It is possible to assume that there are real reasons that made Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Yuval Steinitz gloat to the army leadership, security institutions and media elites in Tel Aviv last week after they sharply criticised him for openly admitting, a month ago, that Egypt President Abdel Fatah Al-Sisi ordered the destruction of the tunnels between Gaza and Sinai based on Israel’s request. Many security officials and senior Israeli journalists warned that Steinitz’s boldness to expose the reasons behind Al-Sisi’s decision to destroy the tunnels could pose a threat to the strategic relations between Tel Aviv and the government in Cairo, and may lead to Al-Sisi deciding to stop his cooperation with Tel Aviv. Many considered this enough reason to dismiss Steinitz from the Ministerial Committee on National Security Affairs and prohibit him from knowing “state secrets”. However, it was later apparent that Steinitz’s actions not only did not provoke Al-Sisi’s reservations, but instead, after the bomb was dropped by the Israeli minister, the Egyptian president sought to satisfy the right-wing ruling elites in Tel Aviv even more by complimenting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and praising his great leadership capabilities.
According to what those attending the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organisations told Netanyahu on the sidelines of the conference organised in occupied Jerusalem last Sunday, Al-Sisi told them in their meeting with him on 11 February in Cairo that Netanyahu is “a leader who possesses great powers, which assist him not only to lead his country, but can also advance the region and the entire world.” (Makor Rishon, 14 February).
The context in which Jewish organisation leaders revealed Al-Sisi’s personal impressions of Netanyahu has many deep connotations. Those who followed the order of speeches made during the Jewish leaders’ conference will note that these personal impressions were revealed in the context of the American Jewish leaders saying that the extreme policies and path adopted by Netanyahu’s government, the most extremist and racist government in the history of Israel, did not lead to the collapse of relations with several important Arab countries, but rather strengthened and expanded these relations. Therefore, it was not deplorable for Netanyahu to use what the Jewish leaders told him Al-Sisi said, to reinforce his position that Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories cannot possibly be the reason behind the instability in the region. He then cited the keenness of the Arab governments to extend the bridges of communication to Israel, both in secret and publically. (Makor Rishon, 14 February).
We could also say that Al-Sisi dealt the Israeli Zionist elites, who strongly criticised Netanyahu for his extremist policies and insistence on not making any real efforts to resolve the conflict with the Palestinians, a harsh blow. While many in Israel are accusing Netanyahu of threatening Israel’s future and existence by means of his policies, the president of the largest Arab country praised him.
What the American Jewish organisation leaders quoted Al-Sisi saying may constitute the most important winning card for Likud’s campaign during the next elections. The Egyptian president is telling Israelis that Netanyahu, who insists on settlements, Judaisation and on Israel keeping all of the West Bank, is the most suitable person to lead Israel.
Israel’s dependence on Al-Sisi has reached the point that the former Israeli army spokesman, General Avi Benayahu proposed that his services be used to confront the BDS global campaign. (Maariv, 27 September 2015).
Therefore, it was no coincidence that the Israeli extremist right-wing elites specifically announced that they would follow in Al-Sisi’s footsteps and praised the strategic partnership between his government and Israel in facing what Tel Aviv calls “Islamic fundamentalism”. Israel categorises Hamas under this banner, as it spearheads the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip.
A-Sisi intensified his cooperation with Israel, returned his ambassador to Tel Aviv, and expressed his intimate view of Netanyahu, who is being accused, within Israel itself, of committing war crimes. At the same time, over 500 Israeli figures, many of whom occupied senior positions in the political and diplomatic field, signed a petition calling on Europe to boycott Netanyahu’s government due to its extremist policies against Palestinians. (Makor Rishon, 29 January).
By means of his unconditional partnership with Israel, Al-Sisi is not only helping Netanyahu to face the Palestinian resistance, but is also dealing a harsh blow to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and his political approach. Abbas needs Arab and international support in order to force Israel to change its current policies, which have reduced the margins of his manoeuvres. This ultimately led to the outbreak of the Jerusalem Intifada that not only threatens Israel, but its continuation will draw the curtain on Abbas’s time and approach.
In his insistence on this type of relationship with Netanyahu, who vowed not to allow the establishment of a Palestinian state during his term, Al-Sisi is burying a knife in Abbas’s back and all those who adopt his approach.
In short, if Al-Sisi was genuine in his alleged fight against “extremism”, then he must stand, without hesitation, by Mahmoud Abbas, who is considered the most extreme version of “moderation” in his confrontation of Netanyahu and his colleagues.
Unfortunately, all that Al-Sisi is concerned with is repaying Netanyahu the favour, as he played a serious role in gathering international legitimacy for his government. Therefore, he insists on improving Israel’s capabilities of confronting any Palestinian and Arab party that does not accept the insanity of the right-wing’s extremism.
Translated from Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, 22 February 2016.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.