Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
February 20, 2009 - 1:00am

Once again, Israel has thrown a monkey wrench into Egypt's efforts to deal with the explosive and saddening situation in Gaza, after it had waged the war on the Strip - thus anticipating Egyptian and Turkish efforts to extend and renew the truce, whose effects were over at the end of 2008.
The suspension by Israeli PM Ehud Barak of the truce agreement with Israel, which Egypt had convinced Hamas of based on ending the siege after stabilizing the ceasefire and starting negotiations over prisoners - through a condition imposed by the Politics and Security Cabinet to release the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, imprisoned by Hamas - did not come as a result of a sudden awakening of Olmert to his "dignity", as he put it when he said "there is no reason for us to comply with the conditions of Hamas and act as if we lost our dignity…"
It is probable that Olmert has awakened to something else other than his dignity and his wish to retrieve the soldier Shalit. If he did this for internal reasons, it would have been logical for him to insist on this condition before the public elections that were held. His insistence on the liberation of Shalit would have served him to obtain more Israeli votes for his party (Kadima), instead of throwing his condition at Egypt's face after it succeeded in convincing Hamas of appeasement after the end of elections.
Due to the link between the subsequent Egyptian efforts - related to the reconciliation between Hamas, Fatah, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas - and the success of appeasement, Israelis are perfectly aware that their condition to release Shalit in order to open roadblocks will be refused by Hamas. Hence, the appeasement will fail and reconciliation will be delayed. The Palestinian clash and ensuing division is the typical situation that allows the Hebrew State to continue dodging the hurried efforts of the Obama administration to restart peace negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis - since such division is the easiest excuse for the absence of the other side… in the presence of special US envoy Senator George Mitchell, who is getting ready for new dynamics in negotiations through opening an office in occupied Jerusalem.
The Israeli obstruction of the appeasement, and hence of the Palestinian reconciliation, the subsequent stalling of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations and US efforts are not the only results of the condition to release Shalit in order to open the roadblocks separating the Gaza Strip form the rest of the world. There are also other results that are no less important.
In addition to the fact that Olmert's move aims at giving the coming Israeli government the ability to use more cards for negotiating, one of the main reasons for this obstruction is to thwart the Egyptian role. Contrary to the accusations made against Egypt for "conspiring" with Israel against Gaza, it is not convenient for Israel to see a neighboring country act as if the Gaza issue concerns the Egyptian national security, and see that this role is played in full coordination with another pivotal regional pole, Turkey, whose relations with Israel have regressed. Is Israel responding to this duo through its new obstruction?
It is certain that delaying the appeasement and subsequently the Palestinian reconciliation, as well as the ensuing delay to start negotiations, serves many other parties in the region in addition to Israel. There is a trend in Israel and a few European countries, which imposes comprehensive negotiations of all regional issues: the Iranian nuclear file and Tehran's regional role, Iraq and the Palestinian cause, the Golan… It is also a trend that goes along with the interests of Iran and Syria…
However, among the results of throwing monkey wrenches into Egyptian efforts is an Israeli wager to exchange one role with another. Will Tel Aviv bet that a country or side other than Egypt can play a role in the swap of Shalit against Palestinian prisoners? What will the Egyptian response be in this case?


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