Egypt’s enthusiasm to arbitrate between feuding Palestinian factions, Hamas and Fatah, is not the outcome of a sudden awakening of conscience. Cairo has, in fact, played a destructive role in manipulating Palestinian division to its favor, while keeping the Rafah border crossing under lock and key.
However, the Egyptian leadership is clearly operating in coordination with Israel and the United States. While the language emanating from Tel Aviv and Washington is quite guarded regarding the ongoing talks between the two Palestinian parties, if read carefully, their political discourse is not entirely dismissive of the possibility of having Hamas join a unity government under Mahmoud Abbas’ direction.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s comments in early October validate this assertion. He did not categorically reject a Hamas-Fatah government, but demanded, according to the Times of Israel, that “any future Palestinian government must disband the terror organization’s (Hamas’) armed wing, sever all ties with Iran and recognize the State of Israel.”
Egyptian President, Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, too, would like to see a weaker Hamas, a marginalized Iran and an agreement that puts Egypt back at the center of Middle East diplomacy.
Under the auspices of the Egyptian dictator, Egypt’s once central role in the region’s affairs has faded into a marginal one.
But the Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is giving el-Sisi a window of opportunity to rebrand his country’s image which has, in recent years, been tarnished by brutal crackdowns on his country’s opposition and his miscalculated military interventions in Libya, Yemen and elsewhere.
Fatah and Hamas leaders at a recent meeting in Gaza. (Photo: via MEMO)