Daniel Pipes yesterday came out with an article saying that the Hamasian border breaking fiasco should be used as an opportunity to change the whole Gaza equation and return the territory to the way it was ruled from 1948-67 - i.e. basically ruled by Egypt.
Washington and other capitals should declare the experiment in Gazan self-rule a failure and press President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt to help, perhaps providing Gaza with additional land or even annexing it as a province. This would revert to the situation of 1948-67, except this time Cairo would not keep Gaza at arm’s length but take responsibility for it.
Culturally, this connection is a natural: Gazans speak a colloquial Arabic identical to the Egyptians of Sinai, have more family ties to Egypt than to the West Bank, and are economically more tied to Egypt (recall the many smugglers’ tunnels). Further, Hamas derives from an Egyptian organization, the Muslim Brotherhood. As David Warren of the Ottawa Citizen notes, calling Gazans “Palestinians” is less accurate than politically correct.
Why not formalize the Egyptian connection? Among other benefits, this would (1) end the rocket fire against Israel, (2) expose the superficiality of Palestinian nationalism, an ideology under a century old, and perhaps (3) break the Arab-Israeli logjam.
See, the idea has a certain elegance - and in fact I had a friend mention the same idea days before Pipes' article - but even if it were at all feasable (since I'm fairly certain Egypt has no interest in Gaza as such, with a million-plus poor and radical people along with a well-armed group of religious extremists) I'm not sure it's the greatest idea. I think a main reason peace has been maintained with Egypt for the last 30 years is due directly to the Sinai being demilitarized and Israel and Egypt keeping each other at arm's length.
Suppose Egypt does take responsibility of Gaza - won't that necessarily involve Israel giving up airspace, freedom of travel and the ability for Egypt to bring up loads of troops to police the territory? Is it really in Israel's interest for Egypt to have that kind of presence right along the Israeli border?
But even besides that, do we really believe that Egypt will be more successful than Israel at controlling rocket attacks from Gaza? And when they fail - what is Israel to do? Ask really nicely? Actually threaten Egypt? The modern Egyptian military is a real force to be reckoned with. One of the largest in the world and now armed with up-to-date American and European equipment. I think we should keep our distance.
How the current crisis is going to resolve itself however is a real mystery. There are reports of Hamas putting up their flags in Egyptian towns - an act Egyptians see as an attack on their sovereignty. Is Egypt prepared to use actual force against Gazan militants? (Which I'm not sure they can even do, due to troop restrictions in the Sinai from the '79 peace agreement.) Or are we going to see a growing Hamastan in the northern Sinai? Does anyone believe that the Gazans are really all just going to pack up and go home quietly?