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The Egyptian ceasefire initiative and the questions it raises

July 19, 2014 at 3:02 pm

The diplomacy behind the Gaza ceasefire efforts face some critical moments. The intention appears to be to have the Arab League adopt the Egyptian initiative and force it on the Palestinians; it could even be promoted internationally as a political document in a dysfunctional and troubled negotiating process.

How do I see the new Egyptian proposal, and Egypt’s role in general, in terms of the current Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip?

A biased initiative

For a start, the terms of the ceasefire mediated by Egypt lack the national conditions that the Palestinians want. It displays arrogance in equating the aggressors with their victims; the Israeli offensive with Palestinian resistance and self-defence. The Egyptian initiative gives the occupation and Israel a “pardon of innocence” in the eyes of the entire international community, by insisting on equating the aggression of the occupation with the work of the Palestinian resistance forces.

In addition, the initiative is biased and does not acknowledge the magnitude of the aggression against the steadfast Palestinians in the Gaza Strip throughout an almost a decade-long siege. Gaza has suffered over a thousand air raids since 8 July. In terms of tonnage of explosives landing on the territory, Gaza has had more over the past few years, pro-rata, than the city of Dresden during World War Two.

The Egyptians have overlooked the military achievements of the resistance, even if some consider them to be modest. They do not want the resistance to gain politically, beginning with the lifting of the illegal blockade that has been imposed on Gaza for years, even though this is an international demand before it is a national Palestinian demand.

By providing a purely Israeli solution for the Palestinians that is consistent with the desires of the Netanyahu government, the Egyptians have ignored the national Palestinian interests. Amazingly, it calls for high-level Israeli and Palestinian delegations to accept the ceasefire and continue trust-building measures which, ultimately, means dragging the Palestinians into something beyond a ceasefire towards more futile negotiations. In short, it is a call to humiliate the Palestinian side.

There is no acknowledgement that Israel is an occupying power and that the Palestinians are a nation under occupation who are exercising their right to resist; they are not committing “hostile acts”. As such, the ceasefire proposal will only feed Israel’s appetite for arrogance and give it the green light to commit ever more brutal acts should the resistance groups “break” a “truce” about which they have not been consulted.

Unanticipated position

Why is Egypt playing this role with regards to the Gaza Strip? Its position is taken after each round of aggression against the Gaza Strip. Isn’t it time to lift the restrictions that have restrained the official position for many years, and to work to restore Egypt’s historical stance on the Palestinian issue; the same Egypt that sacrificed rivers of blood for the sake of Palestine? Or is it time to formulate another official (not popular) Egyptian position that helps the Palestinians in Gaza and favours a fair and just solution, just as Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Madagascar and the Cape Verde Islands, among others, favour the Palestinians?

Every time the Israelis wage a war on Gaza, all eyes turn to Egypt, not only because it is a central and influential Arab country, but because it is also the only Arab country sharing borders with Gaza; there would be no door to the outside world without Egypt. The attitude of the government in Cairo is influential in developments and the course of events in Gaza and the wider Palestinian liberation cause due to the geopolitics and national security concerns. The history of the relationship between Egypt and Palestine cannot just be pushed to one side or discounted.

Unfortunately, since the first Camp David Accords were signed in 1979, Egypt has not been playing the role expected of it by the Palestinians as a force to put pressure on the Israeli occupation. Instead, it has been reduced to the role of “messenger” between the Palestinians and Israelis; on occasions, it has carried threats and warnings from the Israeli government. Some of these warnings were disinformation communicated by General Omar Suleiman, Egypt’s Director of General Intelligence for many years, who managed the issues of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the resistance factions. When he died he took many explosive secrets with him. Suleiman’s boss, ousted President Hosni Mubarak, is on record as saying, “I am not with either side; I am just a mediator.”

Egypt and the loss of its role

Official Egypt (not the popular Egypt), is still losing its leadership role in the region; a role that should match its weight in the Arab world. There has been no strategic change in this role in terms of managing the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, and the situation in the Gaza Strip.

The main reason for this is the fact that the official Egyptian position is at a standstill despite all the changes in Egypt over the past four years. These changes pose many questions about the role of the current military-led government.

Unfortunately, and I say this bitterly, President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi has outdone all of his predecessors in terms of his poor performance in the current war on Gaza. He reminds me of the involvement of the Mubarak regime in preparations for aggression against Gaza on more than one occasion. Al-Sisi sent the current Director of General Intelligence to Tel Aviv two days before the Israeli aggression on Gaza; this echoed Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s visit to Cairo in 2008, just days before Operation Cast Lead was launched on the Gaza Strip.

The siege on Gaza under Al-Sisi is different to what it was during Mubarak’s era; it is not only limited to closing the Rafah crossing and destroying the tunnels, but has also progressed to labelling the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, as “a terrorist organisation”. This is yet another unfortunate and disastrous aspect of the current official Egyptian position.

In addition, Egyptian media outlets, including some of the top icons of the state media, have misguided the public and launched a major campaign against the Palestinians and the Gaza Strip. It has even extended to some media calling on Netanyahu’s government to continue its attacks on the Gaza Strip in order to uproot the Palestinian factions, starting with Hamas.

Translated from Al Jazeera net, 17 July, 2014

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