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Strange Bedfellows
Egyptian FM Makes Surprise Trip to Jerusalem, Pushes Peace

We live in strange times: while the Palestinians look to the West, particularly to the French government and the Obama Administration, to pressure the Israelis into peace, the Israelis welcome a visit by Egypt, backed by Saudi Arabia. The New York Times reports:

Egypt’s foreign minister arrived in Israel on Sunday — the first such high-level visit in nearly a decade — saying that he had come to promote the “vision” of his boss, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to help rejuvenate the moribund peace process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel hailed the arrival of the foreign minister, Sameh Shoukry, as “important from many points of view,” adding that it attested to Israel’s changing relationship with Egypt under the leadership of Mr. Sisi.

The visit came amid international efforts to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. Both sides noted that it followed Mr. Sisi’s call in May to revive the peace process. In late June, Mr. Shoukry met with the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, at Mr. Abbas’s headquarters in the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The informal entente between Israel, Egypt, and the Gulf Arab monarchies has been one of the most important and under-appreciated dynamics in the Middle East during the last half decade. The rapprochement is built on shared concern about Iranian aggression and the destabilizing influence of radical Sunni groups, but increasingly features diplomatic and even some economic components.

Nevertheless, it is at its core a matter of intelligence and security cooperation, something that was brought home by another revelation Sunday. The Times of Israel reports:

Israel has carried out drone strikes against terrorists operating in the Sinai Peninsula in recent years, according to a Bloomberg news report Monday that quoted an unnamed former senior official.

The airstrikes were conducted with Egypt’s knowledge and blessing, according to the ex-official, who spoke to the US-based news site on condition of anonymity.

The full fruits of the Egyptian FM’s visit remain to be seen, but Israeli television is reporting that the two parties were working “feverishly” to set up peace negotiations with the Palestinians in Egypt. In that light, it’s worth re-reading the our recent essay suggesting that the parameters for such negotiations may be shifting: “Are the Palestinians Thinking the Unthinkable?”

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  • WigWag

    It’s not worth re-reading the essay you refer to. It was surprisingly ridiculous, especially in light of the brilliance of its two authors.

    My guess is that the Obama Administration and the Europeans (especially the French) find the Egyptian/Saudi move to be infuriating. The Egyptians and Saudis barely care about the Palestinians; they hate Hamas and they find the PA irritating at best. They know as well as anyone else that the days of Abbas are numbered. As for the Jordanians, they hate the Palestinians more than the Israelis do.

    The French want their peace conference and the Obama Administration would surely love to stick it to the Israelis at the United Nations if only they can find a way to do it without imperiling the Clinton campaign. The Egyptian/Saudi maneuver is probably designed to checkmate Obama and the French. The only party more ticked off about the Egyptian-Saudi move than the American and French Presidents are the Palestinians. They understand that none of the Sunni Arab nations give a damn about them and they understand that the Egyptian/Saudi move directly counters their fervent desire to internationalize the dispute.

    Why would the Saudis and Egyptians deliberately neutralize the influence of the Americans, Europeans and the United States in promoting a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian imbroglio? It’s because Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan are allies now. The Arab nations understand that if they want Israel’s help with their problems with Iran and ISIS they have to provide something in return.

    That “something” in this case is providing political cover to Netanyahu while he waits for Obama and Europe to be swept into the dustbin of history. That’s what allies do for each other.

    Egypt and Saudi Arabia know that there is no settlement between Israelis and Palestinian on the horizon; Jordan is literally terrified of what a settlement means for them. In the fullness of time, my prediction is that the settlement which will end this mess once and for all is mass migration of the Palestinians to Europe or perhaps the creation of a Palestinian State on land in the Sinai donated to the cause by Egypt.

    The time isn’t ready for that yet. The Arab leadership need time to cool down their “streets” antagonism to Jews that they have been promoting for all these years and the Israelis need time for their enemy in the White House to depart and for Europe’s influence in world affairs to continue to decline.

    Will the Palestinians ever give up on the right of return? I wouldn’t hold my breath. What the Israelis, Egyptians, Saudis and Jordanians know is that what the Palestinians want is increasingly inconsequential.

    • Kevin

      Interesting. We’ll see what comes of it.

      Are the Sunni Arabs collectively willing to negotiate over the heads of the PA and Hamas? Could they impose a settlement on them?

      • JR

        I doubt it. I think Sunni Arabs are happy talking to Israel while still keeping Palestinians Israel’s problem. But I hope I’m wrong.

    • JR

      From your mouth to God’s ears is all I gotta say about your post.

    • Andrew Allison

      Shame on you for pointing out the sheer stupidity of Ivory Tower wishful thinking [grin]

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