Morsi Emerges as Key Power Broker in Gaza Conflict

Egypt’s President Muhammad Morsi, a member of the same Muslim Brotherhood that gave birth to Palestine’s Hamas movement, has emerged as a key broker in the Gaza crisis. President Obama is said to have called him for the third time in 24 hours on Tuesday!

Morsi sympathizes with the stateless Palestinians, who are being kept without a state and without basic human rights by the right wing Israeli government. But more, he sympathizes with Hamas itself, which the US and Israel have branded a terrorist organization. Because the US has put Hamas on the terrorist list, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cannot talk to the government of Gaza (which seems rather stupid), and Morsi is therefore a key interlocutor.

Morsi and Hamas want an end to the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which prevents the Strip from exporting 99% of its products. Israel wants an end to the launching of small home-made rockets against its territory (these rockets occasionally injure people and cause property damage in nearby cities such as Sderot, and in the past decade killed some 26 victims before the outbreak of the current hostilities.) It is not clear that anyone in Gaza could actually deliver on a pledge to stop small guerrilla groups from launching home-made rockets.

Morsi is already being blamed by old-regime secularists in Egypt for failing to curb Muslim fundamentalist radicals in the Sinai Peninsula. If the Gaza conflict in some way spills over onto Sinai, Morsi would risk looking as though he is not in control, and would probably face strong opposition from the officer corps (much of which dislikes the Muslim Brotherhood).

Still, Morsi as president makes part of the big difference between Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008-09 and today’s assault. In 08-09, the Palestinians had no real support from Egypt and of course the Israeli government and the Bush administration had it in for them. Hosni Mubarak and his right hand man Omar Sulaiman hated Hamas. When Israel attacked Gaza, they quickly closed the Rafah crossing and Egyptian troops actually shot dead two Palestinians trying to flee into Egypt from the bombing.

Egypt, at some 82 million (nearly the size of Germany), is the most populous Arab country, and it is still something of a thought leader for the Arab world. It has the biggest and best army in the Middle East, though there are virtually no Egyptians who would welcome war.

This time, Morsi has called the invasion a “farce,” and has swung into action to get a ceasefire. He sent his prime minister into Gaza to make a statement, and his government has allowed over a dozen foreign ministers and other high officials from the Middle East into the Strip to show their solidarity or explore negotiations. It is not entirely clear what chips he brings to the table with regard to Israel. Egypt and Israel don’t do that much trade with one another, and Morsi has few effective moves. He can keep Egypt’s ambassador to Israel at home and just play symbolic politics, though that step might not be effective.

As a last resort, he could always just go to Gaza himself, a step Palestinians are imploring him to take, calculating that Israel would not dare risk killing the president of Egypt with an errant air strike or in a land invasion.

Egypt has also taken some wounded Palestinians for treatment at El Arish, and some 500 activists from Egypt brought in food and other aid on Saturday.

If Morsi succeeds in brokering a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, that step would reinforce the US-Egyptian alliance and perhaps raise Egypt’s importance. If he fails, he could well face public anger in Egypt; and, he might face a new challenge from the Egyptian military.

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19 Responses

  1. Dear ProfessoR Cole

    Now you are on the trail of the hidden agenda. Well done.

    Having failed to buty the US president is the Likud plot to destabilise the Egyptian President by making him look helpless?

    BBC last night reported Morsi as saying the ceasefire was almost ready. So there has been an all night bombardment, and the arrival of the delightful Secretary of State.

  2. If (big IF) the Saudis actually cared about the Palestinians (they do not), they could “fix” this whole thing real quick.

    All they would have to do is on Wednesday 21 November at 1500 eastern US time put a story on the international business wire that they are stopping oil production until Israel is gone. For the next hour, the oil trading market in NYC would go crazy driving the price of oil through the roof at the same time the US stock markets would be headed for the basement. At 1600 Eastern US time, the markets would close and US traders would have no way to trade in the US until Friday 23 November at 0900, because of the US holiday. BUT, at the same time the international markets would continue to operate on Thursday 22 November and would probably cause massive losses for US firms. By mid day Friday, most Americans would cheerfully throw Israel overboard to feed the sharks.

    The good news for Americans is the Saudis and virtually everyone else on earth either do not care one bit about the Palestinians or actively hate them, so the US can “safely” protect Israel for a few more months (maybe even years) before Israel drags the US into a needless terrible war that cause every American to have a really bad rest of their lives.

