By Abdel Bari Atwan
At a time when Israeli intelligence is accused of breaking Egyptian security through spy networks and the involvement of its agents in fuelling sectarian strife in Egypt, the authorities in Cairo are laying out the red carpet for Benjamin Netanyahu. The Israeli prime minister is due to visit President Hosni Mubarak in Sharm El-Sheikh resort. Netanyahu is an outcast around the world and his government tops the list of racist and extreme governments, so why does Egypt reward him with such a warm reception at this time?
Every time that Netanyahu digs himself into a political hole, he flies to Sharm el-Sheikh in search of solace and support from President Mubarak, to break his isolation and suggest to the Western world that he is accepted by the Arabs; that the peace process is not dead; and that all doors are open to him, including that of the largest Arab State.
The aim of this visit, according to Netanyahu, is to discuss security and the peace process. By "security", he means, of course, Israel's security, and by "peace" he means Israel's peace; Egyptian peace doesn't come into the equation. This is the man whose agents work to undermine Egypt's stability and security through the spies his intelligence agencies are recruiting and planting at the heart of sensitive Egyptian institutions, including the Ministry of Communications, where an Egyptian spying for Israel was arrested red-handed recently.
Netanyahu wants to maintain Egypt as a guard protecting Israel's flank and mobilizing its forces to prevent cross-border infiltration by Africans seeking a living or job opportunities, even if that leads to Egyptian border guards shooting and killing their fellow Africans. What is paramount is the protection of Israel and enhancing the security of its illegal settlers. International human rights organizations condemn Egypt because its security forces kill dozens of Africans who want to infiltrate Israel, but that is surely Israel's problem; why doesn't Egypt leave this dirty work to the Israeli forces on the other side of the border?
The Egyptian authorities are building steel walls along its border with the Gaza Strip and are backing them up with high watchtowers. The security procedures in place humiliate the people of Gaza whenever they wish to leave or return to their caged territory; they are escorted to the airport by police dogs as if they are criminals under escort.
Egypt is currently facing a sectarian crisis and it is reasonable to expect the energies of its security and political agencies to be directed towards calming the rage of its own people. The visit of such a reviled figure as Netanyahu only adds to the anger of the people on the street, increasing the government's problems.
We do not know why President Mubarak is so sweet on Netanyahu and it is beyond us why such a contentious meeting is being held at this time. There are no urgent outstanding issues that necessitate this meeting which is humiliating in its timing and embarrassing in its agenda. It was expected that President Mubarak would cancel the Netanyahu meeting citing domestic developments as an excuse; internal security needs intense follow up by the president as the person with ultimate responsibility. Our expectations, like all its predecessors, were wrongly placed.
Benjamin Netanyahu is a professional liar and is known across the world for being so. He's fluent in prevarication and deception; he does not respect his promises and does not keep covenants. Even the US administration "got sick of him" and stopped dealing with him due to his many lies, so why does he have any credibility with official Egypt and get received with respect and appreciation by the head of state? The Egyptian government should instead be focused on its domestic crises, the most important of which is its neglect of Egypt's security in order to maintain Israel's security.
Egypt's image is damaged around the whole world, in part due to its concern over the past thirty years with the illusion of peace with the Zionist state, and trying to sell this illusion to the Arabs and, in particular, the Palestinians. Arab public opinion is angry because of the formal participation of Egypt in the unjust siege on the Gaza Strip. What has Egypt received in return for this support of Israel? Didn't Israel criticize Egypt's shortcomings in this regard despite the apparently unlimited resources poured into it? Netanyahu himself has said that he is not completely satisfied with the Egyptian efforts to prevent smuggling through the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza.
Conditions are deteriorating in Egypt and its domestic battleground has become an open house for external intervention following the New Year massacre at the Alexandria Church. The Pope has called for Egyptian Christians to be placed under international trusteeship after the failure of their own government to protect them. Italy's Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, has demanded that the Western world should link aid to Egypt to Cairo's respect for the rights of its Christian minorities; the Italian president, meanwhile, has taken this one step further and called for action to protect Christians across the Arab world.
These interventions suggest a new crusade against the Arabs and are an affront to the Egyptian ruling elite and their counterparts in Arab states. Would Italy, France and America accept the intervention by Egypt, Iran or Turkey in their internal affairs taking on responsibility for the protection of Muslim minorities therein? Egypt didn't even withdraw its ambassador from Germany, or threaten to cut ties with Berlin, when German Muslim Marwa Sherbini was murdered by a German who had assaulted her, in the very court where she sought justice and protection from his threats.
Neither Israel nor Netanyahu will stand by Egypt in the face of these threats to its sovereignty. His promise to help Egypt secure the election of Farouk Hosni, Cairo's Minister of Culture, as Secretary-General of UNESCO by stopping Jewish extremist campaigns against his candidacy did not materialise. Ominously, that promise was made during an earlier meeting in Sharm el-Sheikh.
It would have been nice to be able to say that the strongest response to all these insulting foreign interventions would be to respect the rights of minorities throughout the Arab world, and treat them as equals with members of the majority groups. However, it is obvious that in many Arab countries the rights of the majorities are not even respected; what chance do the minorities have? The Arab world is replete with dictatorial regimes addicted to repression; unfortunately, the only way that minorities are equal to majorities is in terms of the injustice they all face.
President Mubarak does not need "friends" who mess with the security of his country, spy on its citizens and conspire to destroy Egypt's national unity; nor does his country.
Source: Al-Quds Al-Arabi
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.