Egypt under Mubarak had become the lynchpin, on the Arab side, of implementing Israel’s divide and rule policies toward the Palestinians. With Mubarak gone, those policies are unraveling quickly. Egypt has secretly negotiated a unity deal, and is to open the Rafah crossing (presumably a sweetener for Hamas’s agreement on unity). Egypt has also indicated that it wants to strengthen its relations with Iran and is questioning its continuing provision of underpriced natural gas to Israel. A poll of Egyptians shows a majority opposed to the current peace treaty. Israeli officials are describing this new trend of independent Egyptian foreign policy – now responsive to the popular mood rather than to Israeli and US dictates – as a “national strategic threat.”
Something parallel is occurring among the Palestinian factions – and being reinforced by the Egyptian trend. Without Mubarak, and with no partner in Israel, Abbas is isolated; Hamas has lost its secure base in Syria provided by Asad and, needing another major Arab state sponsor, has looked to Egypt for help. So, for the first time, both factions have found an ally in Egypt. Unity will enable the Palestinian factions to hold elections, increase their legitimacy, press on with state-building and make a credible statehood bid at the UN in September. Hamas even appears to be ready to sign up to the PA’s UN strategy.
The popular mood among Palestinians and in Egypt appears to have trumped the threat of the US pulling its aid to both the PA and the Egyptian leadership.
This is very bad news for Israel and the US. The consequences of Netanyahu’s intransigence – Ehud Barak warned him that it would lead to a diplomatic tsunami – are now being felt. Israel has lost its chief regional allies, including most significantly Egypt and the PA. The Israeli occupation is now completely and manifestly dependent on US support. Through the PA and Egyptian acquiescence, Washington had been able to mask its dishonest role in backing Israel. The mask has been removed, and the charade cannot be maintained for much longer.