Gaza: Still the Same Old Egypt?

Palestinian Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip Ismail Haniya receives Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil in Gaza City, on 16 November 2012. (Photo: AFP - Mahmud Hams)

By: Ibrahim al-Amin

Published Saturday, November 17, 2012

The first Israeli strike was severe. Ahmed al-Jaabari was assassinated. He was Hamas’ Imad Mughniyeh. His loss may have been even greater to the movement, given its organizational constraints and exceptionally centralized decision-making processes, but it can be recovered nevertheless. Jaabari put plans in place to fill the vacuum.

On another level, around 20 storage sites housing Hamas’ strategic missile arsenal were targeted by 22 Israeli airstrikes. Israel sounded confident about the success of the operation, but the resistance forces have not issued statements detailing their losses or clarifying the facts. All evidence indicates that the raids caused major damage.

Another consequence of the strike relates to the resistance forces’ reaction to the opening salvos of Jaabari’s assassination and the bombing of the missile stores. This forced all leaders and members of the resistance, especially in Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to become much more cautious than usual. Their prime concern was to avoid taking steps that would subject them to further losses.

This led to some paralysis and loss of initiative. They were wary of risk after it became clear that the enemy had achieved serious breakthroughs on the intelligence front – whether human or technical – enabling it to assassinate Jaabari and then target the missiles. Israel also sought to target a number of other important military commanders at the same time. This compelled the resistance forces to resort to backup plans and employ different means for communicating with and deploying fighters. The result was considerable confusion during the first 20 hours of the assault.

It is not being denied that the resistance’s missile arsenals have been badly depleted, but it is clear that it retains a reasonable amount in reserve – as developments over the past 48 hours have demonstrated. For the resistance, the most important thing now is to choose the right moment to access that reserve and to use it in a manner that achieves the main current objective of retaliation: to cross red lines. Hence the targeting of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Every Fajr-5 missile firing is a qualitative escalation in its own right.

But how can the resistance continue the battle?

Here, the discussion inevitably goes back to the thinking of the leadership that controls decision making in Egypt and Gaza, a discussion that is fast becoming confined to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Palestine: What does the Egyptian government intend to do, and what can Hamas not ignore?

The other resistance groups are not expected to pursue separate agendas that challenge any decisive understanding reached with Hamas. Even when these groups were sounded out by European and some Arab countries about the possibility of reaching a quick truce, their reply was direct and clear: “Reach agreement with Hamas, and then come back to us. Our demands will not exceed Hamas’. But pending an initiative, the decision to retaliate on the ground is fully operative.”

Some points need to be made about the Egyptian government in this regard.

First, the decision to expel the Israeli ambassador and recall the Egyptian ambassador cannot be called a surprise. It was the very minimum expected of a government that came to power after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak who was fully enlisted in the campaign against the resistance.

Second, as with recalling the ambassador, moves like sending the prime minister or other ministers to Gaza or opening the Rafah crossing do not answer the question about Egypt’s strategic decision. For the Palestinians, they do not mark a radical change in policy.

Third, the steps taken by Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi and his aides can be seen as attempts to appease the Egyptian revolutionary masses who overthrew Mubarak and brought the Muslim Brotherhood to power. These steps seek to contain any backlash from a public that will not tolerate a rerun of the last Israeli assault on Gaza. But is this enough for the Palestinians?

Since Wednesday evening, Egyptian intelligence has engaged leaders of the resistance groups in Palestine to form a cease-fire agreement. In other words, it’s repeating the same old moves. Similarly, the sole aim of the Egyptian leadership’s contacts with other Arab states and the Europeans and Americans has been to press Israel to re-commit to the truce.

Post-Mubarak Egypt is thus re-assuming the role of Mubarak’s Egypt: that of mediator between torturer and victim. However sympathetic the humanitarian stance may be, if it does not translate into politics, then Egypt has not changed.

The only step that could disprove this assessment would be the opening of the borders with Gaza – not just for humanitarian aid, but for all the forms of assistance that the resistance now needs in the Strip, including volunteers.

While power has shifted in Egypt, it does not look as though the former regime has fallen.

Ibrahim al-Amin is editor-in-chief of Al-Akhbar.

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

"Egypt has changed, but what al-Amin misses is the difference between diplomacy and action."

- You mean the difference between talking-the-talk and walking-the-walk?

"The writer of this piece still uses the rhetoric of the 1950s and early 1960s."

- An you are still using the rhetoric of Mubarak and similar Arab puppets.

"About time you grow."

- About the Muslims (and Egyptian gov.) grew a spine. Your own Muslims brothers and sisters, Arab brothers and sisters, party member (!) brothers and sisters are being besieged and killed for the last decade, and all you can do is mediate between them and the oppressive Zionists!!!?? Allahu akbar.

Egypt has changed, but what al-Amin misses is the difference between diplomacy and action. The writer of this piece still uses the rhetoric of the 1950s and early 1960s. About time you grow.

Your articale is full of hate and lies about the reason for this escaletion. Its the hamas who fired 200 missile on israel 3 days before the operation begins, fireing on 1,000,000 israely civiles un armed. Shame on you.

And who controls Lebanon? Hezbollah whose very existence is tied to the butcher of Syria and his father. Is it so easy for you to focus on condemning Israel for it's actions in Gaza while you look the other way when your neighbor butchers his people? Hypocrites,

The Egyptians, after the rule of Muhammad Ali Pasha of 1840s were never a force to reckon with. Lately, under Nasser and Sadat they tried to fight Israel but then surrendered to US and Israel trough peace treaty. Today it has no money, technology or courage to fight Israel or say anything against the will of US who along with its GCC slaves control the bankrut economy of Egypt through some aid and loan. They know Egypt can't do anything against Israel as it is the Jews who control the American economy and the forign policy.

All that Morsi can do is talk and talk like few other coward Arab leaders but can't cross the lines set by US and Saudis who bankroll his hungry poor countrymen. Only fall of the barbarians kings of the GCC can bring real change in the Middle East so the Arab mass can take control of the depleting oil of the Middle East. Unfortuantely, today's arabs are too arrogant and ignorant and Allah doesn't like that at all. So they have to suffer quite a few time unless and until a new generation of Arabs are born and take control of their fate.

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