While there have not been official diplomatic relations between Iran and Egypt for decades — since Egypt signed the peace treaty with Israel in 1979, of late there have been high level contacts between the two countries. Top Iranian diplomat, Ali Asghar Mohammadi, met yesterday in Cairo with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit.
And now Iran has offered to help Egypt with the Rafah situation. What was offered was "cooperation with Egypt to provide help to the Palestinians." Egypt is said to be receptive and the possibility of renewed official contact between the two countries now looms before us (pending a demand that Iran remove a large mural celebrating the assassin of Anwar Sadat).
Any involvement of Iran with Egypt is bad news (and tells us a great deal about where the Egyptian government is headed). But what we’d be looking at here, as well, is increasingly direct involvement between Iran and Hamas.
From where I sit the situation at Rafah is still more than a bit murky. Hamas militiamen today assisted Egyptian security people in closing one of the three breaches in the fence at Rafah, with barbed wire. And the Egyptians have now invited Hamas to a meeting later this week to discuss the border situation.
However, this was on the heels of a meeting PA Prime Minister Fayyad (Fatah) had in Cairo today, during which he implored the Egyptians to allow the PA Presidential Guard Force 17 to handle the border (which I consider something of a joke, myself). What they are attempting to do is to return to the situation as it was in 2005, when Israel pulled out.
PA Foreign Minister Riad al-Malki claims that the Egyptians agreed, and declared that "Hamas will be told about this agreement and they will have to accept the presence of the Presidential Guard at the border."
Apparently this will be discussed at a meeting of the Arab League, as Abbas presented a plan to its ministers for controlling the border that completely ignores the appeal of Hamas to be involved. And Abbas will be coming to Cairo for meetings later this week, as well.
Please understand this scenario: The Fatah-dominated PA and Egypt struck a deal in 2005 to manage the border. Then Fatah — in spite of superior numbers and training and equipment — ran under Hamas attack last June, abandoning everything. Now they say to Egypt, please, please, let us come back; we’re the ones who are supposed to be there. But Egypt never drove them away.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri says "We want new arrangements at the border. The agreement that was reached in 2005 does not exist any longer."
Two factors (among many, I suppose) particularly bewilder me here. Al-Malki says that if Hamas doesn’t agree to the Force 17 presence, "they will be held responsible for the continued closure of the border." And I don’t begin to know what he has in his mind. But then, I don’t know what the Arab League has to do with this either.
For all that’s dire about the current situation , one possible good coming from this may be an enhanced Egyptian and Arab involvement in the situation of the residents of Gaza. This removes the onus from Israel, which the world seeks to make eternally responsible.
Of course, the Arab League has made a statement that Israel is responsible for everything that has happened. This was to be expected. There is no time we’re not responsible. Just as there’s no time when the Palestinians are responsible. Never mind that Hamas had cut the fence months ago, and was waiting for the right time to break through, or that Hamas refuses to stop the Kassams.
If only the words of Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni meant something! She has now met with US General William Fraser, who has been appointed to oversee the implementation of the road map. Said Livni:
"…realizing the Road Map is critical for the success of the [peace] process and is a basic condition for carrying out any agreement the sides might reach. We are honest in our will to reach an agreement, [but] there are security parameters which we cannot give up."
It would help a lot, in light of this, if Livni could explain why she is heading a negotiating team that is dealing with an entity that incorporates terrorists inside its security forces, so much so that several times of late members of the security forces have killed Israelis. Which security parameters is it that Livni won’t give up?
Livni also said, by the way, that a final agreement must include Gaza. But there is never any talk about how this is going to happen or why it’s prudent to negotiate now when Gaza is in the hands of Hamas.
MK Zevulun Orlev (National Union-NRP), who heads the Knesset lobby for the implementation of the Winograd Report findings, has asked Knesset Speaker Dalia Itzik to hold a special session Thursday to discuss the Winograd Report, due out Wednesday night.
George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) died yesterday, and his funeral was held today. An arch-terrorist, he was infamous for his terror attacks. And yet, in another mark of the serious problem we are confronting from within our nation, three Arab members of the Knesset attended his funeral: Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List), Jamal Zahalka and Wassal Taha (Balad).
Said Tibi, "I have come to pay my respects to a leader who has become a symbol of the struggle for freedom and national liberty." Such a person does not belong in our Knesset. Let us hope that action will be taken against all three.