Morsi´s tests: Hamas and Sinai (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Elliott Abrams 08/14/12)
Israel Today Magazine
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Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi acted with unexpected energy and
speed to remove the top ranks of Egypt’s military over the weekend.
But he has not yet disclosed what his policy will be toward the
linked tests of Hamas and Sinai.
After the terrorist attack that killed 16 Egyptian border police,
Morsi reacted with strong words and visited northern Sinai with Field
Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, the head of the Egyptian military council
now cashiered by Morsi. Several days of strong military action
followed, including the first use of jets and helicopter gunships in
Sinai since the 1973 war.
But now what? Will Morsi instruct the new top brass he has appointed
to take on the great challenge of restoring law and order to Sinai?
Will he insist that Cairo, not the jumble of smugglers, criminals and
terrorists that have had a nearly free hand until now, rule Sinai?
That task would take months and probably years of sustained effort.
Linked to it are the questions of Hamas and Gaza. Despite the
international complaints against “Israel’s blockade of Gaza,” under
President Hosni Mubarak the blockade was as tough from the Egyptian
side as it was from the Israeli side. And as Hamas recently
complained, the Egyptian “blockade” remains in place under Morsi and
“We suffered from the unjust regime of Mubarak that participated in
the (Israeli) blockade of Gaza. Why should we suffer now in the era
of Egypt’s revolution and democracy?” said Hamas Interior Minister
“The Egyptian leadership is requested to order the reopening of the
Rafah crossing to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians wanting to
travel, students, patients, residents in third countries and
pilgrims,” he added in a statement.
Israel has for years refused exit visas for all but a tiny minority
in Gaza, making Rafah the sole window on the world for almost all of
the enclave’s 1.7 million Palestinians, with some 800 people a day
using the terminal to reach Egypt.
Since the closure, thousands have been stranded, although Cairo did
order a brief opening on Friday to allow Palestinians trapped in
Egypt to return home.
Egypt said on Monday it would open the crossing temporarily yet
again, but just for three days, mainly to permit travel for
humanitarian cases such as Palestinians seeking medical care abroad,
and students, a Hamas official said.
“If Palestine was not a top priority for you, you should change
direction,” Hammad said in an unusually sharp rebuke.
Hamas and the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood are linked historically and
ideologically, so maintaining a closed border will be difficult for
Morsi. But opening the border risks allowing jihadists and other
violent extremists who have gathered and trained in Gaza into Egypt.
Opening the border for a couple of days when there is a holiday, such
as Eid al-Fitr at the end of Ramadan, is one thing; ordering that the
border be truly open is another.
Law and order and government control in Sinai require real Egyptian-
Israeli intelligence and military cooperation, something else that
will be difficult for Morsi to maintain for ideological reasons.
Morsi has just chosen a whole new group of military leaders and has
also replaced the head of the intelligence service. What instructions
will they now receive: Keep up that cooperation with Israel, or stop
working with the Zionist enemy?
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