Strategic analysts have said that Cairo's role as mediator in the Israel-Hamas prisoner exchange deal puts Egypt back on centre stage of Middle East affairs. According to Major-General Abdel-Moneim Katto, an acknowledged expert on such matters, the exchange is an achievement of the January 25 Revolution and confirms the return of Egyptian attention to the Palestinian cause, which was neglected during the Mubarak era.
"Egypt has influence and a vital role to play," said General Katto in a press statement, "and has had a responsibility towards the Palestinian cause since the mid-thirties."
According to the retired general, the exchange deal sends three messages to the world: "First, Egypt doesn't forget Palestine and insists on the recognition of the state at the earliest possible moment; second, Egypt cares for the Palestinians as human beings deserving of their full rights; and third, the Egyptian role is key and cannot be ignored in any peace process."
He added his belief that the siege of Gaza cannot be lifted by any country except Egypt. General Katto also expressed his hope "that the positive support for reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas will enhance the efforts for the declaration of a Palestinian state."
As well as the message to the world, the prisoner exchange sends a message to the people of Egypt that there was never any reason to doubt Egypt's role, he said: "Egypt still carries a lot of weight in the region."
Meanwhile, presidential candidate Amr Moussa, the former Secretary General of the Arab League, praised Egypt's role in bringing the prisoner exchange to fruition. This step, he said, could be the first of many which will see the release of all Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails.
Writing on his Facebook page, Moussa added, "We should not forget that the settlement of the case requires hard work to end the Israeli occupation and grant the Palestinian people all their legitimate rights, including the establishment of an independent Palestinian state within the borders of June 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital."