Sunday, January 18, 2009

Send in the clowns

Hosni Mubarak yesterday delivered a fiery televised speech in which, in addition to calling for immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, he also said there will be no foreign presence on Egyptian territory for border surveillance, calling this a "red line". The latter point was spelled out by his Foreign Minister Ahmed Abdul Gheit who said Egypt is not a party to the agreement signed by Rice and Livni on Friday, adding that "Egypt has no commitment to this memo."

A number of Arab journalists have noted that the signing of the US-Israel memo without the involvement or agreement of Egypt was a direct insult to the Mubarak administration, because it implicitly treats Egyptian border territory with Gaza as essentially up for grabs in terms of sovereignty.

And there was a second insult, namely the announcement of a unilateral cease-fire without any consideration for the efforts the Mubarak administration had been making to arrive at an actual agreement of some kind with Hamas, with the support--they thought--of Israel and the United states. And in fact the pressure to keep Arab representatives from attending the Qatar meeting was at least partly based on the need to give Egypt more time to finalize these negotiations before making demands on Israel. But it was all for show.

So it is that Israel ended up declaring a cease-fire based on an agreement--not with Hamas, and not even with the go-between Egypt--but with its own sponsor the United States. And based on an agreement purporting to involve foreign forces in patrolling a border that the supposed host country vehemently rejects!

It was the only way to present a facade of "achievement", and presumably the cost in terms of Egyptian anger was considered an acceptable price to pay.

Just goes to prove a point made by AbdulBari Atwan in a recent column: Those Arab leaders who put their trust in agreements with Israel are inevitably rewarded with "a prominent place in the trash-can of history".


Anonymous Anonymous said...

It does seem like Egypt is being treated like Lando...

1:56 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

What does Egypt's rejection of foreign forces on their soil mean in the face of $2.2 billion U.S. dollars? Mubarak will seemingly have no choice but to give in, unless he wants to lose money from the U.S. and watch his domestic foes usurp him.

6:58 PM  
Blogger badger said...

thats true. I think the outburst was more just a reflection of political embarrassment and anger at being so openly pushed around and ignored. Rice-Livni didn't mean they have an effective scheme in mind to plug all the holes, and Mubarak's reaction didn't mean he could stop whatever they have in mind. It was all or mostly for show, and Mubarak figured correctly he had been made the turkey at the feast.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's face it: the determining factor in the cease-fire was the Obama inauguration. It wasn't only the Egyptians who were dissatisfied, there are many unhappy in Israel too. They feel deprived of their victory.(I think by the way that those unhappy in Israel are right: it is very hard to put one's finger on any real success for Israel after all this blood-bath).

6:32 AM  
Blogger badger said...

That's true too, isn't it? In Washington we have four days packed with celebrations ahead of the inauguration, and in Gaza three weeks with a full of program of killing of women children and other civilians by a mighty war machine. You'd almost expect some kind of ceremony of human sacrifice at the Lincoln Memorial tomorrow to top it all off... (Btw, I think having failed to do anything to Hamas directly or militarily, the Israelis are left with nothing but the argument about "deterrence" meaning collective punishment (see next post)...

11:18 AM  
Blogger annie said...

i agree it was all for show. the determining date at the beginning was always to push it right up to the inauguration IMHO, so the idea of there being an 'agreement' to stop the slaughter, israel doesn't beed any agreement to stop, they can stop whenever they want. what they need is the appearance of 'bargaining' for the sake of 'winning something' for their election war. the tippi/rice meeting was just an election photo op for the voters.

5:39 PM  

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