Analysis: Egypt enraged over Hamas claims it isn't honest broker

Egypt enraged over Hamas claims it isn't pushing Israel to lift blockade.

Mubarak 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Mubarak 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
A "crisis of confidence" between Hamas and Egypt appears to be the main factor behind the Islamist movement's decision to suspend talks on the release of St.-Sgt. Gilad Schalit, Palestinian Authority security officials said Sunday. Over the past few days, Hamas officials and spokesmen have been talking about seeking a new mediator to help broker a prisoner exchange with Israel. Some Hamas representatives even mentioned Germany as a potential intermediary, pointing out the role German officials played in achieving the recent prisoner deal between Israel and Hizbullah. The Egyptians, according to the PA security officials, have voiced anger over the statements coming from the Hamas leadership. The Egyptians are said to be particularly enraged over allegations made by unnamed Hamas officials to the effect that Cairo was not an honest broker in the Schalit affair. The Hamas officials were quoted over the weekend in The Jerusalem Post as accusing the Egyptians of failing to represent the interests of the Arabs in the talks with Israel over a prisoner exchange agreement. "A serious crisis has erupted between Hamas and Egypt," the PA security officials said. "The Egyptians have even threatened to stop their mediation efforts to reach an agreement." However, an Egyptian diplomat told the Post his country was continuing to act as a mediator between Israel and Hamas. The diplomat accused unnamed Hamas officials of "waging a smear campaign" against Cairo in a bid to "embarrass the Egyptian government." The diplomat said Syria and Iran were working to foil Egypt's efforts by "inciting" some Hamas leaders not to trust the Egyptians. "Teheran and Damascus are unhappy with the truce agreement we achieved last month," he said. "They don't want Egypt to play any key role in the region." A top Hamas official in the Gaza Strip said his movement did not believe the Egyptians were in a position to exert pressure on Israel to free hundreds of Palestinian prisoners in return for Schalit. "Unfortunately, the Egyptians are very weak and clearly have no influence on Israel," he added. "Last week's deal with Hizbullah shows that the Germans have much more influence." Another Hamas official went as far as accusing the Egyptians of "representing Israel's interests" during the talks on Schalit. "Sometimes we wonder if the Egyptians are on the Arab side or the Israeli side," he said. "Instead of exerting pressure on Israel to release Palestinian prisoners, the Egyptians are trying to force us to make concessions." Hamas is also upset with Egypt because of Cairo's failure to pressure Israel to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip, the Hamas official said. "When we agreed to the truce with Israel last month, we did so mainly because of Egyptian pressure on us," he revealed. "The Egyptians then promised us that they would make sure that Israel honored the agreement." But, according to the Hamas official, one month after the cease-fire went into effect, the Israelis and Egyptians have failed to fulfill their promise to reopen all the border crossings indefinitely, first and foremost the Rafah terminal to Sinai. He explained that Hamas was expecting the Egyptians to unilaterally reopen the Rafah border crossing in response to the "continued Israeli violations" of the truce. The Egyptians, he continued, were afraid to alienate the Israelis and Americans. "If the Egyptians can't convince Israel to lift the siege [on the Gaza Strip], how can we trust them to force Israel to abide by a future prisoner exchange agreement?" he asked. "We have a lot of respect for our Egyptian brothers, but if we have to rely only on them there will never be an agreement."