The Egyptian army and Israel have grown much closer in the weeks since the coup d’etat. In a Ha’aretz report, Amos Harel, suggested that the Egyptian and Israeli relationship now was in fact stronger than it was during the rule of Mubarak. Following the coup, it was Israel that the Egyptians turned to ensure that the American government and the new Egyptian coup regime would reach an understanding. Although the toppling of the democratically elected government was widely accepted as a coup, Israel prevented the use of the term and encouraged America to accept events as a regime change. In doing so, Israel ensured that American financial support to Egypt could continue, as acceptance of a coup would mean that aid would have to be suspended under American law.
Israel’s role in securing continued US aid for Egypt’s army has made it possible for a stronger bond between the two to develop. Events in Egypt since the coup have demonstrated how grateful Egypt’s army are to Israel. Indeed, the Egyptian army’s particular focus on the Sinai and Gaza has won favour with the Israelis. Gazans in particular have been bearing the brunt of the warmer relationship between the two regimes. In recent weeks, the Egyptian army have closed all tunnels between Egypt and Gaza and restricted the border crossing at Rafah. The closure of the tunnels has had a significant impact, forcing Gaza to turn to Israel and import fuel through Israel at six times the cost. The tunnel economy, which has provided basic needs for Gaza’s blockaded residents, has been shut down and will cause further financial stress to the Gazan economy. The restrictions on the Rafah crossing have limited the travel of Palestinians in to and out of Gaza, including those who need access to urgent medical treatment. The Rafah crossing had allowed freer movement during the presidency of Mohamed Morsi, much to Israel’s chagrin.
Egypt’s new political direction has also left Hamas out in the cold, this time much to Israel’s delight. Prior to the coup, with increasing support from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt Hamas’ strength in Gaza had increased and Hamas used the opportunity to oppose Assad’s civil war in Syria. With the opposition to Assad, Hamas relied on Egypt, but with the turn of events, Hamas now face increasing isolation. To further weaken Hamas, the Egyptian army circulated rumours of Hamas’s involvement in terrorist activities in Egypt. Last week’s attempted assassination of the Egyptian interior minister was used to implicate Hamas, when local media sources suggested that they had been involved in the bomb attack. Despite the clear fallacy of the claim, the rumours have worked to suppress Hamas in Gaza, as the Israeli’s have wanted to do for some time now.
In the Sinai, the Egyptian army have been circulating rumours of terrorist activity too. With claims that Islamist terror groups are active in the region, the army have increased their presence with more troops, tanks and helicopters in the region. Under the Israel-Egypt peace treaty the Egyptians require Israel’s agreement for them to be able to do so, and in yet another example of the Egypt-Israel bond growing stronger, the Israeli’s have sanctioned the increase. The Egyptian army have reported killed 100 activists in the Sinai, wounded and arrested hundreds of others. Further reports have indicated that the Egyptian army is currently developing buffer zone in the Sinai to prevent weapons and terrorist smuggling into and out of Gaza. Reports suggested that the buffer zone would be a military controlled area and that the residents currently there were being forced from their homes with no warnings.
The Egyptian army have been able to mount a coup against the democratically elected Egyptian president, ensure that America continues to bank roll the country and strengthen their grip on power since the coup thanks to the work, and the words, of the Israelis. Whilst they may not be making the strengthening of their relationship public, the Egyptians want to ensure that the Israeli’s know how grateful they are for their support. In this vein, the army’s attacks to protect Israel’s interests are sure to increase.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.