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Netanyahu in Egypt, but not Assad

January 24, 2014 at 2:21 pm

By Fahmi Huwaidi

Although it is humbling to read that Netanyahu is coming to Egypt, two questions arise: are relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv entirely divorced from Israeli actions in the occupied Palestinian Territories? And is the pan-Arab conflict going to be more difficult to solve than the Arab-Israeli version?

Even though it has been more than thirty years since Egypt’s President Sadat made peace with Israel, I still cannot get my head around the fact that Egypt’s doors are wide open to Israeli leaders who are, without exception, responsible for murders and war crimes. Call it what you will, their presence in Egypt is not just a nightmare one day to disappear, but a reflection of Egypt’s current situation and an insult to its martyrs, its people and their loyalty.

These words are not merely deep personal feelings; they are also closely related to the first question. I do not understand how Israeli leaders can do what they want against the Palestinians and then wash their hands of their blood and crimes, pack their bags and arrive with a smile and a handshake in Cairo or Sharm El-Sheikh, to be welcomed as friends and honoured guests. I do not understand how Israel can continue with its expansionist settlement programme, the Judaization of Jerusalem, the demolition of Palestinian homes, the expulsion of tens of thousands of people of Gazan origin from the West Bank, and still fool the world by claiming that it has “eased” the blockade while continuing to bring the Gazans to their knees. I do not understand how Israel can assault a humanitarian convoy in international waters, kill nine civilian activists, and then blackmail the Palestinians and invite them to an absurd game of negotiations.

I know that this game is all about taking rather than giving, and manoeuvring without obligations, but how can Israel do all of these things and still be able to send its Prime Minister to Egypt to consult about “advancing the peace process”?

I comprehend that the US President can be fooled by the sleight of hand between Israel’s words and its deeds, because his eyes are on the congressional elections in the autumn and he needs the support of the Zionist Israel lobby. But it remains a mystery why we close our eyes to Netanyahu’s actions and open a hall of honour for him at our airports so that he can use Egypt’s influence to put even more pressure on the Palestinians and continue to deceive them, instead of being pressed by the Egyptians to change his country’s oppressive policies.

If we are honest enough to declare that we no longer care about the dignity of the Palestinians and their interests, then surely the dignity of Egypt, its prestige, history and martyrs all deserve to be defended by taking a stance based on a basic level of self-respect. We have several options, one of which is the explicit declaration that Egypt’s doors are closed to Israeli leaders, and their visits are not merely postponed, until and unless they respond to the current demands of the Palestinians by lifting the siege and stopping settlement activities.

The second sobering thought about this situation is that official relations between Cairo and Tel Aviv are currently stronger than those between Cairo and Damascus. While the doors are open to Netanyahu they are closed to Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Although I am not aware of who carries the responsibility for this state of affairs, the impression is that while Egypt could resolve its differences with Israel it cannot – or will not – do so with Syria. The conclusion must be that pan-Arab reconciliation is less achievable than Arab-Israeli rapprochement.

The irony is that everyone is talking about Palestinian reconciliation but no one mentions the Arab split embodied in the current tension between Egypt and Syria, the real causes of which are the same as those behind the Palestinian division. One cannot imagine why the focus is on relations between Gaza and the West Bank while the real problem lies between Cairo and Damascus. The devilish policy-makers who play with our fate do not want the inconsistencies of Arab politics to be ironed out, to the approval, apparently, of at least some of us.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.