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Egypt again as ringmaster as Palestine talks progress

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Feb 10, 2021

After politically turbulent years, Egypt seems to be regaining its footing as a Middle East chief on the Palestinian-Israeli concern.

The change of guard in Washington and the latest reconciliations within the Gulf, accelerated after former US President Donald Trump’s departure, seems to have allowed Egypt, with its standing, geography, historical past and political alliances, to emerge as a possible kingmaker within the chaotic Palestinian affairs.

The second week of February noticed the Egyptian capital host two crucial conferences: an emergency assembly of Arab overseas ministers to debate Palestine and the inter-Palestinian assembly. The first produced a powerful pro-Palestinian assertion regardless of the weakening of the Arab peace plan because of the normalization fever of Trump’s final months in workplace.  

The Arab overseas ministers affirmed their “rejection of any unilateral Israeli projects or steps that negatively affect the rights of the Palestinian people, violate international law and undermine the two-state solution, for which there is no alternative.”

The inter-Palestinian dialogue was moved from a Cairo resort to the Egyptian intelligence headquarters to keep away from the extraordinary media presence. It was opened by a press release of encouragement by the pinnacle of the Egyptian intelligence service, Abbas Kamel. He spoke in regards to the humanitarian catastrophe within the besieged Gaza Strip.

While he spoke, it was reported that Egypt had determined to maintain the Rafah crossing completely open, a call that may contribute to easing tensions and permitting freedom of motion whereas on the identical time decreasing corruption on the crossings, the place bribes have been rampant.

Egypt, which apart from Israel is the one nation sharing a land border with Gaza, has all the time been energetic on the difficulty of reconciliation, although outcomes have been elusive. Although Turkey was not a direct sponsor of the assembly on the Palestinian Embassy in Istanbul final September, the breakthrough it produced angered Cairo, which wished acknowledgement of its position within the reconciliation course of.

Egypt was the primary Arab nation to make peace with Israel and has coordinated intently with the Israelis since Sisi took energy. Relations with Israel aren’t restricted to safety coordination as Egypt seems to be serving to Israel politically by detaining Ramy Shaath, a Palestinian-Egyptian activist with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions motion. Shaath has remained in jail since July 2019 regardless of Amnesty International calling for his launch and appeals by Palestinian officers to the Egyptian authorities. Ramy is the son of Nabil Shaath, a senior adviser to Abbas.  

Egypt’s alliances with Saudi and different Gulf international locations have paid dividends. The latest reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Qatari additionally has meant that Egypt can count on the pro-Hamas Qatari authorities to help its efforts. There can also be the latest enchancment in ties between Egypt and Jordan, which has shut ties to Abbas.

Cairo’s sponsoring of the Arab League convention for Palestine and the inter-Palestinian talks is being accomplished with an eye fixed on the administration of US President Joe Biden. Egypt, whose president Trump described as his “favourite dictator,” knows that it needs to do something to show its value to the US leader. Nothing could be more helpful to the Egyptians more than ending the one-party rule in Gaza and and legitimizing the Palestinian elections.

The administration of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has noticed that the Biden administration is not keen on talking to it or to Egypt’s Saudi allies, for whom Washington has a list of human rights violations to address. Unwilling to make compromises on the human rights front, the Egyptian government appears to be set on presenting itself as a strong Arab party that can produce a moderate, democratically legitimate and united Palestinian front in any future negotiations. If he can pull it off, it will be Sisi’s winning card when the US president connects with his Egyptian counterpart.

It is not clear whether the Palestinian card alone will be able to wash away Egypt’s many sins but it will surely mean Cairo is a regional factor that can’t be ignored.

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