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If Egypt Supports Gazans, It Should Offer Them Temporary Housing

As Israel ramps up its fight against Hamas in Gaza, life is going to become increasingly intolerable for innocent Palestinian civilians in the Strip. Now is the time for Egypt — alongside Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — to put action behind its words about caring for Gazans. 

The Egyptian government should permit these displaced civilians to leave Gaza and move to temporary housing in northern Sinai. The two rich Gulf states should pay for them. In exchange, Israel could commit that it will allow Palestinians to go back to Gaza after the Israel Defense Forces destroys Hamas.

Egypt has not been receptive to the idea of hosting displaced Palestinian civilians. President Abdel Fatah el-Sisi warned that allowing Palestinian civilians into Egypt would open the door for militants to launch future attacks against the Jewish state from Sinai. That’s why from the very beginning of Israel’s airstrikes on the Strip, Egyptian trucks carrying humanitarian aid were deployed to the Gaza border, security forces intensified their presence and the Al-Azhar institution, alongside pro-state media, called on the Palestinian people not to leave Gaza, arguing they wouldn’t be able to return.

In an attempt to push back against these statements, Israeli Ambassador to Cairo Amira Oron denied that Israel intends for Palestinian resettlement in Sinai.

Meanwhile, hopeful rhetoric coming from Cairo cannot be overlooked or dismissed. President Sisi expressed his keen interest in maintaining the peace treaty with Israel. When an Egyptian target was hit as the result of an Israeli mistake, rather than expressing outrage, the Egyptian military spokesperson issued a balanced statement expressing understanding. 

Additionally, former military generals have been all over local media educating the public that a war with Israel is not an Egyptian national security interest.

Isn’t now the right time for Cairo and moderate Sunni states to pay Israel back? Over the past decade, Jerusalem and Egypt partnered together to fight terrorism in the Sinai Peninsula. The level of trust reached its peak when Cairo approved Israeli air strikes against terrorist targets inside Egyptian territory, and Jerusalem allowed Egypt to station more troops and weaponry. 

By the same token, Israel helped Arab states in Western capitals by preaching on their behalf against the danger of political Islamists globally — not to mention the robust intelligence sharing developed in recent years regarding Iran and the bilateral economic exchanges on sophisticated security platforms to guard against cyber and physical attacks.

Thus, there is no reason for Egyptian suspicion or broader doubtfulness of Israel’s intentions toward Gazans. Today’s Israeli government isn’t interested in annexing the Strip. The current ground offensive by the Israel Defense Forces is just a surgical procedure to readjust the calculus in the Strip to bolster Israel’s security on its side of the border and potentially revive the two-state solution.

Cairo just hosted both Fatah and Hamas in July, and as usual, attempts at unity failed. Hence, supporting current Israeli efforts to eradicate Hamas is likely to fulfill two objectives: First, it will weaken Hamas — whose closeness to Iran, Qatar and Turkey diluted the Egyptian role in the Palestinian arena. Second, Israel’s war on Hamas is actually being fought on behalf of all moderate Arab states in the region. Israel’s action seeks to end the triple destructive influence of Ankara, Doha (where Hamas leaders are housed and funded), and Tehran (which reportedly trains Hamas operatives).

The presence of a stable, non-terrorist entity in a future Gaza would benefit Egypt on multiple fronts — it would improve Egypt’s security situation and provide ample opportunities for enhanced trade. Cairo stands to gain by ending the Hamas role that divides Gaza from the West Bank. If the blockade of Gaza were lifted, the economic benefits would flow directly to Egypt, and could even give a boost to its troubled Sinai province.

The time has come for Egypt to open its northern border to Palestinian civilians fleeing the war over their homeland. The security threat posed by the new arrivals would be far outweighed by the international public relations benefits flowing to Cairo for making such a decision on humanitarian grounds. And pressure on its covert ally, Israel, would be relieved — and the Israeli government would be grateful. 

Will Egypt step up? It should.

Source : The Hill