US and Egypt find themselves at odds once again

A lengthy conflict on the Sinai border would increase regional instability and be exploited by terrorists; however, should Israel significantly weaken Hamas and its jihadi allies, it would reduce the threat level on Egypt.

US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (left) meets with Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi in Cairo.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Hamas, which poses a strategic threat to Egypt, is attacking Israel, and the United States cannot or will not understand that simple fact.
US Secretary of State John Kerry is ignoring Egypt while he is talking to Qatar and Turkey, its enemies and determined supporters of the Muslim Brothers. He is in fact favoring radical Islam. This is unacceptable for Egypt – and for Israel. Worse, it threatens the whole Middle East at a time when the area is going through a dangerous political and military crisis.
Gaza has been the main source of Islamic terror against Egypt even in the Mubarak era, and that terror has grown more menacing in the last three years because internal strife had weakened the central power.
During that time that very same Islamic terror has wreaked havoc in other parts of the region.
Former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak tried to engage the Muslim Brotherhood – while considering that Hamas, the Gaza offshoot of the Brotherhood, was Israel’s problem only. Toward the end of his long rule he had begun to see the danger and tried vainly to destroy the smuggling tunnels.
President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, who toppled the Brotherhood, quickly understood that Hamas was a direct threat to Egypt since it is part of the radical Islam terror onslaught.
The Islamist onslaught, aided and abetted by Hamas terror attacks, have expanded beyond Sinai to reach the center of the country and hamper the regime’s efforts to tackle economic problems and stimulate much needed growth.
This is why the conflict in Gaza matters to Egypt as it matters to Israel.
A lengthy conflict on its border would increase regional instability and might be exploited by terrorist elements to further threaten the country.
However, there could be a positive result: should Israel significantly weaken Hamas and its jihadi allies, it would reduce the threat level on Egypt.
From the first al-Sisi has said that he would focus on the economy, a much needed move. Failure would lead to growing despair, discontent, violence and resurgence of radical Islam.
Therefore it is expected Egypt will act according to its own needs only, not according to Palestinian interests.
Egypt has been dragged into five wars for the sake of those interests, and it goes a long way to explain why the economy is in such disarray.
Former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat had reached the same conclusion, and made peace with Israel. He wanted to ally his country to the West, but was murdered by a fringe branch of the Brotherhood in 1981.
Mubarak had made no effort to develop the economy and paid the price. In his speech on the occasion of the national day of Egypt – July 23 – al-Sisi replied to those accusing Egypt of ignoring the Palestinian issue by saying in the strongest tone that no one could blame Egypt, which had sacrificed hundreds of thousands of its sons for the Palestinian cause – though he did add that a Palestinian state with east Jerusalem as its capital should arise. He then went on to talk about his plans for the economy.
Hamas has been pronounced an illegal movement by the courts in Egypt and its activities are being investigated. It is accused of fomenting terror against Egypt directly or through Jihadi groups and having tried to interfere illegally in the country’s internal affairs.
Though it claims to be a national Palestinian liberation movement, its main purpose, as plainly stated in its charter, is to destroy Israel and set up on its ruins an Islamic state that would progressively take over the whole Middle East. The people of Gaza are expendable in the pursuit of this goal.
Egypt, fighting radical Islamic terror, is in fact the last hope of the Middle East.
ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and its Islamic state is gaining ground in Syria and in Iraq, two countries that with Egypt used to be the leaders of the Middle East.
Should radical Islam triumph in Egypt or embroil it in a violent conflict it would spell disaster for the region – Israel included – but also for the West.
Repercussions may include millions of refugees, the closure of the Suez Canal, the flow of petrol halted and the world trade endangered, as well a local uprising of Muslim minorities in the West.
And what is Kerry doing? Instead of siding with Israel and Egypt, his natural allies, and furthering the Egyptian initiative for a cease-fire with the help of the Palestinian authority, he is talking with Turkey and with Qatar, where the former leaders of the Brotherhood in Egypt have fled and where they are working together with Khaled Mashaal.
These leaders are determined to prevent the Egyptian initiative from succeeding and do not care how many Palestinians are killed in the process.
Somehow the secretary of state let himself be convinced and is pushing a totally unrealistic approach to the resolution of the present conflict, going as far as accepting all Hamas demands, including a sea port and an airport.
This approach was met with incredulity by Israel and Egypt, which feel betrayed and insulted by America.
Washington has yet to rescind its embargo on much needed military assistance to Cairo. It does not make for an easy dialogue. Cairo failed to understand why the US are being such ardent supporters of the Muslim Brothers while significantly failing to curb Iran’s atomic program.
The writer, a fellow of The Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, is a former ambassador to Romania, Egypt and Sweden.