It is no longer a secret that Israel, with its many and diverse arms around the world, is making a great effort to convince Egypt to “temporarily” accept refugees from Gaza.
The idea predates the current war, but it has been resurrected. Every day, its range of consumption expands and becomes more palatable, until it is completely developed.
The Financial Times reported last week that Benjamin Netanyahu presented the idea of settling Gaza residents in Egypt to his European guests. Some of them contemplated it, such as the leaders of the Czech Republic and Austria, and some of them considered it unrealistic, such as the leaders of Britain, France and Germany, under the pretext that Egypt would reject it.
All satanic ideas begin as trial balloons; strange and modest, surrounded by a mixture of reluctance, astonishment and rejection, then they begin to spread until they develop and end up as a reality.
The idea of resettlement is an Israeli dream; the plotting of it is American, its implementation Western with Arab blessing.
Obviously, Egypt’s leaders reject the idea in their public statements. This is the least they can do. However, when it comes to Arab officials, we must look beyond public statements and media heroics and look for what is not said. Egypt today is in an unenviable situation on every level, and its miserable condition does not qualify it to reject Western pressures or withstand temptations.
The idea was put forward (and will be put forward) in the form that the settlement would be temporary and to an empty, neglected space on the outskirts of the Sinai Peninsula.
In return, Egypt will receive packages of financial aid that it desperately needs and promises of political and strategic support on issues that are hurting Egypt, such as the Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.
Egypt’s problem is that pressures and temptations will not only come from Israel and the US.
There is the Arab role represented in regional capitals who share the dream of Yitzhak Rabin to wake up one day and find Gaza swallowed by the sea.
The Arab side in this equation has money and has proven its expertise in defending and consolidating American ideas.
The conviction today in some Arab capitals is that Hamas is the root of the problem, and that ending the current war without eliminating it, amounts to a defeat for Israel and its allies.
Former American diplomat, Dennis Ross, who worked for a long time in the Middle East, wrote in The New York Times on 27 October urging the rejection of a ceasefire because, in his opinion, it would strengthen Hamas. Ross takes refuge behind the Arab position. He said, “Over the past two weeks, when I talked to Arab officials throughout the region, whom I have long known, every single one told me that Hamas must be destroyed in Gaza. They made clear that if Hamas is perceived as winning, it will validate the group’s ideology of rejection, give leverage and momentum to Iran and its collaborators and put their own governments on the defensive.”
Egypt has space to propose conditions and change some details, but it does not have the power or the luxury of refusal, due to its economic fragility, the decline of its strategic role, and the declined strategic role and the centre of influence moving from Cairo to Arab capitals in the Gulf region.
In any case, the matter is in full swing. Today, Egypt is in need of other Arabs to save it from itself and from the trap that is being set for it regarding resettlement. Their support will compensate it for Western support and protect it from its costs.
They want a custom-made Gaza: It is certain that the Gaza Strip will not return to what it was before 7 October after the end of the current war.
Other than the smell of death and its remains, other than the human devastation and other than the material devastation, what is meant here is the political-administrative fate that is awaiting the Strip. Who will govern it, how and for how long?
Whatever the next scene will be, at first glance, it will appear to be a triumphant victory for Israel, but anyone who accepts that is wrong. The eradication of Hamas, assuming it happens, will not be the end but the beginning of something new. There are wars in which there is no victory, and the one that Israel is currently waging against the residents of Gaza is one of them.
There are many reasons that prevent victories, including that the fight is not between two traditional armies. The loser surrenders to the victor and signs an agreement of their defeat. Another is that victory is relative. Today, a battle may be won with fierce force, only to open the horizon for other battles in the future.
The most important reason is that the war is not fought over geographical borders, oil wells or a water crossing that ends with its control or loss. You may control the land, air and sea, close crossings and cut off electricity, water, sun and air, but can you guarantee that you will be able to control hearts?
It is all related to the law of life and the instinct of survival. It is a battle of existence.
Look at America’s occupation of Afghanistan for twenty years and then its flight, leaving Afghanistan to the same enemy it came to fight and recruited the entire world to support it in its fight. If the Americans had not fled, the Taliban and millions of Afghans would have fought them for another 400 years.
Look at France’s setback in Algeria after 132 years of brutal settler occupation. Look at the US in Vietnam. To the apartheid regime in South Africa, and Britain in the Indian sub-continent.
In a hundred years, more or less, Gaza will be added to the list and historians will talk about Israel drowning in the Gaza quagmire.
The new situation that the Israelis and Americans are preparing in collusion with Arab leaders for Gaza will be the beginning of a new phase in the story of the Gaza Strip and its relationship with the Occupation.
Those who breathe a sigh of relief over the end of Hamas are delusional, and anyone who forgets that the brutal terrorism practiced by Israel against residents of the Gaza Strip today is the foundation upon which the next generation of residents will build their relationship with those who killed thousands of their fathers, mothers and grandfathers and levelled their homes, schools, and hospitals to the ground in less than a month, is mistaken.
They will kill Hamas leaders and some of its members and demolish buildings, but what about Hamas as an idea? What about the generation that the current war will create? Who will be able to extinguish the fire of revenge within them?
The Israeli annihilation of the population of the Gaza Strip today is the basis on which the population will strengthen its relationship with this enemy, whose crimes go beyond those of the Nazis. Israelis who expect this relationship to be normal, free from hatred and without an overwhelming desire for revenge are delusional and they should prepare for what is coming.
This article appeared in Arabic in Al-Quds Al-Arabi on 13 November, 2023.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.