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Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hamas frightened of Egypt (guest post by Zvi)

A couple of recent comments in response to my post about Hamas groveling to Saudi Arabia (the publication of that letter is making waves in PalArab media) are worth posting.

Sshender pointed out that Khaled Meshal was acting in at least a humiliating way to Egypt as well, pointing out a Hebrew link from Channel 10 to a hostile Egyptian interview with him and to general statements that Mubarak has been making about Hamas.

Zvi follows up with a worthwhile analysis:
Here's how I see this. It's not about the Saudis at all. It's about Egypt.

Hamas knows that if Egypt ever becomes REALLY SERIOUS about hurting Hamas, Hamas is going to be in extremely hot water. Egypt can shut down the tunnels if it wants to do that, both by building as deep and strong a wall as it wants to build, and (if Egypt gets really serious) by arresting or shooting anyone on the Egyptian side who participates in the tunnel "industry."

The Egyptian steel wall sends that signal very clearly. In fact, ever since the news about the steel wall became public, the Hamas leadership appears - to me, at any rate - to have shown increasing signs of panic. I can see why; if it works, then Hamas can't bring in weapons, can't tax the tunnelers and can't smuggle its people in and out. If it works, then Gazans really WILL have a crisis on their hands, and Hamas will be very clearly to blame.

Egypt, for its part, is furious with Hamas for two reasons: 1. Hamas humiliated the Egyptian government when the Egyptians tried to reconcile the factions, and again when Egypt tried to work out an exchange of prisoners between Hamas and Israel. 2. Hamas has kept parading in front of the world its closeness to Iran, at a time when the Egyptians are absolutely apoplectic to find that Hezbollah was planning for terror attacks against the Suez Canal, which is one of Egypt's primary strategic assets, and against other Egyptian targets. As of last week, Egypt's state prosecutor was asking for the death penalty for the terrorists.

The Hamas attempt to do what it did last time, and use civilians to camouflage an attack on the Egyptian border (I'm assuming that this is what happened) went very wrong when Hamas murdered an Egyptian border policeman in cold blood.

[Egypt has shown its displeasure not only with the wall but also by kicking out the pro-Hamas demonstrators and the public announcement that no more leftist aid convoys will travel through Egypt. - EoZ]

Egypt said earlier this week that it would consider *cough* throwing the Gazans under the bus *cough* withdrawing completely from Palestinian affairs. It has pretty firmly rejected Hamas flirtations.

So now Hamas is going back to the Saudis. Why? Most importantly, because if the Saudis (who have been flirting a bit with the Syrians lately) actually agree to get involved again, this will make the Egyptians look isolated and powerless. Hamas leaders may be calculating that the Egyptians will immediately try to restore their diplomatic prestige by rushing to mediate something (this is a guess, I will admit. ; - ) And an engaged Egypt is not going to simply seal off Gaza and let Hamas stew in its own violence and stupidity.

While Hamas made the Saudis look like useful idiots last time around, the Saudis are suckers for things that will make them look influential in the region, as long as it doesn't involve making peace with Israel. So under normal circumstances, I would expect them to go for it.

But at the moment, the Saudis are fighting a war against what they see as Iranian proxies in Yemen. While Huthi forces are apparently trying to request a truce at the moment, the Saudis are apparently having none of it (I'm reading only a little bit into this column: http://asharq-e.com/news.asp?section=2&id=19655). The little snipe at Hamas in the column also suggests that Hamas is very much out of favor in Saudi circles. So I'm expecting the Saudis to ignore this.

Hamas will keep trying to find mediators that it hasn't already humiliated. I'm betting that Hamas will try the Turks next, and the Turks are likely to go for it. It's unclear whether Fatah will accept Turkish mediation.

Meanwhile, Hamas has lost the so-called "legitimacy" of an "electoral mandate, weakening its position among Gazans." Useful idiots will continue to willfully forget that in 2007, Hamas gunmen violently overthrew the elected order, threw their opponents off of buildings and forcefully occupied Gaza, putting it under the control of people who are living in Damascus. Now that the parliamentary term has expired, the fig leaf is simply gone. Hamas has refused to cooperate with PA elections, and that's how things stand.

None of this means that Hamas is on its last legs or that it will change its behavior or its associates. Hamas leaders have been very clever liars and very clever when it comes to survival - all the while continuing to try to murder as many Jewish civilians as possible.