It is unfair to consider Egypt only a mediator in discussions concerning the Palestinian cause. Egypt is a full partner given the significance of the Palestinian cause to its national security. Thus, Egypt has not and will not stop its efforts to find a solution to this problem, despite its complexity, until the Palestinian people attain their rights and establish a sovereign, independent state. In the most recent escalation, Egypt played its natural role, achieving a ceasefire between Israel and Gaza on 13 May after five days of military operations.
While acknowledging the important role played by all the mediators who diligently sought to halt the military operations, it is clear that Egypt’s efforts were the most significant in trying to broker a ceasefire due to the following considerations:
First, Egypt is the only Arab country that shares a border (14-kilometer) with the Gaza Strip, and the main crossing through which Palestinians leave their country, Rafah, is located on Egyptian territory. The other crossing, Beit Hanoun, is under control, and only a few cases cross from there.
Second, Egypt has strong ties not only with the Palestinian Authority and leadership, but also with all Palestinian factions and organizations, regardless of whether they are located in Gaza, the West Bank, or abroad, in addition to positive ties with Israel and relevant Israeli institutions.
Third, Egypt’s team of negotiators has extensive experience dealing with every aspect of the Palestinian-Israeli file. This committed team, which operates day and night with deliberate direction, has already achieved a number of ceasefires and does not hesitate to be present on the ground in Tel Aviv, the West Bank, and Gaza when necessary.
Regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, we must also consider the following five important factors:
- Israel treats the Gaza Strip, which has the highest population density in the world relative to its size, as if it were a country that possesses the most advanced types of weapons; consequently, it bombards and destroys homes and facilities and kills civilians under an open sky in front of the Israeli Air Force, as well as closing all crossings.
- The Israeli wars on Gaza, which commenced in 2008, followed the Palestinian split, confirming the Israeli strategic objective of separating Gaza from the West Bank.
- For decades, Israel has continued its policy of assassinating senior members of Palestinian organizations, including Fatah, Hamas, Jihad, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Resistance Committees, whether they were based inside or outside of the Palestinian territories. Consequently, assassinations have always been a fundamental component of the values that have guided Israeli relations with Palestinian organizations.
- While the media focuses on the military operations in Gaza, Israeli policy towards the West Bank is largely the same, with regular killings, house demolitions, arrests, sieges, and storming of cities and the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
- There will be no permanent ceasefire, and the situation will continue to deteriorate, so long as the underlying causes of the problem are not addressed. Here, I pose two questions to Israel’s current leadership: What do you expect from an occupied Palestinian population that daily loses hope of living in a prosperous and stable independent state, as do Israeli citizens? What does Israel expect from a Palestinian group whose top officials are frequently killed, some of whom along with their families?
Israel, in my opinion, is making a serious error if it thinks the Palestinian people will submit to its policies or if it thinks it alone is in control of all positions and can direct them however it pleases, whenever it pleases, without regard for other regional or global positions. It’s inevitable that the violence that was resolved this time will flare up again. We have seen six wars between Israel and Gaza in the last 14 years, and this cycle of violence will not end. To put an end to this tragedy, we must therefore consider how to proceed during the subsequent phase, which calls for the following:
On the Palestinian Side: These developments should serve as a catalyst for Palestinian reconciliation. Here, I appeal to the heads of the Joint Operation Room for the Palestinian Factions in the Gaza Strip, telling them that if they were able to unite the positions of the factions in opposition to Israel, they must do the same now to end the division. I would also like to emphasize that Egypt is prepared to successfully mediate if both parties have a sincere desire to do so, as it did in the cases of a ceasefire, prisoner exchange, and reconstruction.
On the Arab Scale: Resuming negotiations between the Israeli and Palestinian sides to find acceptable solutions to the Palestinian cause requires immediate action on the part of the Arab world, led by Egypt and facilitated by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi. Without this, the cycle of violence will likely escalate and explode.
On the Israeli Side: Israel must review the outcomes of the six previous wars, their internal effects, and the price of maintaining the occupation before entering into serious negotiations in which all of its visions will be laid out. Otherwise, it must be held accountable for its policies.
On the International Scale: The international community, particularly the United States, needs to shift from a timid humanitarian approach to dealing with the Palestinian issue, demanding a de-escalation, protecting civilians, and emphasizing only Israel’s security, to political engagement and a gradual move to implement the two-state solution that it adopts in theory.