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SINAI MASSACRE

Interview with Dr. Dan Schueftan,

Israeli Middle east expert

Taba Hilton

Dr. Dan Schueftan: ‘Egypt Bears Responsibility For Failing to Halt Smuggling Of Explosives Through Sinai’

‘Israel Should Not Permit The Terrorism To Alter Sharon’s Time-Table For Evacuating Gaza Strip’

David Essing: We’re speaking now with Dr. Dan Scheuftan, Dr. Scheuftan, is this also a blow to Egypt itself?

Dr. Schueftan: Yes, it’s a major problem for Egypt, first of all because it will hurt the tourism industry, primarily Israeli tourists, but also the broader tourist industry. We’ve had a major attack on tourists in Luxor and it took the Egyptians a very long time, years, to overcome the bad effect of the terrorist attacks against tourists in the 1990’s. So I suppose that this will also hurt Egypt, but there is also a very interesting lesson here in the broader context if we’re speaking about Egypt. The Egyptians have been doing absolutely nothing to prevent major introduction of weapons into the Gaza Strip and into Israel and it is simply impossible that the Egyptians didn’t know about it or could not have done much, much more in order to prevent it. They wanted Israel to be under constant pressure and they played this very dangerous game of allowing terrorism through their territory against another country on the assumption that this will give them some immunity from terrorism in their own country and, as always, this proved to be untrue and that the struggle against terrorism cannot be partitioned between good terrorists and bad terrorists and the Egyptians are now suffering from what, to some extent, they themselves have created.

David Essing : So the Egyptian authorities actually bear some indirect responsibility for what has happened.

Dr. Schueftan: Direct responsibility, not for this particular action, but direct responsibility for the freedom of action the terrorists have inside Egypt because a terrorist is a terrorist. This is again the same lesson that is so difficult to teach people, particularly in the Middle East, that terrorism is terrorism is terrorism and if you allow terrorism against one objective you inevitably open yourself to terrorism in your own country.

David Essing : Well, I see that the Egyptian government spokesman, Magdi Vadi, has put out a statement saying that he links the explosions to the Israeli operation in Gaza, is this an Egyptian attempt to try and deflect this responsibility that you’ve been speaking about?

Casualties

Dr. Schueftan: I haven’t heard this particular statement, but of course this is ridiculous, because, first of all, we are speaking about an operation that takes a very long time to plan so it could not have possibly been anything connected with the recent incursion into the Gaza Strip, and then if the lesson of this strange, to put it mildly, statement is that Israelis should not respond against major terrorism of rockets being shot into its towns because it may encourage terrorists to produce more terrorism against its citizens, that’s a very strange logic and I don’t think you can intelligently defend it, but this is what I would expect from the Egyptians, they’re never responsible for anything, Arabs are never responsible for anything, the only people that are responsible for anything that is happening throughout the world that is bad is America and Israel, and this is the kind of response that makes it almost impossible for you to respect the people who make them.

David Essing : And as you mentioned, after the massacre of 58 foreign tourists at Luxor, the Egyptians carried out a no-holds-bar against the Islamists extremists, didn’t they?

Dr. Schueftan: Yes, and in a very brutal way that is possible in a country like Egypt that is not a democracy and not an open society, they were very effective inside Egypt in checking terrorism but when they allow terrorism from Egypt against Israel, indirect as it may be, through Palestinians and so on, this is what you shall expect.

David Essing: Do you think this will have any impact on the Egyptian participation in what we could call it, perhaps, a regional approach to resolving the situation in Gaza after the Israeli pullout, in other words, an Egyptian role in enforcing law and order in the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Schueftan: Unless Egypt changes dramatically, 180 degrees, her attitude, I don’t believe that the Egyptians can be a constructive force in the Gaza Strip in a major way. In a very minor way, perhaps yes, but in order for Egypt to be effective and to be able to help the Israeli disengagement from the Gaza Strip and help the Palestinians to get rid of the Israeli presence as they want, Egypt must adopt a completely different approach, again completely negating any kind of terrorism, fighting harshly against any kind of terrorism no matter what excuses the Palestinians or others, give to this terrorism, but this is very difficult, because you must remember even if the Egyptian regime wants to take steps that make a lot of sense, it has public opinion and I speak, regrettably, about the more sophisticated public opinion, of the Elite in Egypt, that has a very strange perception of the world, a very paranoid perception of the world, a conspirative perception, that puts Israeli and American conspiracies in the heart of their explanation for practically everything and this extremely irresponsible approach of the Egyptian Elite makes it difficult for the Egyptian regime to take the necessary steps, so I doubt if this very dramatic change that is necessary as a precondition for an Egyptian effective role can be expected.

David Essing: Well, many Israelis and perhaps people in the corridors of powers in the capitals, many capitals around the world, are asking today, in light of this current upsurge of terrorism, the blitz of Sderot and also what we’ve seen today, if Sharon could or should delay the carrying out of the withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.

Dr. Schueftan: I think it would be a very major mistake if Sharon will delay it because the Israeli move is designed to maintain the initiative in Israel to prevent hostile initiatives from coming about. This is the basis for the excellent relations between Israel and the United States. Without American support it is extremely difficult to promote any Israeli policy and if the Americans come to the conclusion that this is not a serious approach, namely that once there are difficulties you withdraw from it, it will be very difficult to maintain the very, very good relations between Israel and the United States. It will also send a bad signal inside Israel, to radicals inside Israel who are trying to prevent this move, and if you believe, as I do, that disengaging from the Palestinians is not some prize that you give to the Palestinians, but the best thing that could have happened to Israel, if you realize that the worst thing for Israel is to be engaged with the Palestinians, then you promote this policy and you stay with the timetable, you don’t bring it forward like the radical Left in Israel wants, and you don’t delay it like the radical Right in Israel wants, but you stay the course as the mainstream of Israeli public opinion wants, with the understanding that this is the right thing to do at this moment.

David Essing: Dr. Dan Scheuftan, thank you very much for talking with us today, sir.

Dr. Schueftan: You’re welcome.

David Essing

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