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Strategic Choices: Unpacking Egypt's Decision to Keep its Border Closed to Palestinian Neighbors - An Opinion

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"Deciphering Egypt's Role: Unpacking the Dynamics Behind Cairo's Border Policy Amidst the Israel-Gaza War

In the aftermath of the Israel-Gaza War, Egypt has risen to a prominent position in the Middle East, notably demonstrated by the summit it convened for Arab and European leaders. Ghaith al-Omari and David Schenker, experts in Middle Eastern affairs, shed light on Egypt's renewed influence, emphasizing its crucial role in facilitating discussions among leaders who faced challenges in finding common ground.

Beyond its leadership among Western-allied Arab nations, Egypt has become indispensable to the Biden administration concerning Gaza-related issues. The control it exercises over the Rafah crossing, currently the sole entry point into Gaza following Israel's closure of all its borders after a terror attack by Hamas on October 7, grants Egypt significant influence over the terms governing humanitarian aid entry into the Gaza Strip.

While Egypt's pivotal role is acknowledged, frustrations emerge on multiple fronts. Washington, a major provider of military assistance to Egypt, is irked by Cairo's restriction on the exit of American citizens and other nationals from Gaza, seemingly linked to the entry of aid. Simultaneously, humanitarian groups express their dismay as Egypt keeps its border closed, hindering the establishment of a humanitarian corridor to assist hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Gazans seeking refuge in the south amid intense fighting in the north.

The intricate interplay between geopolitical considerations, humanitarian concerns, and Egypt's strategic choices underscores the complex landscape surrounding the Gaza conflict."

"Balancing Act: Egypt's Concerns and Calculations in Keeping the Rafah Crossing Closed

Egypt's decision to keep the Rafah crossing closed stems from a series of serious and legitimate concerns. Foremost among these is the apprehension of a significant refugee influx if the crossing were to open. With Egypt already hosting around 9 million refugees from various countries, the prospect of an additional wave of Palestinian refugees poses not only humanitarian and economic challenges but also significant security and political risks.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi explicitly voiced concerns about the potential transfer of Palestinians into Sinai, highlighting the risk of turning the peninsula into a launching pad for attacks against Israel. This, he warned, could lead to Israeli reprisals, trigger a war between the two nations, and jeopardize the longest-standing peace between Israel and any Arab country. Egypt fears that such a scenario could also undermine the prospects of a two-state solution and further inflame Arab public opinion.

The regional sentiment aligns with Egypt's concerns, as other Arab countries have supported its opposition to opening the Sinai for refugees. Even Secretary of State Antony Blinken acknowledged the widespread rejection of this idea during his tour of Arab capitals, emphasizing that it is a nonstarter.

Internally, Egypt views the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as primarily Israel's responsibility, and any associated political or territorial costs should be borne by Israel. This perspective has led to the rejection of proposals, even from the Trump administration, that could potentially entangle Egypt in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Moreover, Egypt worries that an open crossing could facilitate the entry of Hamas and its sympathizers. Given that Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood, a significant political rival to President Sisi domestically, and considering Egypt's history of combating Islamist terror in the Sinai Peninsula since the 2011 revolution, this concern adds another layer of complexity to Egypt's decision-making.

In essence, Egypt's approach reflects a careful balance between humanitarian considerations, security imperatives, and political realities in navigating the complexities of the Israel-Gaza situation."

"Securing Borders: Egypt's Strategic Measures and the Evolving Dynamics in Gaza

The complex challenge facing Israel in relation to Gaza has prompted strategic responses from neighboring Egypt. Since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, Egypt took decisive steps to seal the border. In 2018, Human Rights Watch reported that Egypt demolished the entire Sinai city of Rafah, creating a substantial buffer zone to impede the movement of weapons and terrorists through tunnels connecting Egypt and Gaza. To fortify this effort, Egypt flooded the tunnels. In 2020, a reinforced concrete wall, 20 feet high and reaching 16 feet below ground, was erected to prevent the spillover of conflict from Gaza into Egyptian territory.

These stringent measures underscore Egypt's commitment to securing its borders and preventing the infiltration of weapons and militants. However, the situation in Gaza has reverberations within Egypt, where there is a notable reservoir of support for the Palestinian cause. The recent anti-Israel protests organized by the Egyptian government reflect an attempt to align with public sentiment and manage demonstrations, marking a shift from the Mubarak era.

The unwavering U.S. support for Israel, fueled by longstanding policy, has heightened tensions in the Arab world, including Egypt. The perception that the U.S. is implicated in the suffering in Gaza is widespread in the Arab world, influencing public opinion and complicating diplomatic engagements. The canceled meeting between President Biden and President Sisi, ostensibly due to reports of an Israeli attack on a hospital in Gaza, illustrates the delicate diplomatic dance in the region.

The nuanced approach by the U.S., framing the cancellation as a response to mourning periods and expressing sympathy for the victims, has alleviated pressure on President Sisi. This approach is appreciated in

"Strategic Coordination: Navigating the Complex Landscape of US Objectives in the Israel-Gaza Situation

For the United States to effectively pursue its dual objectives of supporting Israel's efforts to degrade or eliminate Hamas while simultaneously providing crucial humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians, strategic coordination with its Arab allies is imperative. Given factors of geography, historical ties, and diplomatic influence, Egypt emerges as the linchpin in this delicate equation. Washington's commitment to achieving these goals hinges on close collaboration with key regional partners, and Egypt's pivotal role cannot be overstated."

"In conclusion, the intricate dynamics surrounding the Israel-Gaza situation demand strategic finesse and collaborative efforts on multiple fronts. While Egypt stands as a linchpin due to its geographic proximity, historical ties, and diplomatic influence, successful coordination among the United States, Israel, and its Arab allies remains paramount. The dual objectives of supporting Israel's campaign against Hamas and providing humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians necessitate a nuanced approach that acknowledges the complexities of the region. As global stakeholders navigate these challenges, the importance of diplomatic cohesion, regional cooperation, and a commitment to alleviating the human suffering in Gaza cannot be overstated. The road ahead requires continued dialogue, sensitivity to regional sentiments, and a comprehensive understanding of the multifaceted dynamics at play."

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