NEWS, ANALYSIS & OPINION: After the siege

Whose monopoly now?

First there was delight. Senior officials in Israel said that Egypt had taken on this trouble called Gaza. You could almost hear the chadenfreude in their voices. After not wanting to hear about Gaza or its refugees for a generation, Egypt received both, explosively. Now, at last, there will be a responsible country, and not Israel, to deal with the refugees.

Egypt will also have to safeguard the blasted gate, which looks like a modern sculpture, prevent the passage of explosives and terrorists and supervise the behavior of Hamas, because otherwise it will bear the consequences. The feeling is that Egypt has become a true enemy state at last, Syria-style. Just as Damascus is perceived as responsible for the actions of Hezbollah, so Cairo will be the custodian of Hamas. And what could be better for Israel than to have an address to turn to that is not an organization but a state, which at any given moment can have the screws applied to it in the form of sanctions that will affect not 1.5 million Palestinians but 75 million Egyptians?

Hey, Hamas really showed Egypt what’s what this time. But this approach ignores two facts. First, it was not Egypt that breached the barrier. Egypt did what any humane country would be expected to do in this situation, albeit quite belatedly. It allowed hundreds of thousands of crushed people to enter its territory to stock up on what they have been unable to buy in Gaza for months, nearly two years, in fact. Egypt’s government capitulated to public pressure, as every government is expected to do. President Hosni Mubarak understood that even his great loathing for Hamas could no longer justify his being dragged in the wake of an inhumane Israeli policy, the more so with masses of Egyptians demanding that he take action to save Palestinians, no matter how Israel defines them. [complete article]

Israeli ‘economic warfare’ to include electricity cuts in Gaza

Saying they were waging “economic warfare” against the Gaza Strip’s Hamas leaders, Israeli officials told the Supreme Court on Sunday that the military intends to start cutting electricity to the Palestinian territory and continue restricting fuel.

The statements by Israel’s state attorney, outlining Defense Ministry plans, came in response to a lawsuit filed by Israeli and Palestinian rights groups.

The organizations are asking the Supreme Court to make Israel end fuel restrictions that caused power blackouts in the Gaza Strip this month. The activists argue that the restrictions constitute collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million people and violate international law. [complete article]

No way to avoid Hamas now

On Jan. 16, I interviewed Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in his well-guarded office here in Damascus. He told me Hamas is interested in reaching a cease-fire with Israel, though he said Israel still rejects this idea completely. He said that Hamas – which has a long and close relationship with Egypt’s main political opposition movement, the Muslim Brotherhood – considers its support within the Arab countries an important asset. While we talked, Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, called. During their five-minute conversation, Mr. Meshaal asked President Saleh to work hard to help lift the siege on Gaza.

Meshaal said Hamas seeks a better relationship with the US. “We are not against the American people, but against this administration. We are not against American interests. Every state has the right to have its own interests – but not at the expense of other peoples.”

The State Department’s designation of Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization had caused big problems for the organization, he admitted. But “American policy is also affected badly,” he argued, “because it finds itself fighting the wrong wars.” [complete article]

See also, Abbas wins int’l backing for PA control at Egypt-Gaza border (Haaretz).

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