Since 2013, Egypt has been facing fierce campaigns from global and regional actors that have been long considered central strategic partners. The United States is an example of this and its positions have been a perfect embodiment of much that have worried and disturbed Egypt for very long. This has been also true of several countries whose assessments remained locked into in a package of “canned” shorthand judgments and interpretations that remained at arm’s length from the reality of Egypt’s internal and external policies. To the Egyptian public opinion, there seemed to have been a serious and widespread “misunderstanding” of almost all of Egypt’s official stances, including its dealing with major regional and world issues.
The US didn’t fall alone on the opposite side of Egypt’s vision, there lined up the majority of European and regional countries that failed to decipher Egypt’s vision despite tied so closely to Egypt over decades. While it is understandable that there are those who can be credited with being behind the attempts to portray Egypt and the current regime as being unusual, odd enough was the frequent bias of recognizable global media platforms and research centers of big names which play a significant role in image-making of Egypt internationally. This holds true of politicians as well who hastily embraced those visions without carefully examining them instead of making every effort to corroborate facts to convey a realistic image of the politics of countries.
The issue of “countering terrorism” provides a prominent example of this state of “misunderstanding” considered by many as reflecting premeditation rather than a deficiency in handling. At a time when the whole world was rallying to address terrorism realizing its seriousness and complex circumstances, Egypt’s efforts in this respect remained, incomprehensibly and unjustifiably, an exception. Nonetheless Egypt’s efforts in countering terrorism and the high-price it paid remained a source of pride for all Egyptians seeing their country making herculean efforts in all directions, devoting all capabilities of its national institutions, and the valued expertise of the armed forces, the General Intelligence Service, the military intelligence, and the police to this epic battle. All these efforts came under a comprehensive strategy covering all front lines, internally and externally while the president together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs played both sides of the diplomatic fence, with a salient aspect of it serving efforts of countering terrorism.
This is just one example of many relevant and equally important issues in which Egypt’s vision and politics were weaved sensibly, wisely, and steadfastly, with due consideration being given to each individual issue including the Libyan crisis, relations with Sudan and the Eastern Mediterranean, security of shipping lanes, and regional security issues that went into a sphere beyond to include regions of the Sahel and Sahara countries, East and Central Africa, among others. The world had observed all of Egypt’s efforts in doubt and worry, with some countries finding the movements justified while many were hostile despite the president’s clear address of a new and modern concept of Egypt’s regional role and its management of political relationships.
Another example that is more revealing in this regard is the Palestinian cause in which Egypt has been involved in very early as is evidenced by the inaugural address of President El-Sisi in 2014 in which he announced a new and profound approach to handling this issue, realizing complexities and developments of the situation. What is involved here isn’t a question of reviewing Egypt’s efforts )which are many and maybe greater than anyone could expect) in that matter but Wednesday morning [19 May], there seemed to have been a delayed rectification of the international media vision of Egypt’s policy on this issue where Bloomberg – an international high-prestigious news agency established in 1990 and headquartered in New York – published a report titled, “Gaza Is a Reminder of Egypt’s Relevance to the Middle East” which carried a sort of delayed “justice” to Egypt’s role and position in the region and worldwide, expressed equivocally without any ambiguity.
Speaking of Egypt’s role in the region, the article stated that, “With Biden circumspect about committing American political and diplomatic resources to the effort, the heavy lifting of engineering a cease-fire falls once again to Egypt. For the government of President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, this is an opportunity to demonstrate Cairo’s centrality to the major matters of contention in the Middle East.”
The report also reviewed some of the regional developments that have taken place over the past years, subtly referring to other actors seeking to occupy center stage, with Hamas turning to Qatar for funds, Iran for weapons acquisition, and Turkey for political backing. For its part, “Israel found new allies in the Arab world by signing the Abraham Accords with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco. But things have looked up for Sisi in the past few months. Relations with Turkey, after years of friction over Ankara’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood, are on the mend. Egypt has become a pivotal player in the contest for the hydrocarbon resources under the Eastern Mediterranean. And if Sisi has found Biden lacking in warmth, he has a new best friend in France’s President Emmanuel Macron.
All throughout, Egypt has kept up its connections in Gaza. Relations with Hamas improved in 2017, after the Islamist group broke its ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, Sisi’s bete noire. They have waxed and waned since then, but have recently been on an upward trajectory, as Egypt has sought to broker a reconciliation between the various Palestinian factions. Soon after the recent fighting began, Sisi ordered the border crossing opened for injured Gazans to be brought to hospitals in Egypt, and for humanitarian aid to flow in the opposite direction. He pledged $500 million toward reconstruction. His government also opened communications with Ismail Haniyeh, the leader of Hamas, and sent mediators to Jerusalem.
In contrast, the other Middle Eastern states — including the Arab signatories of the Abraham Accords — could only offer rhetorical support for the Palestinians” – as per Bloomberg’s verbatim text.
The article concluded: “Egypt’s efforts, by themselves, will not produce a truce. The fighting will only stop when both belligerents reckon they have reached a point of diminishing returns, where the cost of fighting exceeds the military or propaganda gains. Whenever Israel and Hamas reach that stage, it will be to Egypt that they turn for mediation. It will be a moment for Sisi to savor, while Joe Biden expresses his “support” from the sidelines.”
This article was originally published in Ad-Dostor newspaper on Wednesday, 19 May 2021.