After eleven days of mutual missile attacks, that wasted hundreds of innocent lives, Egypt successfully managed to broker a ceasefire deal between Tel Aviv and Hamas. The ceasefire is not only saving the lives of civilians, but also comes with some collateral benefits to Egypt, the Middle East, and the new US Administration of President Biden.
The latest round of violence between Gaza and Tel Aviv is, allegedly, the most destructive fight between the Israelis and the Palestinians, since 2014. According to the latest statistics by the Palestinian Ministry of Health, announced on May 21st, the death toll in Gaza reached a total of 232 Palestinians, including 65 children, while at least 1900 Palestinians have been injured. Meanwhile, Israeli Aviation struck residential buildings and individual properties in Gaza, including a 12-story building that housed media offices owned by major regional and international media organizations. The Israeli military justified destroying the buildings by saying that they were used as hideouts for Hamas leaders and militants.
On the other side, the Israeli Emergency Response Service announced that twelve Israelis, including women and children, had been killed by Hamas’ missiles fired at southern Israeli cities. According to official statistics from the Israeli government, Hamas fired more than 3000 missiles at Israeli cities, but about 400 of them fell short and landed inside Gaza. The Israeli Iron Dom missile defense system managed to intercept more than 50% of the missile attacks by Hamas, according to Israeli military statements. Even worse, the Israeli Arabs, who represent 21% of the Israeli population and are mostly young, started to clash with their Jewish neighbors, which raised an alarm for a potential civil war, inside Israel.
On Thursday evening, the Egyptian authorities announced that Egypt’s efforts of mediating between Hamas and Tel Aviv successfully led to the two conflicting parties agreeing to cease fire at 2:00 a.m. on Friday, May 21st. The ceasefire is agreed to be mutual and is linked to no conditions or guarantees. In the same statement, Egypt announced that Cairo is in the process of deploying two security delegations, one to Tel Aviv and one to Gaza, to monitor the conflicting parties’ commitment to a ceasefire. Meanwhile, the Egyptian political leadership pledged to continue to actively work on a long-term peace resolution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
On the same evening, Egyptian President El-Sisi received a phone call from the American President Joseph Biden, to discuss the scorching situation next door. According to the readout of their conversation, published by the Egyptian presidential bureau, Biden applauded Egypt’s efforts in brokering the ceasefire. The two leaders agreed to remain in close contact on co-managing strategic regional issues, in the future. It is important to mention that the Biden Administration has received a lot of criticism, from observers worldwide, for showing a lethargic response to the recent Israeli-Palestinian crisis. In the first week of the violent conflict between Israel and Hamas, the US intervened, not only once but three times, to block an Israel-binding ceasefire resolution by the United Nations Security Council.
Egypt has a very long history of intermediating in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; a history as old as the conflict itself. Egypt was the only country that took real steps, beyond verbal condemnations and objections, towards ending the latest episode of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis. Since the beginning of the conflict, Egypt has been making daily calls with Israeli officials and Hamas leaders, urging them to halt the fight and sit for negotiations. Meanwhile, Egypt opened Sinai for Gazan civilians who are seeking shelter and medical aid, despite the risk this may have entailed on the security situation in Sinai. On May 18th, following a trilateral summit between the Egyptian, Jordanian, and French leaders, President El-Sisi announced allocating 500 million dollars for reconstructing Gaza.
As Ibn Khaldun, once, said: “Geography is destiny.” Egypt’s geographic neighboring with Gaza and Israel is one reason for the validity and effectiveness of Egypt’s intervention to solve the Israeli-Palestinian episodes of violent clash. But that is not all. The smart strategy of El-Sisi’s leadership to keep balanced relations, unlike his predecessors, with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and even Hamas is the real reason behind Egypt’s recent success in brokering the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. However, there is a realistic limit to what Egypt can solely do to end the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
This is not the first ceasefire agreement that Egypt brokers between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and will not be the last. History tells us that a ceasefire deal between Tel Aviv and Hamas is usually nothing more than a temporary relief, that eventually loses its effectiveness, within a few years, if not a few months. The focus should be on achieving sustainable peace. In that sense, Egypt should be appropriately aided by key regional and international powers, not only to guarantee the steadiness of the current ceasefire deal but also to figure out a long-term maintainable peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians.
With all due respect, intensifying regional and international efforts for producing a working peace agreement between the Israelis and the Palestinians is way more important than all the peace agreements that have been signed between Israel and Arab countries; whether those signed in the past two years or those signed more than forty years ago.
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