Culpable Egypt

Egypt's failure to prevent the flow of arms and terrorists into Gaza now threatens a full-blown war.

Mubarak 248 88 (photo credit: AP [file])
Mubarak 248 88
(photo credit: AP [file])
Carlos Chavez was from Ecuador. On Tuesday, he was shot dead by a Hamas sniper while working in the fields of Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, about 100 meters from the Gaza border fence. According to a kibbutz movement representative, many non-Jewish volunteers from South America, South Korea, Denmark, Canada and elsewhere come here "out of a love for Israel and an interest in the country." Chavez, who was 21, enjoyed kibbutz life and was reportedly considering joining the IDF. At Yad Vashem last week, US President George W. Bush said he hoped that as many people as possible would visit Israel's Holocaust museum and memorial, because "it is a sobering reminder that evil exists, and a call that when evil exists we must resist it." Evidently, we need not go back to the last century to see true evil face-to-face. While the world has become somewhat inured to terrorism, what happened in that kibbutz field, and what is happening in Sderot, where some 50 rockets and mortar shells struck on Wednesday and many more on Thursday, is something new. As The New York Times dryly reported, "The Kassam Brigades claimed responsibility for killing the volunteer in Israel, and for firing the rockets at Sderot. It was the first time in months that Hamas took responsibility for rocket fire from Gaza, having largely fired shorter range, less damaging mortar shells since June." In other words, Chavez's murder and the bombing of Sderot were not the crimes of a fugitive organization, but of a regime with a "prime minister" and all the trappings of government. This regime does not just "support" terror, it orders and takes responsibility for it. Even Iran, the chief supporter of terrorism in the world, does not openly do that. The advent of a governing terrorist entity, even if it is not recognized as a state, is a direct challenge not just for Israel, but the entire international system. The members of the Quartet and Egypt condemn terrorism in theory, but what will they do about the world's first self-declared terrorist regime? Why has the UN Security Council, which has repeatedly met to consider Israeli reactions to terrorism, not met in emergency session? The fact that such questions seem naive does not mean they can be avoided. Nor does the fact that Mahmoud Abbas has provided an alternative address for support for the Palestinians mean that Gaza can be ignored. If anything, this week's events illustrate that the Annapolis process cannot proceed as if Gaza does not exist. Nor is it only international debate and action, or the lack of it, that is dysfunctional, but the debate in Israel as well. We act as if the only alternatives are suffering with the status quo, including the ongoing IDF operations against terrorists, or a massive ground operation in Gaza. What is missing is a recognition that it is Egypt's failure to prevent, and sometimes even open facilitation of, the flow of weapons and trained terrorists into Gaza that has led to the current escalation and threatens a full-blown war, while at the same time rendering such a war largely futile. What is the point of destroying Hamas's infrastructure in Gaza if it will only build itself up again? It should be obvious that the first step to be taken against Hamas in Gaza must be to shut down, as much as possible, the flow of weapons, terrorists and funds that are the lifelines of that regime. But this will not happen so long as Egypt acts as Hamas's gateway to its terrorist allies, much as Syria does for Hizbullah in Lebanon. Behind the scenes nudging has failed miserably. Cairo will not act responsibly unless it is made to pay for acting irresponsibly, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Bush have both steadfastly refused to make this happen. The last time Olmert met with President Hosni Mubarak he was full of praise for the Egyptian leader. Similarly, in Egypt on Wednesday, Bush lauded Mubarak for his "support in the war on terror" and his "strong, constructive support for the [Annapolis] process." In her January 8 interview with The Jerusalem Post, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "Egypt has to do more. Those tunnels need to be dealt with... We're prepared, obviously, to give [assistance], but the will to do it is very important here." This is a start, but not enough to produce more than a cosmetic response from Egypt. To make a real difference, Bush and Olmert need to hold Egypt responsible as well. Who trained the terrorist who murdered Carlos Chavez? Over which border did his gun come? Most importantly, which supposed ally of peace refuses to sever the lifelines that keep the regime that sent him alive?