The Fuel for the Flames

(New York Daily News) Dennis Ross - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi instinctively supports Hamas. Without any recognition that Israeli civilians are targeted by Hamas rockets from a territory Israel left completely in 2005, Morsi has condemned the Israeli "aggression" in Gaza. But the last thing Morsi needs is a conflict that drags on and leads to Israel feeling it has no choice but to send ground troops into Gaza. Egypt's public would probably demand that he break the peace treaty under such circumstances. But the treaty is not a favor that Egypt does for Israel; it has saved countless Egyptian lives. Leaving aside over $60 billion in U.S. assistance that Egypt received over the years, it is the treaty that makes it possible for Egypt to receive essential loans and investment that it needs to confront its collapsing economy. Who is going invest in Egypt if there is no peace treaty and in its place is the prospect of conflict and confrontation? Morsi understands that, and that is why, with all his tough rhetoric toward Israel, he is not saying he will revoke the treaty. Let's be clear. Hamas triggered this latest eruption of conflict with attacks on Israeli forces along the border. This followed a pattern of increasing rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas in the last weeks was doing far less to prevent rocket fire from other groups and suddenly it began to assume responsibility for the attacks. Behind the shift in Hamas' behavior was that, with a new Egypt led by the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas leaders felt they could do more to carry out attacks against Israel and demonstrate their "resistance" credentials. But Hamas miscalculated and was surprised by the Israeli reaction. Israel was not about to let Hamas define a new normal that would prevent Israeli forces from patrolling along the security fence. Nor was it about to allow Hamas to fire and force a million Israelis into shelters. The writer, a counselor at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, served under presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama.

2012-11-20 00:00:00

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