The ruling party in Egypt issued two unprecedented directives on Sunday. The first to the Information Ministry, instructing it to order the Television and Radio Authority not to broadcast Palestinian national songs and "to make do with low-key songs." The second to the Education Ministry telling it to ban national songs from being played in schools, and to avoid all songs on Pan-Arabism and jihad in the coming days.
When the Gaza Strip chafes against Egypt and fiery sparks fly, the well-being, security and honor of Egyptians takes priority before Gaza and the Arab world. This is the policy of President Hosni Mubarak, who is not deterred even by the rift with the Arab world that he ostensibly created.
In coordination with Saudi Arabia, Mubarak decided not to send a representative to, and certainly not to participate in, the Arab summit being held Friday in Doha. He insists that he will not open the Rafah crossing except on the basis of the 2005 agreements, which Egypt did not sign. Through his information minister, he is guiding the Egyptian press to carry on with its attacks on Hamas - even after the cease-fire was struck. Meanwhile, he is planning the kind of a border area that will involve cooperation with the international community but will exclude foreign troops on Egyptian soil. It is a matter of historical honor and national pride.
Mubarak is also carrying out a holding action against those who are trying to "catch a ride" at Egypt's expense, and prevent it from monopolizing the management of the "Palestinian problem." Jordan was long ago checked from any involvement, and Egypt has no direct dialogue with Syria. The Turko-Syrian effort to offer an alternative to the Egyptian initiative was foiled by Egypt, with American assistance. Qatar, which joined the Ankara-Damascus axis, is being handled by Egypt like a suspicious object.
The rehabilitation of the Gaza Strip will also be central to this struggle. Whoever wants to contribute and also see the fruits of his contribution will have to pass through Cairo or through the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah, says Egypt, and Cairo will ensure that Hamas will depend on Egypt's good will.
But insisting on a monopoly comes at a price. Guarding the border between Sinai and the Gaza Strip will be difficult without a solution to the problem of the Bedouin in the north of the peninsula, who have a stake in the smuggling. Mubarak will have to convince Israel to permit the deployment of several thousand more Egyptian soldiers, and thus risk being called Israel's "border guard." He will also have to resume a dialogue with Hamas, since his initiative calls for the third stage in the cease-fire agreement to include a reconciliation dialogue between Fatah and Hamas. After 27 years of rule, and at 81 years of age, the Egyptian president still has a full plate on his hands.
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