In another remarkable article by Khaled abu Toameh, perhaps the best Arab journalist now practicing by Western standards, we find Hosni Mubarak, furious at the idea that his country might do a good deed by providing for their Palestinian brethren. The matter-of-fact way in which Mubarak asserts the logic — Israel must suffer no matter what the costs to the Palestinians — reveals just how implacable the hatreds. Mubarak is nowhere near the basic bar for even negotiating peace — love your own more than you hate your foes. Fine insight into the sources of Palestinian suffering. (Hat tip: fp)
JPost.com » Middle East Article
Feb 4, 2008 0:26 | Updated Feb 4, 2008 1:17
Egypt nixes Hamas call for alliance
By KHALED ABU TOAMEH
Under pressure from Egypt, Hamas on Sunday backtracked from its call for economic disengagement from Israel.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
Photo: AP [file]
“Egypt has made it clear that it does not want to be responsible for providing the Gaza Strip with fuel and electricity,” a senior Hamas official in Gaza City told The Jerusalem Post. “They have informed us that the Gaza Strip must remain Israel’s problem.”
The talk about economic separation from Israel is said to have enraged Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, who expressed fear that such a move would increase pressure on him to assume responsibility for the Gaza Strip.
The idea, which has been welcomed by Israel, was first floated by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh over the weekend.
In remarks published by the Hamas-affiliated Falasteen newspaper, Haniyeh said that “Gaza must maintain stronger economic links with Egypt as a way of economic disconnection from Israel.” He said Hamas was seeking to disconnect the Strip’s economy from Israel and receive food, fuel and electricity from Egypt.
“We said during our election campaign in 2006 that we are seeking to move toward an economic disengagement from the Israeli occupation,” Haniyeh said. “Egypt has a greater ability to meet the needs of Gaza.”
And, if they weren’t possessed by their hatred of Israel to the point where they can’t stop bombing it, they might be able to take care of their own people a little better.
Then this Egypt-Gaza border could become the beginning of an economic development that might assist the standard of living of the inhabitants of North Sinai.
Haniyeh’s statements were later echoed by his top aide, Ahmed Youssef, who called on Egypt to assume its responsibilities toward the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip so that they would no longer have to rely on Israel.
However, the two Hamas leaders were forced to retract their statements after being severely reprimanded by top Egyptian government officials, the Hamas official in Gaza City said. The Egyptians are also reported to have threatened to cut off ties with Hamas and ban Hamas representatives from entering its territory.
In other words, when the Egyptians want to get their way, they know how to do it.
The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has also rejected Hamas’s proposal, warning that such a move would absolve Israel of its responsibilities toward the Palestinians in Gaza. The PA also warned that “bringing Egypt back into the Gaza Strip” would kill the Palestinians’ hope of establishing an independent state in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.
In other words, the PA and Egypt are on the same page: make the Israelis pay for the Palestinian suffering to which we (other Arab leaders) will contribute no solution unless it makes life impossible for the Israelis (independent state in West Bank and Gaza Strip combined). It looks like Hamas, under some international scrutiny (as a “democratically-elected” government), and increasingly squeezed by an Israel which cannot justify to itself feeding an enemy actively attacking it, seems to be the most pragmatic players at the moment.
But that too may be cognitive egocentrism. The PA and Egypt still use the “secular” discourse of Palestine and the Palestinians, whereas Hamas is a branch of the Muslim brotherhood. Their vision of future borders has no respect for the sovereignty of any of the political “entities” now in existence — Israel, Egypt, Jordan, “Palestine.”
Youssef denied that Hamas wanted to separate the Strip from the West Bank.
“The West Bank and Gaza Strip is one unified geographical unit,” he stressed. Explaining Hamas’s call for economic disengagement from Israel, he added: “What I was talking about was the need to change the situation where the Gaza Strip would continue to depend on economic aid from Israel. “We want to stop Israel from exploiting the economic situation to blackmail the Palestinians.”
“Blackmailing” them into stopping the Qassam attacks. What transparent language! How obscured by our media that downplay the Qassam dimension.
In this sense, Youssef’s pragmatism might run something like this: Look Egypt, we need this electricity and materiel to bomb the Israelis. They’ve finally wised up — what took the idiots so long? — and cut off our supplies. Now we need you to supply us so we can really give it to them. The Egyptians, on the other hand, don’t want a destabilized border; they just want to the Israelis to suffer, like some Promethean chained to a rock, with his liver constantly gnawed upon. And if that means the Gazans suffer… hey, it’s great publicity, no?
Youssef said the idea did not change the fact that the Gaza Strip “is still under Israeli occupation.” But, he added, “All we want is to breathe freedom, find jobs, develop agriculture and promote trade.”
Now that’s interesting. Is that really true? Then Hamas’ best bet would have been to work with the Israelis, who have a far more dynamic economy than the Egyptians. But let’s say his honor precludes so humiliating a cooperation. Still, is he speaking for a significant portion of the Gazan population (who surely exist) that remembers the “good old days” of before the Intifada, when Gaza’s economy, linked to Israel’s under “truce” conditions, is much missed? Or is he manipulating this discourse to get pipelines open so he and his colleagues can pursue war?
In return for abandoning the idea, the Egyptians have promised to consider giving Hamas a central role in managing the Rafah border crossing, sources close to Hamas said.
According to the sources, Egypt promised to raise the issue of Hamas’s participation in controlling the crossing with the US and some EU countries, as well as with Israel.
“Our Egyptian brothers have promised to reopen the Rafah border crossing soon,” said Taher a-Nunu, spokesman for the Hamas government. “Our delegation to the Cairo talks [last week] reached an agreement with the Egyptians on the need to reopen the border crossing.”
Khalil Abu Lailah, a senior Hamas official in the Gaza Strip, said his movement was not opposed to the presence of forces loyal to PA President Mahmoud Abbas at the Rafah terminal. But, he continued, Hamas would not accept any deal that allowed Israel to have indirect control there.
“We’re prepared to control the border together with Abbas’s forces,” he said. “The border must be only under Palestinian-Egyptian control.”
Egypt said Sunday it would resist any fresh attempts by the Palestinians to breach its border with the Gaza Strip.
On Sunday, Egyptian border guards closed the last gap in the border with the Gaza Strip, ending the 11-day influx of Palestinians into Egypt. Palestinians who watched the Egyptians reseal the border expressed outrage and vowed to continue their efforts to tear down the barriers.
Now there’s one of the paradigm-setting cases for 21st century political jurisprudence: the border between Egypt and Gaza. Let’s hope the Israelis figure out how to make their demands felt. The consequences of failure will be a necessity to invade later on when the wrong items make it into Gaza.