This Is How Sisi Lost Egypt’s Important Role in the Palestinian Cause

a year ago




Historically, Egypt was the most important Arab mediator in the Palestinian cause thanks to its geographical proximity and its long political contributions, but the importance of this role declined significantly during the era of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime.

The leaders of the previous Egyptian regimes contributed significantly to shaping the fate of the Palestinians, from Gamal Abdel Nasser, who supported the Palestinian cause to defend Arab nationalism, to Anwar el-Sadat, who was the first Arab leader to sign a “peace” agreement with the Israel Occupation.

Still, Hosni Mubarak tacitly agreed upon the Israeli aggression on Gaza in 2008 and put pressure on the people of the besieged Strip for years.

So, when the Arab Spring rocked the Middle East a decade ago, perhaps no one looked more closely at the Egyptian revolution than the Palestinians, hoping for renewed momentum and support for their cause.

This is what happened for only one year after the late Mohamed Morsi came to power as the first elected civilian president in Egypt, before the army commander at the time and the current head of the regime, Sisi, pulled the rug from under his feet in 2013.


Current Situation

During the Sisi era, the Egyptian regime’s support for the Palestinian cause has diminished and shattered all expectations.

Over the past years, Egypt has supervised holding multiple meetings to achieve national reconciliation between the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, and the Palestinian National Liberation Movement, Fatah, but this role stopped months ago.

The regression can also be seen in the absence of the formal protocol statements that previous Egyptian regimes used to issue in condemning the Israeli Occupation’s violations.

This was noticeable in the current period after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu formed the most extremist government in Israeli history on December 22, 2022.

Egypt was remarkably and unprecedentedly absent in condemning the policies of this government and its extremist ministers, such as Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir and Minister of Finance Bezalel Smotrich. Amid the two ministers’ escalating violations in the West Bank, Egypt just denounced specific events.

The Israeli Occupation forces carry out daily assassinations against young Palestinians, especially in the northern West Bank, along with taking advanced measures to annex the area.

The decline in the number of Egyptian statements comes shortly before Ramadan, during which settlers intensify their incursions into al-Aqsa Mosque, as it coincides with the periods of Jewish holidays, especially Easter, which escalates tension every year.

On February 13, 2023, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry condemned the Israeli government’s decision to “legitimize” settlement outposts in the occupied Palestinian territories, considering it “a provocation,” and warned about dire repercussions.

This statement came a day after the Israeli Cabinet agreed to legalize 9 illegal outposts in the West Bank.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry confirmed that this decision “represents a flagrant violation of international resolutions that affirm the illegality or legitimacy of settlement activity in all its forms and manifestations.”

It called on “Tel Aviv” to “immediately stop all unilateral measures, including home demolitions, arrests and raids targeting the Palestinian people and their property.”

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs stressed that “the only way to calm the situation is to stop those practices that violate international laws and to create an environment to return to the negotiating table.”

On the other hand, the Egyptian regime has been active during the past year in condemning the Palestinian shootings that come in response to the violations of the Israeli Occupation and the continuous assassinations of Palestinian youths.

The latest was Egypt’s condemnation of a shooting attack on January 28, 2023, that took place in Jerusalem (al-Quds) a day earlier, killing 7 settlers in addition to the attacker and wounding 6 others.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry said, in a statement, that Cairo “expresses its total rejection and strong condemnation of the attack in East Jerusalem and affirms its condemnation of all operations targeting civilians.”

Cairo also condemned an operation that took place in the Bnei Brak city, east of Tel Aviv, which resulted in the killing of 5 settlers, including an Israeli policeman, at the end of March 2022.

At the time, the spokesman for the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Hafez, expressed his “deep condemnation of all acts of violence and terrorism that target civilians, which only leads to a further deterioration of the situation between the Palestinians and Israelis.”

It was remarkable that Egypt talked about ongoing mediations to end the Israeli aggression on Gaza in August 2022 without denouncing the assassinations and bombings of the leaders and areas of the Islamic Jihad Movement.

This lackluster position came despite “Israel” carrying out a “treacherous and surprising assassination” during Egyptian contacts with the two parties, according to what was stated at the time by the media official of the Islamic Jihad Movement, Daud Shehab.

