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Will the Egyptian regime change its stance on Hamas?

We are not placing an Egyptian court's refusal to classify Hamas among its watch list of terrorist groups within the context of this question. It was, after all, a decision that resulted from recent developments and, therefore, the natural progression of an expected outcome. Placing Hamas indefinitely on a terrorism list would mean cutting off the group indefinitely and entirely; this would prevent it from participating in any way in the Palestinian arena. The question would then become, how could those who want to become involved in Palestinian political circles do so without dealing with the strongest group within them?

The recent developments that I am speaking about relate to the meetings between members of Egyptian security agencies and senior officials within Hamas. Of course, Fatah is also involved from time to time as it seeks to alleviate the situation in Gaza by negotiating the opening of the Rafah border crossing, which has been closed for the past two years apart from a few days, thanks to the retreat of the Egyptian media that is so easily controlled it is as if it operates by remote control.

There is an inevitable truth to all of this that no one can deny; the relationship between the Egyptian regime and Israel is currently in its prime. The golden state of this relationship was acknowledged by many in Netanyahu's circle who have confirmed that this is the greatest period for Egyptian-Israeli relations since the Mubarak era. In fact, Netanyahu has warned all of his coalition ministers about the dangers of commenting on anything to do with Egyptian affairs. And yet, the clowns in the Egyptian media wage their attacks on the West from time to time simply because Western countries are critical of Egypt's current security practices. It is clear that the Egyptian regime has a bias that favours Israel. It is as if the conflict with it has ended.

The reality is crystal clear and expected: the Egyptian regime wants to return the favour to Netanyahu who remains its biggest public relations advocate in Washington and other Western capitals. Because stabilising the domestic situation is Cairo's biggest priority, it is only natural that it compromises on other political stances to ensure this outcome.

This does not mean that the Egyptian regime will be become a part of the Zionist entity. On the contrary, negotiations will continue to take place as part of a greater effort to alleviate the political impasses that are plaguing the region. The state of affairs for the time being will be defined more so by coordination rather than clear contradiction.

Among the factors that are prompting Cairo to open lines of communication with Hamas, is the initiatives taken by Tony Blair and other Western officials in order to reach a long-term ceasefire in return for lifting the blockade and the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. Another issue is that of the Gaza sea port. The potential change in the status quo is what has mobilised politicians in Cairo to talk with Hamas because they know that if the port in Gaza is developed, it would take the territory out of Egypt's direct control and zone of influence. Perhaps what also enabled Egypt's response to the matter was the fact that Hamas has made it obvious that it is not too enthusiastic about Tony Blair's suggestions and that it would prefer to open the doors of discussion with Egypt instead.

The dictatorship of geography has forced itself on Hamas as well as anyone else who exercises partial or full control of the Gaza Strip; it is thus not in Hamas's interests to break ties with Egypt regardless of the politics of the government in Cairo. Yet, the question that remains is simple: to what extent can Hamas cooperate with Egypt in a way that would result in lifting the siege without giving into the demands and interests of the enemy, especially when it comes to disarmament?

In any and all cases, opening the doors of communication and cooperation with the Egyptian regime is still the better outcome of those that are possible and would be the least threatening to the Palestinian cause and Hamas. The question now is whether or not the Egyptian regime will force Hamas to accept a resolution on Israel's terms, which of course the movement would never agree to; at least we hope it wouldn't.

Translated from Addustour newspaper, 29 June, 2015

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

AfricaArticleEgyptMiddle EastOpinionPalestine
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