  3. What utter nonsense, key power broker, which planet are you living on ? Mursi has done little and gone back on his slogans and promises of pre election, post Mubarak. Now he is just another US stooge with an increasingly big belly !!!

    Gaza: Between Rhetoric and Liberation | New Civilisation
    The new Hijri year is upon us, marking the 1434th year since Rasoolullah s.a.w. migrated to Madina and established

  4. Clinton Rushed to the Side of Netanyahu, Not the Palestinian People!

    I wrote this in a diary @Booman after observing the daily developments in Gaza and watching the Netanyahu press conference in Jerusalem upon the arrival of Clinton. I was astonished how Clinton passively became complicit in any next move by the far-right regime in Israel due to the war rhetoric by ‘statesman’ Netanyahu. Clinton strong endorsement of Israel and its policy, appreciating how well the Iron Dome missile shield had performed. On her way to an irrelevant PA president Abbas in Ramallah …

  5. This is surely a dumb question, but why does Egypt go along with the embargo on Gaza? They have a border with Gaza–why not let them buy and seell whatever they like via Egypt? That wouldn’t stop the current bombing, but it would surely make the people loving in Gaza a lot better off.

    • Threats from Israel are probably a large part of the answer. The current Israeli foreign minister once called for the Aswan Dam to be destroyed (which would kill millions), in retaliation for Egyptian support for the PLO. Unlike Ahmedinejad, Israel usually makes good on its threats. An open Gaza border means another Israeli invasion of the Sinai, at the very least.

    • The US and Israel want to keep the pressure on Hamas. If Egypt does too much to upset the US, it could lose financial aid and IMF loans. Egypt needs financial help and stability badly.
      If Egypt had free trade with Gaza, Israel might wash its hands of Gaza and say that it is entirely Egypt’s responsibility. They would stop providing electricity and whatever else they do. This would be
      a burden for Egypt, which cannot feed its own people.
      Fatah also worries that opening the Egypt-Gaza border would be akin to Egypt annexing Gaza, and leaving the West Bank on its own.
      There are reasons for Morsi to tread cautiously.

  6. Israel wants an end to the launching of small home-made rockets against its territory

    You’d think they would go for a truce if that was a priority – or at the very least not assassinate the person they were just negotiating the terms of a cease fire with…

    If anything, when played up these rockets are very convinient to the .001% as they have taken the momentum away from social movements which do not have a coherent policy on palestine other than falling into line.

  7. “Because the US has put Hamas on the terrorist list, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton cannot talk to the government …”

    Maybe Mrs Clinton should haul out the fine bipartisan group of shills whose lobbying on behalf of the Mujahedin e-Kaliq — Dean, Giuliani, Ridge, Card, Dershowitz, Freeh, Goss, Mukasey, Rendell, Shelton — resulted in group being removed from the US list of terrorist organizations a month or two ago. I hear they can work fast if the incentive is there…

    Thanks for your continuing excellent work here, Mr Cole.

  8. “seems rather stupid” aptly describes US foreign policy in the Middle East.

    With Israel attacking Arabs, would it not be difficult for the Egyptian military to act against Morsi and not be accused of being in the pocket of the US and Israel? Would the Egyptian population stand for a military coup given the current situation?

  9. Just a thought.

    For Israel to initiate this business, particularly now, doesn’t make sense. Internally with Israeli decision-makers, the current conflict might be an unforeseen reaction to exercising a scheduled reminder to the Palestinians as to who’s their boss, but even that doesn’t make sense.

    What DOES make sense, when you consider how Israel has behaved over time, is that this is the opening move in a shake-down of the US. It’d play into Israeli “forbearance,” in regard to “exercising their sovereign rights,” with regards to Iran, which Netanyahu was so careful to get during his visit in March. Reviewing the youtube remarks between He and Obama, it was clear this was the single item he wanted to reiterate in front of the cameras.

    link to

    The object of the current hullabalew might very well be to:

    1) Confirm Israel’s ability to call the US when they whistle. This is kinda like the insecure girlfriend (insecure with good reason, given the underlying health of the relationship), who calls up all the time, all whiney and needy, manufacturing endless dramas to confirm and consolidate her status.

