Tzipi Livni may no longer be Israel's foreign minister but she still has a capacity to cause diplomatic tremors. Last weekend she did just this by declaring that there was an agreement between Israel and Egypt to strangle Hamas. Since there was no official affirmation or denial from Cairo, despite calls from Hamas to do so, Livni's remarks evoked a flood of commentary. Few doubted that there is indeed an Israeli-Arab axis, spearheaded by Egypt, whose immediate aim is to dismantle Hamas' control over the Gaza Strip. Ultimately, it also seeks to eradicate from the region all structures of what they call political Islam.
In her heyday as foreign minister Livni secured in December 2008 what was perceived as the green light from the Mubarak regime to launch Israel's Operation Cast Lead against the Gaza Strip. Standing beside Egypt's then foreign minister Ahmad Aboul Gheit, the former Mossad operative vowed to retaliate against Palestinian rocket attacks. 'This is something that has to be stopped, and this is what we're going to do.' This, to all intents and purposes, was the declaration of war which began two days later.
Despite the absence of an explicit, official response from the Egyptian authorities there were indicators of how Livni's remarks went down. Supporters of the regime dismissed them saying that they were so accustomed to such Israeli claims that these latest didn't merit a response.
Notwithstanding, an item posted by the military spokesman Lt. Col. Muhammad Samir on his Facebook page the day after Livni made her declaration did highlight to some measure the current level of collaboration between Egypt and Israel. He noted that the Egyptian army had destroyed a total of 1,659 tunnels in the border area between Gaza and Egypt; a feat which the Israelis themselves could not have pulled off from their position on the northern and eastern borders of Gaza.
What the officer did not concede, however, was that this was largely due to American assistance. Since 2008 the US had given the Egyptian army equipment worth $23 million to identify and destroy the tunnels, which for the past eight years have been the lifeline for Gaza's population.
Furthermore, in one year since the overthrow of Egypt's civilian President Mohamed Morsi the regime in Cairo have closed the Rafah crossing for a total of 320 days. The reason, they claim, is to counter security threats in the Sinai.
Apart from the tunnels and Rafah crossing, the Egyptian authorities had yet another lethal weapon in its arsenal. That was the state-backed media, which during the same period revelled in an orgy of anti-Hamas vitriol that reached its climax with their wholehearted support for the latest Israeli onslaught on Gaza. In a country where press freedom has long been dead and buried, such ranting could not take place without official approval and support.
Undoubtedly, the easiest way for Egypt to dispel Livni's claim and reassure the besieged Palestinians would be to open the Rafah crossing. Until this is done they will be seen as complicit in the crime of collective punishment of the Palestinians in Gaza. Their only offence is that they voted for and continue to support Hamas, an off-shoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, which the Sisi regime is determined to destroy.
With this outlook Cairo, like Tel Aviv, was never favourably disposed to the recent reconciliation between Hamas and Fatah. Not that they favoured Abbas any more than Hamas. So instead of encouraging Palestinian unity they not only played on the differences between Fatah and Hamas, but equally between Mahmoud Abbas and his arch-rival Muhammad Dahlan.
While Egypt had nothing to gain from this connivance, Israel remained the sole beneficiary.
For their part the Palestinians have never concealed their unease with current Egyptian policy. Instead of supporting them against the Israeli occupier they have acted, at best, as hired intermediaries and at worst as willing partners in Israeli crimes.
In the aftermath of the military campaign the political battle will be long and protracted. Having failed to achieve their declared objectives the Israeli government will rally its regional and international allies, as Livni suggests, to secure maximum political advantage.
Meanwhile, in Israel the long daggers are already out for Netanyahu. His opponents maintain that victory cannot be measured by the number of Palestinians killed but in the achievement of stated objectives. Israel's declared objectives were; the destruction of the tunnels; ending the rockets; and destruction of Hamas. By their own admission none of these have been accomplished.
As for their unannounced goals, they are to do with the unfulfilled Zionist dream in Palestine. A reading of Israel's media during the last month was dominated by the rhetoric of ethnic cleansing and territorial expansionism that has long been associated with the Greater Israel project. It is simply mind-boggling that Egypt's rulers, and those who support them, are oblivious to the fact that their countries are also slated for occupation given that Greater Israel expands from the Euphrates to the Nile.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.