Speaking at a military graduation ceremony in mid-October, President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi made his country’s approach to the bloody crisis in the Palestinian Gaza Strip clear and concise. At the same time, he emphasised that his words are “verified and cannot have a double interpretation”. In his view, Egypt today is in the midst of “very dangerous processes” directly related to the designs of a number of international players to change “the trajectory of a just solution to the Palestinian problem on the principles of the Oslo Accords, based on the provisions of the peace initiative and international law.” It is clear that these forces seek military action in order to “derail this solution and ignite a senseless conflict in which there will be no winners.”
This is quite obvious and recognized by all observers, that under the current bloody circumstances, Cairo is ready to use all the mediation options at its disposal to resolve the Gaza conflict in coordination with international partners without preconditions. From the outset, Cairo has actively called on the international community to assume its responsibility and protect civilians from the consequences of the military conflict, as well as to ensure that medical and relief supplies are delivered to the Gaza enclave as soon as possible.
Egypt cannot afford the wait-and-see attitude that other regional and international parties have until Israel has eliminated Hamas fighters and leaders and destroyed their tunnels and equipment. Achieving these military objectives will take a long time, cost tens of thousands of innocent Palestinian casualties, and encourage hundreds of thousands more to try to escape the hell of Gaza through the only exit currently available to the Sinai desert at Rafah. In this case, humanitarian pressure on Egypt will intensify to force it to change its stated policy of not accepting the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt, as this would mean the end of the Palestinian national cause, threaten Egypt’s national security and could undermine the Egyptian-Israeli peace agreement.
Recently, one can finally see in the US and in Europe a growing recognition of what the rest of the world had previously agreed upon, namely, that a return to the situation imposed by Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians prior to the current war is unacceptable. After more than two decades of silence and defiance, American officials are now talking about a two-state solution. Unofficial European and American ideas have emerged for placing the Gaza Strip under international protection or administration to ensure that after the war it does not become a source of military threat to Israel and a trigger for other subsequent wars. Spain has proposed renewing the call for another Madrid Conference in the Middle East to approve the aforementioned interim arrangements pending the establishment of a Palestinian state.
Public opinion in the United States and the Western world is shifting and demanding an immediate end to the war and the resulting tragedy in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. administration and other Western governments, however, remain unwilling to end the war before Israel eliminates the entire military capability of the Palestinian resistance in Gaza, regardless of whether such a goal is achievable. Western politicians and academics have volunteered to create an international force to maintain security in Gaza and an international panel to oversee the coordination of reconstruction efforts and free elections in Gaza and the West Bank. Some liberal American Jewish activists stressed the importance of stopping Israeli settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territories. They also called for preventing Israeli settlers from attacking and provoking Palestinians, whether in the West Bank or Jerusalem.
Egypt has not created any problems, and on the contrary, both previously and now has hosted 9 million refugees from many countries. Meanwhile, the “democratic” Western media claim that Egypt has allegedly refused to discuss with the US and Israel the organisation of humanitarian corridors for the withdrawal of Palestinian refugees through the Rafah Crossing Point on the Egyptian border. Cairo reasonably suspects that this is a ploy to mass transfer Gaza Palestinians to Egypt and then incorporate the Strip into Israeli territory. President el-Sisi therefore insists that “safe passages are only needed for the delivery of medicine and food to the enclave and the exit of foreign nationals from there”. The Egyptian Foreign Ministry called unacceptable the IDF’s calls for Gazans to leave their homes and go to the south of the Strip. It noted that this is in flagrant violation of international norms, as the lives of more than one million Palestinians would be endangered in uninhabited areas that are poorly adapted for normal living.
In an effort to provide relief to stranded people, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry is actively preparing to facilitate the reception and evacuation of more than 7,000 foreign nationals from over 60 countries in the Gaza Strip through the Rafah Crossing Point. The preparations include obtaining the necessary travel documents and logistical arrangements to guarantee that foreigners will enter Egyptian territory “in a timely manner,” said Ismail Khairat, assistant foreign minister, during a meeting with foreign diplomats in Cairo. Khairat briefed the foreign missions on medical preparations, including the availability of ambulances and equipping hospitals for emergency medical care. These medical services are not only for foreign nationals, but also for Palestinians who have been injured in deadly Israeli airstrikes on the Gaza Strip since 7 October. On the Palestinian side, Hisham Adwan, director of the Rafah border crossing in Gaza, said that approximately 100 wounded and 400 foreigners and dual nationals, including US citizens, are expected to cross the border in one day alone.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Israel has the right to do “everything possible” to ensure that the 7 October Hamas attack “never happens again”, while reiterating that civilians in Gaza must be protected. How the US protects the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can be understood when one learns that, at the time of writing, some 10,000 adults, including some 4,000 children, have been killed by the Israeli Air Force bombing with the help of American planes and bombs. Such is the specificity of the American defence of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Moreover, since 7 October alone, according to Arab press reports, 143 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the occupied West Bank, where there is no military action. The UN report explicitly blames Israel for extrajudicial killings in the West Bank.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reiterated on 1 November, in a telephone conversation with Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak, the need for the international community to take a strong stance for an immediate ceasefire and the enforcement of a humanitarian truce, given the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza. President el-Sisi stressed that the solution to the Palestinian issue requires the implementation of the two-state solution, stressing that military solutions pose a threat to the overall security and stability of the region. He also noted that Egypt is exerting considerable efforts both on the political front to de-escalate the situation and prevent bloodshed, and on the humanitarian level, leading the coordination process to deliver humanitarian aid to help the people of Gaza.
It is now obvious to almost everyone that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip cannot last forever without Israelis and Arabs paying for it with blood. The world community, without regard to the bankrupt United States and Europe, should develop a whole set of such proposals that will represent a real attempt to prevent war before it takes the lives of tens of thousands more Palestinian civilians. Israel will not be able to achieve a quick and decisive victory in this war, and also risks completely destroying its economy and completely tarnishing its image on the world stage.
In addition, if this insane war continues, other regional forces such as Hezbollah, Iran and Syria, and international states such as the United States and Russia may be drawn into it. It could also escalate into a nuclear war, especially if the United States loses thousands of its soldiers, whose number in the region is approaching 30,000 soldiers on bases on land and ships at sea. Thus, it is quite obvious that the call and any active actions to end hostilities and achieve a just peace in the Middle East are the dictates of time and the sooner the better.
Victor MIKHIN, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, especially for online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.