Giving Hamas More Territory Won’t Bring Peace, or Cure Gaza’s Woes

Over the past few years, voices inside Israel have floated the idea of convincing Egypt to relinquish a strip of land on the western coast of the Sinai that could be joined to Gaza in order to create a geographically and economically viable Palestinian state. Notable among such Israelis is Benjamin Anthony, the head of a prominent organization of veterans of the Second Lebanon War. Anthony has succeeded in persuading a number of retired IDF officers to endorse this plan, which he has dubbed the New State Solution (NSS). But, argue Gregg Roman and Cynthia Farahat, the plan has little chance of succeeding:

The failed Oslo process showed that granting land to an undefeated enemy of Israel leads only to more violence if rejectionist incitement is allowed to flourish at the societal level. Why would a greater Gazan state fare any better? Because, the proponents say, what Palestinians really need is breathing space. . . . Instead of land-locked, resource-poor holdings in dreary old Judea and Samaria, the Palestinians would get “miles of beautiful, Mediterranean coastline . . . no less inviting than that of Tel-Aviv.” . . .

But that’s the Oslo Accords repackaged: give Palestinians self-rule with international aid to spur economic development, and soon the ranks of extremists will dwindle. If that were true, we wouldn’t be where we are today. It isn’t lack of space or resources that keeps most Palestinians poor; it’s bad governance and the rejectionism that sustains it. . . . The proposed state, which would be “fully sovereign . . . with the freedom to defend itself,” is sure to be dominated by Islamists, and its establishment likely would fuel Islamism among Palestinians in the West Bank, who would be granted absentee citizenship, residency rights where they presently reside, and little else. . .

All of this is academic, however, because there’s no evidence that President Sisi (or any other conceivable Egyptian ruler) would be willing to donate a major chunk of Sinai—hallowed ground for which thousands of Egyptian soldiers died fighting.

Granting more land to Hamas will not change the vision of many Palestinians to eradicate Israel; it will energize the Islamists.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Sinai Peninsula, Two-State Solution

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy