The profound frustration because war did not break out with Syria during the summer - although there are some who argue that the summer has not yet ended - is being vented by channeling the anger against another neighbor: Egypt. October is an appropriate month to set upon a state that meticulously adheres to the peace accord it signed with Israel about 30 years ago.
In briefings with Israeli journalists, intelligence officials claim that Egypt wants to see "Israel bleeding." Perhaps it even aspires to revoke the peace accord or reach an agreement with Hamas to appease the Muslim Brotherhood, the experts suggest in an erudite explanation. In Israel, Egypt serves the role Syria fills in the United States. It is responsible for Hamas' increased military strength, for the smuggling of weapons via tunnels, for the continued firing of Qassams and for smuggling drugs and women across the border.
Israel is furious that Egypt allowed about 80 Hamas explosive experts - allegedly trained in Iran - to enter the Gaza Strip. As if the Qassams had been waiting for them to arrive. In fact, Egypt represents an excellent culprit because it can also be punished - by freezing U.S. economic assistance, for instance.
The purveyors of these intelligence briefings would do well to calm down a bit. Israel itself did not succeed in preventing arms smuggling, even when it controlled every centimeter of Gaza. Tunnels were dug under Israel's nose and used for smuggling and perpetrating lethal attacks. Israel has yet to repair some sections of the fence along its border with Egypt because the money allocated for this, NIS 200 million, disappeared somewhere.
For its part, Egypt is asking for Israel's approval to significantly increase the number of policemen patrolling the border. Another few thousand, Egypt believes, will help it block the smuggling route. Israel refuses such a move because it fears a sweeping breach of the Camp David Accords. At most, Israel has agreed to allow the Egyptians to patrol with all-terrain vehicles and two helicopters. It is angry that Egypt deployed another 750 soldiers on the border before removing the 750 soldiers who arrived there in the first round. Israel considers this as a violation of trust, never mind the benefit.
Despite the Israeli claim, Egypt is conducting a vigorous struggle against terror. Its efforts are primarily directed against those suspected of smuggling weapons - the Bedouin along the El Arish-Rafah axis and extremist Islamic groups operating in the Sinai, whose ranks also include Bedouin. The problem is that Egypt sometimes operates like Israel. Lacking sound intelligence, it detains hundreds and even thousands of people in the area, demolishes homes and conducts interrogations using methods that are anything but gentle. This generates enormous anger among the Bedouin population and prompts a search for alternative sources of employment. Today, smuggling weapons, women and drugs has become a particularly profitable alternative.
Egypt has no interest in seeing Hamas or other organizations in Gaza obtain weapons and explosives. After all, these also serve those organizations in the Sinai that carried out the major attacks in Sharm el-Sheikh, Taba and Dahab, which did enormous damage to Egyptian tourism. In addition, Egypt has no interest in appeasing the Muslim Brotherhood. A regime that conducts wholesale arrests of Muslim Brotherhood activists, restricts their political activity and harasses their newspapers is not likely to want to placate Hamas in order to appease that very same Muslim Brotherhood.
Could Egypt do more to stop the smuggling? The answer is yes, apparently it could - that is, if it receives Israel's okay to deploy more forces. Egypt certainly could have handled matters differently, particularly in its approach to the Bedouin population. But to preach about this to Egypt is tantamount to telling Israel to behave nicely toward the Palestinians, its occupied population.
Egypt is Israel's ally - not only in matters involving oil, gas and trade, but also in the fight against terrorism. It is Israel's only ally that maintains a dialogue with both Hamas and Fatah - and this is good. There is no benefit or logic in the attack launched against Egypt by intelligence officials in Israel, to the point of comparing it to a state that supports terror. But someone is apparently itching to get to the Aswan Dam.
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