Egypt caught between a rock and a hard place

August 6, 2014

 

 

CAIRO: When Egyptian activists organized an aid convoy to Gaza last month, their challenge took on political dimensions. When the convoy of more than 500 activists, 11 buses and 2.3 million Egyptian pounds ($320,000) of medical aid cruised into a government checkpoint near the city of Arish in North Sinai, scuffles with army personnel broke out and it was turned back to Cairo.

The government cited security concerns, but for the activists, it was political.

‘The government showed its real stance when we were stopped from delivering medical aid,’ Ibrahim Ahmed, a 19-year-old student at the American University of Cairo who helped organize the convoy, told DW. ‘It’s not about Hamas, or about politics, or religion. We are talking about people who are dying and need medication, so why stop us?’

Since the onslaught of the war in Gaza, the Egyptian government has effectively aligned with Israel in a fight against Hamas, an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood. But in a country where support for the Palestinian cause has long been entrenched in the minds of the population, some say it is becoming increasingly difficult for Egypt to balance the government’s antipathy toward Hamas.

‘It’s very clear to us on the outside that there is a convergence of interest between Egypt and Israel,’ Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, told DW. ‘But obviously, that is not how it is being projected domestically.’

Egypt has long been seen as a regional leader and mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but with the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi, a close ally of Hamas, a fierce campaign against the Palestinian group has been waged.

‘Thank god Egypt is with us now. It would not be possible to meet the targets of this invasion without their cooperation,’ said Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz in an interview with Israeli television the day the ground invasion in Gaza began. Agencies