The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Egypt and peace-processing

Here is in black and white what has long been obvious about the Egyptian-mediated Palestinian reconciliation talks — that they were never conducted in earnest:
Senior sources in the defense establishment say that the Egyptians are even willing to agree, albeit belatedly, with the Israeli-American conclusion that nothing good will result from Cairo's effort to mediate between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority. The Obama administration fears that intra-Palestinian reconciliation would only bolster Hamas at the expense of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and his Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad. 

Palestinian unity has been understood to mean that a joint government would involve Hamas and that would also present the United States with a constitutional problem. 

Legislation passed in Congress would prevent the administration from continuing to give aid to the Abbas-Fayyad government the minute it agrees to include Hamas as a partner. Cairo will not admit it publicly but it appears that its reconciliation initiative is dead. 

An Egyptian source says that the mediation efforts stopped because "conditions in the area do not permit it." The source said that the Hamas rejection of an Egyptian compromise proposal, in part because of pressure from Iran and Syria, is preventing progress toward reconciliation. 

On the other hand, the Egyptians are now trying to push for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and the PA, even by indirect American mediation. 
This is a reminder that the Gaza war was a gift for Egypt: Nicolas Sarkozy and the EU, at a time of US presidential transition, restored Egypt's "regional role" by appointing it as the key mediator between Israel and Hamas (for a permanent ceasefire and, separately, a prisoner exchange), Hamas and the PA (for reconciliation), and an important player in the regional peace process and relations between the PA and Israel. Egypt's intention has never been to conclude a Palestinian reconciliation, because Congress and the Obama administration would probably exit the peace process if that happened. Whatever happens, for Cairo, the process — any process — must be maintained in order to generate strategic rent.