Egyptian Demands and Commitments

(Ha'aretz) Zeev Schiff - Neither Israel nor Egypt is interested in Hamas and the Islamic extremist organizations taking over the Gaza Strip; the Egyptians fear a spillover of the extremism in their direction. Israel has a broader interest in the fact that cooperation with Egypt grants the disengagement plan Arab legitimacy. Yet the Egyptians do not wish to help Israel beat the Palestinians. A senior Egyptian official told me that Egypt does not want to transfer military forces to the Strip to fight Palestinian terror there. The Egyptians say the positioning of Egyptian forces in the Strip is liable to deteriorate into military confrontation between them and the IDF. The Egyptians also have reservations regarding the role they are expected to play in preventing arms smuggling from Sinai into Gaza. The truth is that neither additional forces nor a change in their composition are required by the Egyptians to prevent arms smuggling, but rather good, focused intelligence and decisiveness in taking action. Only the naive believe the Egyptians won't make comprehensive demands on Israel, since it is important to them to win points in the Arab world. The Egyptians will demand the lifting of the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip, even though it is not at all certain that they will be able to prevent arms smuggling from the sea, as in the case of the Karine A ship. Above all, Egypt will demand that Israel not respond militarily to any acts of violence perpetrated from Gaza while there are Egyptians there. It is reasonable to assume that in this they will demand guarantees from the U.S. The danger is that terror activities from the Strip will continue even when the Egyptians are there, while Israel will lose its freedom to defend itself.

2004-06-16 00:00:00

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