Finally, it was noted that the rhetoric of concern and the exertion of American pressure on “Israel” exceeded Egyptian attention.

Thus, the Biden administration urged the Netanyahu government to avoid carrying out a major military operation in the northern West Bank and to constantly warn of unilateral measures that would escalate events.

In early March 2023, State Department spokesman Ned Price described the comments of Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in which he said Huwara should be “wiped out,” as “irresponsible, repugnant and disgusting.”

“Just as we condemn Palestinian incitement to violence, we condemn these provocative remarks that also amount to incitement to violence,” he told reporters.

Price urged Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and other senior Israeli officials to “publicly and clearly reject and disavow these comments.”

“We expect the Israeli government to ensure full accountability and legal prosecution of those responsible for these attacks in addition to compensation for the loss of homes and property,” he said during a press briefing, calling the Sunday night attack by hundreds of settlers in the northern West Bank town of Huwara “completely unacceptable.”

On February 26, the town of Huwara and a number of villages in Nablus witnessed unprecedented attacks by settlers, which resulted in the death of a Palestinian, the injury of dozens, and the burning and destruction of dozens of Palestinian homes and cars, after two settlers were killed in a shooting at a car.

The Israeli authorities did not announce the arrest or prosecution of the settlers responsible for the attacks in the Palestinian towns.


Reasons and Expectations

After the Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip in May 2021, known as the battle of Sword of Jerusalem (Saif al-Quds), the Sisi regime started to exploit the tension in order to whitewash its image internationally, strengthen influence regionally, and achieve internal gains.

The Times of Israel quoted, on June 11 of the same year, Sarah Smierciak, a Middle East political economist, telling AFP that “Sisi no doubt sees this reconstruction aid as an investment in exchange for political influence—both on Egypt’s border in Gaza and at the international level to enhance his influence.”

“Egypt is banking on a $500-million Gaza reconstruction project to shore up its influence in the Middle East, capitalizing on clout it garnered by brokering a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas,” The Times of Israel said.

The Israeli newspaper pointed out that “President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi pledged the cash injection to rebuild the Gaza Strip after an 11-day conflict last month in which Hamas and other Gaza terror groups battered southern and central Israel with thousands of rockets and Israel responded with hundreds of airstrikes at Gaza targets.”

“Sisi was widely praised for playing a pivotal role in negotiating an end to the deadly hostilities on May 21, including by US President Joe Biden.”

The aid package is in the form of construction undertaken by Egyptian firms—a playbook that Sisi has used to great effect domestically since taking power in 2014, according to the same newspaper.

With a promise to stop a ceasefire in May 2021, Sisi has presented himself as a point of reference for negotiations to reach a permanent truce between Hamas and “Israel.”

The Institute for International and Strategic Relations believes that Cairo wanted to invest these contacts in its favor with geopolitical intelligence, especially as it realizes the strategic and diplomatic advantage it will win by playing the role of mediator in such a hot region.

“This means the existence of a distinct diplomatic channel as well for any future negotiations, which could reach Washington, the real destination that Cairo seeks to reach,” the institute stated on October 19, 2021.

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German political party foundation, said that the Sisi regime is keen not to damage relations with “Israel” for several reasons, most notably the participation of the two sides in protecting the common borders from the rebels in the Sinai Peninsula who have blown up joint gas pipelines in recent years.

In a study published in January 2022, the German political center indicated that relations with “Israel” are of great importance to Egypt, but more importantly, the expanded benefits that Cairo receives from the United States as a reward.

Since the signing of the peace treaty with “Tel Aviv” in 1979, it has received $1.3 billion in US military aid annually, earmarked for combating terrorism, border security, and non-proliferation programs, which also contributes to Israeli security, the center said.

Moreover, Cairo gains diplomatic support from these strategic relations with the United States, paving the way for the realization of its national interests, especially with regard to a number of large domestic crises, including threats to its water security in relation to the conflicts with Ethiopia and Sudan.

On the other hand, critics of the Egyptian regime say that Cairo is exploiting the Palestinian issue as a mere means to push its own issues and achieve its goals internationally, while in reality, there is little unprecedented interest in the Palestinian people or their political interests.