Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Give Gaza to Egypt?

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.

He writes:

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?

9 comments:

e-kvetcher said...

For an Egyptian perspective on this see the Sandmonkey blog.

Though his viewpoints are probably not traditional Egyptian in any way...

Pipes scares me. He is very intelligent and eloquent. I first saw him on the news channels soon after 9/11. I had no idea who this guy was. I turn on the TV and see this giant man talking about how we should nuke the Arabs into oblivion, we should dance on their graves, that's the only way to stave off the end of the world. I thought - "Who IS this guy?"

zach said...

talking about how we should nuke the Arabs into oblivion, we should dance on their graves.

Pipes has always been a well-reasoned commentator even if I don't always agree with him. This doesn't sound like something he'd say. Where did you ever see such statements?

Miri said...

It's a lovely idea in theory for Egypt to take in the Gazans. But as I understood the situation, while the Israelis kind of hoped they would, Egypt doesn't want them. They never have and, military strength not withstanding, I think they still prefer the lack of a war with Israel. Plus, they are still dealing with a bunch of domestic issues, and an international altercation of any kind is probably something they'd prefer to avoid if possible...

e-kvetcher said...

>Where did you ever see such statements?

Well, like I said this was right after 9/11 so I don't recall precisely, but it was one of the big news channels, CNN, FOX, or MSNBC.

Egypt wants nothing to do with the Palestinians in Gaza, just like Jordan doesn't want them, or Kuwait. Hell, West Germany didn't even want the East Germans.

alex said...

>Where did you ever see such statements?

Could it be that one of these news channels was interviewing the head of CAIR, or someone like that, who was putting those extreme words into Pipes' mouth?

e-kvetcher said...

No, no, it was Pipes. I am not saying that these were his words verbatim, but his general message was very aggressive. That's why he was so memorable to me. I'd never heard of him before.
He almost had a "mad scientist" feel about him as if saying "I've been trying to tell you about these guys and nobody would listen until now!"

alex said...

That last sentence sounds totally in order right after 9-11. But still, if the quote isn't on the Net, and you can be sure a Muslim site would've recorded it, I'll maintain my belief that Pipes didn't use the "dancing on the graves of the arabs" nor the "nuke the arabs into oblivion" statement.

Concerning giving Gaza to Egypt, I'm leaning against it.

Rabban Gamliel said...

Gaza has independence from Israel yet it demands as a right Israel's help. Israel gave it greenhouses promptly destroyed by the Gazans. I think Gaza is perfect as an independent whatever that Israel can bomb it when necessary. Don't add or subtract land to it or divide it up. Just leave it as is. Maybe someday it will mature and be ready for statehood but until then we know where it is and it is ready for pounding when necessary.

Anonymous said...

Egypt does not want Gaza because Egypt (its leaders and the vast majority of its people) hates Israel. With Egypt in control of Gaza, there is no way to fight a "proxy war" against Israel as they do now.

In an 'all-out' war or honest forthright declaration of war on Israel (which would be necessary or de facto achieved if Egypt attacked Israel while actually owning Gaza officially), they know they will be defeated as they were numerous times in the past by the IDF (the only reason they have opted for proxy war in the current post-Yom kippur war era).

Furthermore, Egypt (its rulers and its citizens despite their fake ruminations of "arab solidarity") HATE the Gazan arabs and their criminal culture.