The Role of Hamas in the Formation of Global Jihadi Networks in Sinai

(Institute for Contemporary Affairs-Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs) Lt. Col. (ret.) Jonathan D. Halevi - As the new Egyptian government completes the process of purging the Egyptian Army and security apparatus, it will become more prone to take bold moves in foreign policy. This will have direct implications for Israel, as Egypt becomes more assertive along with Hamas, its strategic partner, on the Palestinian issue. After the Rafah attack, it was noticeable that the Egyptian government refrained from condemning the terrorists' plan to carry out a mass-casualty attack in Israel. Indeed, senior Muslim Brotherhood figures pointed an accusing finger at Israel, claiming it was behind the attack in an attempt to create a rift between Egypt and Hamas. Apart from the anti-Israel propaganda line, the investigation of the attack by Egyptian intelligence found tracks leading in the direction of Gaza. Security sources in Egypt told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Youm al-Saba that the Palestinian organization Army of Islam was responsible for the attack. They said that the day before it occurred, there was a meeting in one of the homes of the Army of Islam's leader in Rafah; about 35 activists participated, and it was decided to carry out the attack. Egypt's policy is similar to that of Hamas toward the Salafi terror organizations within its territory: the regime views the organizations as legitimate and does not intend to proscribe them so long as they do not undermine the central government or harm its basic interests. Similar to Hamas, Egypt seeks to "tame" the Salafi organizations, put an end to their subversion, neutralize their potential damage to Egypt's internal stability, and subject them to the new rules of the game, which will allow them limited freedom for jihad activity without infringing on Egyptian interests or entangling Egypt in direct responsibility for terror. Egypt's supreme interest is to alter the terms of the Camp David agreement and enable full Egyptian sovereignty over all of Sinai, including in the military domain. In the government's view, terror activity from the Egyptian border that does not stamp Egypt as directly responsible, helps exert pressure in Sinai, compelling Israel to agree to a permanent military deployment in the territory and making the demand for a change in the agreement an Israeli interest without Egypt paying any political price for it. The writer, a senior researcher at the Jerusalem Center, is a former advisor to the Policy Planning Division of the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

2012-08-15 00:00:00

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