Why Tensions Are Rising between Israel and Egypt

Ahead of the current operation in Rafah, the IDF seized the city’s border crossing, coming within three miles of Egyptian territory. In response, Egypt blocked all humanitarian aid trucks from entering Gaza. (Israel has since opened a new route for aid to enter the northern part of the Strip.) Cairo appears to be punishing Gazans to express its displeasure with Jerusalem, which it has warned against coming so close to its territory. It has also declared its support for South Africa’s spurious lawsuit against Israel at the International Court of Justice. Quite possibly, the IDF waited so long to seize this key border crossing because it didn’t want to upset its oldest Arab ally. Benny Avni examines the diplomatic fallout:

Israeli-Egyptian relations are more complex than they seem. Hamas’s ideological ancestor, the Muslim Brotherhood, is the main threat to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime. Egypt has maintained close intelligence ties with Israel ever since Hamas seized Gaza in a 2007 coup. . . . Cairo’s weeklong blockage of aid trucks at the Rafah crossing accounts for much suffering inside the Strip, but it is rarely reported.

[One] likely dimension of Egypt’s growing tiff with Israel has to do with the IDF’s intention, announced shortly after the war was launched on October 7, to seize the entire nine-mile border between Gaza and Egypt, known as the Philadelphi corridor. Following its full evacuation of Gaza in 2005, Egypt deployed guards to its side of the nine-mile border with Gaza. The deployment, as part of an agreement with Israel, was designed to prevent smuggling of weapons and other illicit materials into Gaza. Yet, Hamas’s arms kept flowing in.

Israelis say that senior Egyptian officers are bribed to facilitate smuggling through tunnels at the Philadelphi corridor. The Egyptians “enabled endless amounts of weapons to go into Gaza underneath the border between Gaza and the Sinai,” a former IDF brigadier general, Amir Avivi, told the Sun. “We see what is going on in Gaza. We know where this all came from.”

Over the weekend the Associated Press reported that for the first time since signing the peace treaty in 1979, Egypt is considering a break in relations with Israel. Yet, perhaps as a sign that both the Israeli and Egyptian governments prize their ties, Cairo quickly shot down the story.

Read more at New York Sun

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023

Only Hamas’s Defeat Can Pave the Path to Peace

Opponents of the IDF’s campaign in Gaza often appeal to two related arguments: that Hamas is rooted in a set of ideas and thus cannot be defeated militarily, and that the destruction in Gaza only further radicalizes Palestinians, thus increasing the threat to Israel. Rejecting both lines of thinking, Ghaith al-Omar writes:

What makes Hamas and similar militant organizations effective is not their ideologies but their ability to act on them. For Hamas, the sustained capacity to use violence was key to helping it build political power. Back in the 1990s, Hamas’s popularity was at its lowest point, as most Palestinians believed that liberation could be achieved by peaceful and diplomatic means. Its use of violence derailed that concept, but it established Hamas as a political alternative.

Ever since, the use of force and violence has been an integral part of Hamas’s strategy. . . . Indeed, one lesson from October 7 is that while Hamas maintains its military and violent capabilities, it will remain capable of shaping the political reality. To be defeated, Hamas must be denied that. This can only be done through the use of force.

Any illusions that Palestinian and Israeli societies can now trust one another or even develop a level of coexistence anytime soon should be laid to rest. If it can ever be reached, such an outcome is at best a generational endeavor. . . . Hamas triggered war and still insists that it would do it all again given the chance, so it will be hard-pressed to garner a following from Palestinians in Gaza who suffered so horribly for its decision.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict