Egypt's culpability

President Hosni Mubarak is directly and heavily culpable for the Gaza debacle.

mubarak 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
mubarak 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
In initiating tomorrow's Sharm a-Sheikh summit, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has seemingly placed himself solidly on the high moral ground. He appears to be seeking to salvage what can be rescued from Hamas's violent takeover of the Gaza Strip and siding with the forces of moderation and pragmatism, as presumably personified by Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah followers. Mubarak will likely gain excellent international press for trying to snatch a residual chance of peace from out of Gaza's fundamentalist jaws. Few commentators, or indeed international political leaders, can be expected to spoil the festivities by observing that Mubarak is directly and heavily culpable for the Gaza debacle. He is not solely to blame for the strengthening of Hamas via the porous Philadelphi Corridor, across which gunmen have traveled in and out for training, and arms continually flowed in. Israel's governments - first under Ariel Sharon and then under Ehud Olmert - are responsible, too. They chose to surrender the Philadelphi Corridor while counting on Mubarak's supervision of the border. And then they failed to supervise the supervisor, much less to pressure him sufficiently. Mubarak, who had promised to halt gunrunning into Gaza and who secured for the purpose Israel's consent to increase the number of Egyptian troops at the frontier - a revision of the meticulously drafted original peace treaty - did not make a remotely credible effort to fulfill his undertakings. As a result of these failures, Hamas was so massively reinforced and so heavily armed that it could, besides inflicting daily rocket barrages on Israel, also overthrow and humiliate Fatah and Abbas. Egyptian negligence, in other words, contributed mightily to the downfall of the very forces that Mubarak is now ostensibly leading the rush to bolster. The most absurd and deeply disturbing aspect of Mubarak's failure to exercise his sovereign responsibilities is the fact that, by empowering an offshoot of the same Muslim Brotherhood movement which continues to torment his political establishment, he is contributing to the destabilization of his own hold on Egypt. He has helped, similarly, to jeopardize Hashemite rule in Jordan. Will Jordan's mightily worried king, who along with Olmert and Abbas is invited to participate in tomorrow's summit, tell Mubarak this to his face? It's unlikely, just as it's unlikely that Olmert will remind Mubarak of his broken promises about securing the Philadelphi Corridor. This despite the fact that Mubarak helped facilitate the establishment by Iran and Syria - two regimes he distrusts and has reason to fear - of a bastion in Gaza. While Israeli higher-ups keep curiously mum, some Americans, at least, are not as easily cowed. Indeed a move is currently under way in the US Congress to reduce generous foreign aid to Egypt and thereby make it pay for the dire consequences of its disinclination to decisively counter the supplies of arms, explosives and rocket power to Gaza. Too little and too late though it may be, Olmert ought to air Israel's profound misgivings about the Egyptian failure at the upcoming summit. A public expression of Israel's dismay and anger at the failure would also help prevent Cairo from placing the blame for everything that has gone wrong on Israel, and would underline Egypt's ongoing share in the responsibility for Gaza now, including the need to keep the Strip sufficiently stocked with food, medications, electricity and water. One might be forgiven for wondering whether Egypt, relentlessly bolstering its own firepower as a perceived moderate ally of the West, has actually been following a hidden agenda - calculatedly permitting the rise of so palpable a menace in Gaza in order to force harassed Israel to agree to the presence of many thousands of extra Egyptian military personnel in Sinai, on what the peace treaty had guaranteed was to be a demilitarized border. If there is no such hidden agenda, Egypt's behavior is self-defeatingly unfathomable, and it must be pressed to change course. Even at this late stage, it is critical that Egypt now act to stop the influx into Gaza of weapons, money, and terrorists back from training. Gaza has fallen. All who fear the spread of the malaise must move concertedly and decisively to contain and limit the dangers from the rise of Hamastan - dangers to Egyptians, Israelis, and even to the Palestinians themselves.