptian operation, as having advised and even directed the Egyptians regarding the measures they should adopt. Israeli experts, according to the prevalent spin, have instructed Egypt on the minutiae of anti-terrorist tactics.
There’s no denying Egypt’s current offensive does benefit Israel. The Sinai could have been a dangerous new front that Israel cannot afford. It’s further a relief to Israel that gunrunning and bankrolling funnels via Sinai might be minimized.
Surely Egypt is doing what cannot be avoided. This is Gaza’s comeuppance. Nonetheless, none of this is undertaken for the love of Israel. Egypt has its own very compelling case against Gazan provocations and aggression.
In a way, this can be viewed as Egypt’s disengagement from Gaza. Ironically, however, in its own 2005 disengagement Israel harmed no Gazan interests and expelled its own population. This has since been repaid with violent ingratitude.