    2) Shake-down the US for goodies, not only in-line with the above, but for substantive reasons. Israel has grown used to the very substantial US teat. Camp David I was, to paraphrase one of our diplomates, a giant real estate deal, where the US paid Israel to return the land and Egypt a huge sum to accept it (huge payments, that continue and as far as I know have no conceived ending). In this case, the pay-off they might very well be angling toward, could be outright cash, but more likely would come in more sub rosa forms, diplomatic and monetary.

  10. There is a new factor in town and it is security related to all. In fact the Earth is dying. link to
    It is the fact earth’s human population and exploitation of resources of Nature have hit peak levels at same time heat up from release of gasses from human causation due to oil and coal exploitation and land use changes is beginning famine up.
    The Muslim Brotherhood has smart people and intelligence is that Earth is on course to not stop heating up unless amongst other things peace worldwide takes hold and is sustained with heart.. The heart of those who care for others and for Earth..

  11. Arab people have been dehumanized by Americans. The problem of solving this dilemma is not Arabs; it is Evangelical Christian racism in the US; the same racism that enslaved blacks in the US; the same racism driving the US civil war; the same racism in regards to Obama, and his blackness. This time their racism is based on the King James Version of the bible and the second coming. I am not any sort of expert when it comes to geo Mideast politics. My knowledge comes from people I have known; some befriended who do have knowledge. One young woman was a Lebanese journalist. Her father I am told was a “the” poet of Lebanon. Anyway she was a classmate of mine in Switzerland. She joked with me, telling me she would take me to Lebanon, and Beirut, but she could not get a good price for me. She had experienced the Israeli war in the Beqaa Valley. She said. “I could always tell when improvements in rocket propelled technology evolved. You had to put more between you and the rocket shrapnel.” This is something American policy makers in the US have no understanding. What she did tell me if you wanted to insult someone in Lebanon call them a son of a Palestinian. If this is true other Arab states need to look at the evil they are allowing projected on fellow Arabs.

    • There is also a very nice military airfield just south of Gaza that could be turned into a commercial airport for Gaza.

      I really think if Egypt thought a little bit entrepreneurial, that opening the border with Gaza could be a nice net profit for Egypt and a net loss for Israel.

      For example, Egypt could get the US government to build a nice gas fired power plant just south of Gaza and use some of the gas it currently sells to Israel to power the plant and have the international community pay for it.

      If Egypt is worried about a refugee problem, then have two borders with a trade zone between them. That is, an Egyptian/Gaza border with fairly free flow of people and goods and a second border 30km to 50km inside Egypt that would have very stringent crossing requirements. Gazans could enter the trade zone in Egypt, but not enter the rest of Egypt.

      Note that this is similar to what the US has in most of the southwest – a “controlled” border with Mexico and 30m to 50m inside the US a second border where people and goods are checked again. Both I-5 and I-15 have these secondary borders between San Diego and Los Angles.

      I suspect that given a chance to build businesses connected with Gaza, Egyptians will build them and make nice profits. Egyptian politicians just need to see Gaza as a business opportunity instead of a burden.

  12. This is one of the reasons I have predicted Dr. Morsi would be the best candidate as Egypt’s president when he announced that candidacy.

    His history of education and professional employment in a sensitive position with NASA coupled with his links with the Muslim Brotherhood, the parent organization of Hamas, have given him a balance of perspective that would lead to a greater stabilization within the Middle East, particularly with respect to Israel and Palestinian interests.

    He has indicated Egypt will continue to honor the Camp David Accords. Obama has consulted with him on the current Gaza crisis and he showed leadership in dispatching Egypt’s prime minister to Gaza during the conflict.

    Anwar Sadat was a virtual unknown when he assumed power in Egypt following the death of the revered President Nasser, but in the end became an internationally respected statesman. President Morsi can do the same.

  13. Morsi moved fast to take advantage of his Gaza truce momentum.

    link to

    I remember that I was astonished how quickly and easily Morsi got rid of Tantawi. The man has a keen sense of timing and a strong “killer instinct.”

    Re: Egypt’s Gaza border. Israel has never relinquished control of Gaza’s borders. That’s the way they maintain the blockade. The Israelis do appreciate Egyptian cooperation. This cooperation comes both in officially helping to enforce the blockade and, ironically, in unofficially supervising the smuggling which makes the blockade physically bearable for Gazans (and thus more maintainable for Israel in the eyes of the world).

    Egypt is constrained in how much force it can deploy in the Sinai, by the terms of its peace treaty with Israel, which restricts its security options regarding a more open border with Gaza. During the Mubarak era

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