Of Course, Egypt Is to Blame

The question now is how to deal with the sandwich state created between Israel and Egypt, when all the potential components of the explosion have yet to be neutralized.

The Yassin Band, a Palestinian rap group named for Hamas founder Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, has already put out a disc of victory songs. Hamas music is now the most popular music in the Gaza Strip, and even in this realm Fatah has not mustered a suitable response, except for childish posters.

It was Hamas that took center stage in the celebrations at Neveh Dekalim on Wednesday, the day of the major gathering of Palestinian factions. For the first time, the Hamas leadership publicized the names of Hamas commanders and their roles in the Gaza districts, as if to demonstrate the organization's full independence and the absence of any fear of Israeli pursuit.

But this sent a much more significant signal to the Palestinian Authority: Hamas has its own commanders and managers in the Gaza Strip and does not recognize the PA's control there. Abu Mazen's declaration about intending to collect unauthorized weapons was lost in the clamor created by the weapons of Hamas members.

The creation of a Hamas state in Gaza was one of the undisputed scenarios discussed not only in Israel but also between Israel and Egypt. Thus, the fact that Hamas is garnering the glory of victory and taking over the management of affairs should not surprise anyone who consistently supported a unilateral withdrawal without cooperation with the PA.

But, those disappointed in the withdrawal - who witnessed the breach of the Philadelphi route and the masses of Palestinians crossing back and forth between the Egyptian and Palestinian sides, and have seen their concerns about the flow of weapons and ammunition from the Egyptian side to the Palestinian side become a reality - are looking to find the guilty party under the lamplight. It is no coincidence that Egypt is found there.

"Egypt promised," "Egypt made a commitment" or "I expected more of the Egyptians," as Ariel Sharon said in New York, are the "charges" that now comprise the indictment against Cairo. Egypt, it should be remembered, did Israel a great favor: It freed Israel from its presence on the Philadelphi route and thus provided Sharon the possibility of declaring that the Gaza Strip in its entirely had been freed from Israeli occupation.

However, according to the agreement signed between Israel and Egypt after 18 months of discussions and dozens of Israeli reservations, Egypt committed only to deploying 750 soldiers along the 14 kilometers of the Philadelphi route, with the aim of preventing the smuggling of arms from its territory to Gaza. Egypt was not asked, and is unable, to prevent the establishment of a Hamas state, or to impose its power over the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip. If terrorists infiltrate or smuggle weapons from Egypt to Gaza, the Egyptian soldiers will not be able to chase after them. And if Hamas decides to blast additional passages through the wall separating the two, Egypt will not be able to prevent this. It does not and will not have the authority the Israel Defense Forces claimed for itself on the Philadelphi route. Egypt will make an effort to protect the border from its side without creating violent friction between its troops and the Palestinians.

This is the maximum that could be attained under the conditions that Israel dictated, and there is no reason to feign innocence and claim they tricked us. The question now is how to deal with the sandwich state created between Israel and Egypt, when all the potential components of the explosion have yet to be neutralized: the highest population density in the world, terrible poverty, a huge collection of arms and a radical leadership that plans to continue an armed struggle.

It will soon become clear that Israel will again require Egypt's assistance in handling this sensitive package because only Egypt can grant some sort of authority to Abu Mazen in "his" Gaza and create an armistice with Hamas; Egypt can serve as an economic home front for the Gaza Strip. Egypt has no less of an interest than Israel in seeing that it does not abut a Palestinian Hamas state. But it seems that as long as some shrieking politicians still regard Egypt as an enemy state, it will continue to also be held responsible in their eyes for poverty in Israel and the results of the matriculation tests.