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Chaos In Cairo

In Cairo, West Bank President Abbas & Khaled Mashal, Hamas Leader Declare: 'We Agree On All Issues!'

Question: Does That Mean That Abbas Now Supports Hamas Pledge 'To Kill The Jews & Liberate Every Inch Of Palestine?'

IsraCast Assessment: Arab Spring May Sow Seeds Of Hostile Islamist Regimes Rather Than Peace Loving Democracies - Therefore Israel Must Insist On Solid Security Arrangements

President Mahmoud Abbas (Photo: Amit Shabi)

The Arab Spring has focused on Cairo, where the gigantic demonstrations in Tahrir Square have signaled Gen.Tantawi and his junta that they must go, and the sooner the better. In Jerusalem, the question was whether the radical Muslim Brotherhood will now rise to power and jeopardize the Israeli- Egyptian Peace Treaty. And also in the Egyptian capital, West Bank Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas chief Khaled Mashal, who rules Gaza from Damascus, appeared together in a public display of friendship after their blood feud. David Essing reports on what all this may mean.

Cairo, the capital of possibly the most influential Arab state in the Middle East, may be on the verge of more radical changes - possibly with the rise to power of an Islamist regime with all that implies for Egypt's peace treaty with Israel. And it was to Cairo, that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas traveled from the West Bank to meet face-to-face with his bitter Hamas rival Khaled Mashal, who may soon relocate his headquarters from riot torn Damascus. Writing in Yisrael Hayom, Prof. Eyal Zisser, a prominent expert at Tel Aviv University, analyzed the current situation:

Khaled Mashal

'Only in Israel did anyone seem to notice the Cairo meeting between West Bank President Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashal, his Hamas rival, who rules Gaza. In both the West Bank and Gaza, their redezvous was viewed not only with indifference but also with a lack of credibility. After all, the two leaders had achieved a reconciliation accord less than a year ago but since then, absolutely nothing has happened except for this second session.

Palestinain election will be tantamount to handing West Bank to Hamas...

As a matter of fact, it is doubtful a Palestinian election will be held on schedule in another six months. Surely Abbas's PLO realizes that an election will be tantamount to its handing over the West Bank to Hamas, when considering the current Arab mood that celebrates electoral victories which were not taken into account several months ago.

On one hand, from their vantage point Abbas and his PLO see the loss of any prospect to advance toward peace, while on the other hand Hamas is bracing for the blow it will suffer from the break-up of the Evil Axis (Syria, Iran, Hamas, Hizbollah) as a result of the  upheaval in Syria, and these factors have driven the two Palestinian rivals into each other arms. They fear the Arab Spring may also penetrate the Gaza Strip and West Bank and therefore they are striving to placate Palestinian public opinion by lending their hand to this sham of Palestinian fraternity and collaboration. However, the fierce rift between Hamas and the PLO still exists and the two leaders didn't even try to bridge it during their Cairo meeting.

This latest meeting in Cairo was convened shortly before Egypt's upcoming parliamentary election. It may be that Cairo will soon become a a totally different city to what Mahmoud Abbas has known (Pro- Abbas and anti-Hamas). The election result may paint the Egyptian capital in the colors of an Islamism that will gather Hamas into its fold. Cairo may become a city of ongoing revolution that began with the struggle to topple Mubarak. It is continuing at full tilt while weakening Egypt's status of playing big sister to the various feuding Palestinian factions. And this was  another reason for Mahmoud Abbas and Khaled Mashal not to rush into a deal before it becomes clear  where Egypt is headed'.

At their kiss and make-up encounter, Abbas and Mashal stressed they had 'absolutely no differences and had agreed on all issues'. Really? The Hamas Covenant specifies:

Article 6: Hamas 'strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine'

Article 7: The Day of Judgement will not come until Muslims fight the Jews, when the Jews will hide behind  stones and trees, the stones and trees will say 'O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him'.     

Would this imply that Mahmoud Abbas has also embraced the Hamas credo of total Jihad, not only when it comes to annihilating Israel, but all Jews?

Netanyahu: 'Abbas must choose between Hamas and peace talks with Israel'...

