Egypt and Gaza

Recently, Hamas lost its traditional political ally, the Assad regime, and relations with a principal weapons supplier, Iran, has soured.

Khaled Meshaal has openly backed his Sunni brethren in their jihad against the Assad regime. And Hamas is increasing coordination with Egypt. Those two new developments are putting Hamas at odds with Iran and Hezbollah, which have been critical financiers and weapons suppliers in the past.

The question for Hamas now is how well its new partners — the Turkey of Erdoğan, the Qatar of Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, and the Egypt of Mohamed Morsi — will fare, and whether their assets — regional political weight, material resources and international legitimacy — will prove more useful than those possessed by the Assad regime, Iran and Hezbollah.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Gaza and Muslim Brotherhood President Mohammed Morsi of Egypt

Hamas is now trying to ally with Cairo, Doha and Ankara ever more closely and to set itself clearly as the more active and relevant Palestinian party, more relevant than Fatah.

Its goal is probably to normalise economic conditions in the Gaza Strip, open up the Rafah crossing with Egypt and solidify relations with the Egyptian hinterland.

Regarding the longer-term Israel’s strategy toward the Palestinian movement: could the conflict result in an outcome in which Egypt, Israel and Hamas reached an understanding normalising the economic situation in Gaza and solidifying its links to Egypt — while providing security assurances to Israel?

If such a deal could link Gaza ever more tightly to Egypt, it could also entrench the division between Gaza and the West Bank, and thus marginalize further Fatah.

By achieving a de facto deal with Hamas, Israel woud signal its preference for dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood front rather than with President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah.

The central Palestinian address increasingly could be viewed as Gaza, and the central Palestinian player as Hamas.

Abbas is probably the most significant political casualty of the last weeks. He seems doomed either way: should he forego the U.N. General Assembly to seek an upgrade in status, he would be discredited; Or should he go to the U.N. General Assembly, then Israel will retaliate in ways that could only further damage the Palestinian National Authority’s economic situation, thereby accelerating the very process that is weakening Abbas and strengthening Hamas.

Could this be viewed as the last chapter of ex-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s unilateral disengagement plan? — with the Israeli government closing Israel’s borders with Gaza forever and re-opening Rafah? That would de facto make Gaza part of Egypt, wouldn’t it? And since Hamas belongs to the Brotherhood, Morsi and Hamas have shared interests in Sunni islamic rule…

Former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Major General Giora Eiland: Israel should end Gaza blockade and recognize Hamas’ government in return for cessation of rocket fire (source)

The eventual reintegration of Gaza into Egypt is probably what former head of the National Security Council Giora Eiland had in mind when he urged Israel to treat Gaza as a Hamas-dominated state, lifting the sea blockade in exchange for a long-term ceasefire. Eiland argued that such an agreement should be accompanied by Egyptian guarantees – maintaining the peace and preventing the entry of weapons to Gaza – and should allow European Union member states to send dinghies to Gaza’s port, in order to ensure that Hamas has something to lose were it to breach the ceasefire.

The re-integration of Gaza into Egypt also cohere with Ehud Yaari’s speculation: “How to End the War in Gaza: What an Egypt-Brokered Cease-Fire Should Look Like.”

Avigdor Lieberman, the current Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, also came out in support of
completing the Gaza disengagement,” as early as 2010.


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