What Does the New Egypt Mean for Gaza?Posted: March 7, 2011
What effect will the Egyptian revolution have on the dire situation in Gaza? The events of this past Sunday might offer some indication:
Hundreds of Egyptians on Sunday marched to the country’s border with the Gaza Strip to demand that the border be opened, Press TV reported…
The campaign was the brainchild of the Tahrir4Gaza campaign, whose organisers said they wanted to see to which extent Egypt has changed since the ouster of president Hosni Mubarak Feb 11, the media report said…
(One) Tahrir4Gaza campaign member said: ‘If we are refused entry to Gaza, we are thinking about setting up a permanent camp at the border. This is a test of whether this really is the new Egypt, or whether the old Egypt remains.’
Commentator Geoffrey Aronson addressed the new/old tension in Egypt in a piece for Foreign Policy posted today:
(To) many in Egypt today, Israel’s retreat from Gaza is viewed as an opportunity — as a means to distinguish the new Egypt from its predecessor by ending the siege and answering Arab expectations of Egyptian leadership on an issue that arouses widespread anger in the Arab world. There is virtually no support in Egyptian civil society for maintaining Egypt’s ban on formal, legal trade with Gaza.
An open border between Gaza and Egypt is viewed as unremarkable by the Egyptian public, particularly one in which the Muslim Brotherhood operates freely, but it continues to be viewed by Egypt’s security establishment as a security disaster. Gaza may be the first of Egypt’s strategic security concepts that will be challenged by the new political order unfolding in Egypt today, but it is certainly not the only one where the interests of the old order and the new one can be expected to clash.
After the recent cabinet change, Egypt now has a Prime Minister and a Minister of Foreign Affairs who argue against Egypt’s role in the Gaza blockade. Nabil al-Arabi, the new FM, in particular is on record has criticizing that policy on the grounds of international humanitarian law. Will we see a change in the policy anytime soon?
…There are no easy solutions here, and perhaps the answer lays more in a dramatic escalation in Egypt-Israel relations over this issue (which I’m not sure would necessarily work to improve the conditions for Gazans.)
But perhaps a first start is to make an announcement that would make it clear that Egypt finds the current Gaza set up unacceptable, breaks with the ridiculous Quartet positions, and calls for the abandonment of the international community’s current approach to Israel-Palestine. It might not achieve much, but at least it would send a clear message that Cairo won’t back business as usual with the Israelis.