Is Egypt losing role as mediator between Israel and Palestine?

Saturday, August 2nd, 2014 2:23:24 by

After the dismal failure of its peace initiative last week, Egypt has lost the role of mediator who had served in previous conflicts in Gaza. The change in the geopolitical balance of the region and, especially, its bad relations with Hamas have compromised its credibility and effectiveness as an intermediary. However, the gap left has not yet been occupied by any other actor, which has resulted in a cacophony of voices and proposals from the international community.

The Egyptian proposal, backed by Washington, was to a cease fire unconditionally for a week, during which negotiations would be opened in Cairo to seal a final agreement to end the war. The Israeli government immediately agreed with the initiative, but Hamas claimed that it had not even been consulted on the document.  The Islamist militia warned that the draft did not reflect their main demand: the end of the blockade of Gaza imposed by Israel and Egypt.

Turkey and Qatar, two firm allies of the Brotherhood, have served as intermediaries with Hamas since last weekend. However, its poor relations with Israel prevent them from assuming a decisive role. Egypt tries to regain positions and invited to Cairo at the main Palestinian factions, Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad. As was leaked to the press, Egypt would be willing to change the terms of its initiative to accommodate the conditions of the Islamist group.

The animosity between Hamas and Cairo began after the coup that deposed President Mohamed Morsi on July 3, 2013. Since the Egyptian authorities, under the tutelage of the Army, have accused the Islamist group of being behind repeated attacks against Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula, which Hamas has always denied. A court in March ordered the prohibition of any activity in Egypt of the Palestinian movement, born from the womb of the Brotherhood and a member of its international organization.

Egypt, the most populous Arab country and the only – with – Jordan officially at peace with Israel since 1978, has occupied a privileged diplomatic position to mediate between Palestinians and Israelis. The refusal of the U.S. and the EU to negotiate with Hamas, as it was declared “terrorist organization” both by US and EU, together with the non-recognition of Israel by most Arab states, leaves Cairo as one of the only actors capable of acting as interlocutor with both parties. This work was facilitated by the rise of Morsi power and its influence on Hamas. In fact, the agreement that ended the Gaza offensive in 2012 was seen as a great Egyptian diplomatic triumph.

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