Steinitz: Egypt letting Hamas build an army

Likud MK urges US Senate to approve bill freezing $200m. in Egyptian aid.

Steinitz got milk 248 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Steinitz got milk 248 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Egypt effectively condoned Hamas's takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, and has since stood by and allowed Hamas to build an army, MK Yuval Steinitz (Likud) wrote in a letter to the US Senate on Sunday. "Egypt's de facto behavior in the field supports Hamas," he said. Steinitz wrote the letter at the request of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-Arizona), with whom he chairs a joint US-Israeli committee on defense and foreign policy. "As long as Egypt is not required to pay a real price for this behavior, weapons and financial aid will continue to flow into the hands of Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza," he wrote. Steinitz asked the Senate to approve a bill recently passed by the House of Representatives to freeze $200 million of the approximate $1.3 billion in annual US aid to Egypt each year until the Egyptian government changes its policy toward smuggling near and across its 14-kilometer border with the Gaza Strip. According to the IDF, Hamas has smuggled 20,000 rifles, 6,000 antitank missiles and 100 tons of explosives into the Gaza Strip since last summer. Steinitz said efforts by the Egyptians to stop the smuggling were ineffective and half-hearted. "Egypt's claim that it is doing its best to end this situation by uncovering smuggling tunnels into Gaza is simply an insult to the intelligence... it is almost ridiculous for the Egyptians to focus on finding the tunnels, since it would be much easier for them to intercept the smugglers before they get anywhere near the border," he wrote. Steinitz included a map of the Egypt-Gaza border in his letter. "All they have to do is to erect a number of roadblocks along the very few roads that run from mainland Egypt to the Gaza region, in order to intercept heavily loaded trucks carrying hundreds of rifles and missiles from reaching the border," he wrote. "Alternatively, they can declare the border area a closed military zone, with a depth of two to three miles into the interior of Sinai, and prevent any movement in it." Steinitz said both of those alternatives had been presented to Egyptian officials in the past, but the Egyptian army continued to focus on routing out tunnels. "The only conclusion is that the Egyptians believe that it is in their interest to derail the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians and create an army in the Gaza Strip in order to try and weaken Israel," he wrote. "As long as Israel is getting weaker the Egyptians can get stronger." Steinitz also accused the Egyptians of receiving aid, and possibly supplies, from Iran and Syria. "There is always that argument - that if the US cuts aid to Egypt they will just get more money from Iran and Syria," he wrote. "But it is impossible to continue in the current way." The Egyptian government has called the accusations against them "baseless" and harmful to Egyptian-American relations.