Mahmoud Abbas, Benyamin Netanyahu, Barack Obama(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu clarified that Mahmoud Abbas would have to decide between peace-making with Israel or unification with Hamas. The PM issued this statement: 'I hope the Palestinians will choose to jettison the proposed amalgamation with Hamas and reject one-sided steps. If they do so and and return to the sole path leading to peace, that is direct talks without prior conditions, I think it is possible to advance peace that will serve the interests of both Israelis and Palestinians'.

Vice Premier Silvan Shalom added: 'This demonstration of Palestinian unity has sealed the fate of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. It is impossible to talk with to a government, half of which calls for the annihilation of Israel. We will not negotiate with a partner that refuses to publicly recognize the state of Israel, renounce terrorism, nor honor prior agreements, conditions set by the international community'.

Egypt- Hope for the best, prepare for the worst...

Tahrir Square, Egypt (photo: Jonathan Rashad)

Egypt-Israel: While Israeli decision-makers were quietly monitoring the mounting chaos in Cairo, Labor Knesset Member Binyamin Ben Eliezer, a former defense minister, went public. In several media interviews, Ben Eliezer warned that Israel must prepare for a confrontation with Egypt. There is no question that the departure of Mubarak and the possible rise to power of the fanatical Muslim Brotherhood has sounded alarm bells in Israel's senior political and military echelons. In the short run, the primary concern is that a new Islamist government in Cairo will ease, or drop, its restrictions on arms smuggling to Gaza and do nothing to halt more Palestinian terror attacks from Sinai. And who can guarantee the future of the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of 1979 that took Israel's most dangerous enemy out of the ring of security threats.

IDF Gen.(res.) Zeevi Farkash, a former chief of IDF intelligence, has said the Egyptian military has been weakened by the recent anarchy and the country's economy devastated. Any new government will have to concentrate on raising the very poor standard of living, that has sunk even lower than under Mubarak and that was the key factor in precipitating his downfall. Therefore it is reasonable to assume that a new leadership will strive to restore law and order so necessary for reviving tourism, keeping the Suez Canal open, maintaining economic aid from the U.S. and seeking international investment. Hopefully, this will nullify any military adventurism toward Israel. In any case, Israel is pulling out the stops to complete a major new security fence along the Israeli-Egyptian by the end of 2012. In short, hope for the best prepare for the worst.

Israel to build security fence along Jordanian border...

Jordan: The Arab Spring also has Jordan's King Abdullah worried. Abdullah, who inherited a peace treaty with Israel, paid a brief visit to Ramallah, for a chat with Mahmoud Abbas. Ruling over a Palestinian majority in Jordan, Abdullah was apparently interested in keeping on good terms with Abbas. Recently there have been some low-key Palestinian demonstrations in the Hashemite Kingdom. Abdullah wisely sent unarmed security forces to maintain order. However Jordan is also a second former peaceful border that now poses potential dangers. Even before the advent of the Arab Spring, Netanyahu spoke in private about the new situation to the East after the withdrawal of American forces from Iraq. In the PM's view, it was difficult to foresee whether Iraq might again turn against the Jewish state. In former wars, Iraqi tanks have rumbled through Jordan and Syria to reach Israel. This was a reason for insisting on an Israeli military presence along the Jordan River. Moreover, if the wind of the Arab Spring sweeps Assad from power, can Jordan be far behind? In light of this contingency, Israel is also planning another security fence along her border with Jordan.

The historical bottom line: Prime Minister Menachem Begin had complete faith that Egypt's President Anwar Sadat was determined to fullfil the peace treaty with Israel. Begin opted for the 'territory for peace' formula long before it became the panacea so often preached to Israel. Nonetheless, Begin wisely insisted that the 200 kilometer wide Sinai be demilitarized putting Israel's security border back along the Suez Canal. Prime Minister Yitzak Rabin also believed that Jordan's King Hussein was sincere about honoring their peace accord. Now years later, the situation along those borders may be about to change radically. These new question marks stress the strategic need for Israel to insist on solid security arrangements in any future peace agreements. This has always been a fact of Middle East life, now more than ever that the Arab Spring may be sowing the seeds of hostile Islamist regimes rather than peace loving democracies.

David Essing

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