Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil made a historic visit to the Gaza Strip amid the biggest flare-up of violence in years between Israel and Hamas, underscoring the acute dilemma Egypt's new Islamist government faces as the stakes rise in the long-running conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. Mr. Qandil arrived in Gaza on Friday morning to demonstrate his new government's clear policy break from Egypt's ousted, more pro-Israeli regime. He met with Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh before visiting wounded civilians at a crowded Shifa Hospital in the Gaza Strip.There have already been hardline moves regarding Israel not bound to please the (white) man:
Mr. Qandil's high-profile visit to Gaza, unprecedented for such a senior Egyptian official, comes on the third day of exchanges of rocket fire and attacks between Hamas and Israel's military. He was ordered Thursday to lead a delegation to Gaza by Egypt's newly elected president, Mohammed Morsi. Hamas has fired hundreds of rockets into southern Israel, and even landed missiles on the outskirts of Israel's business center and largest city, Tel Aviv. Civil defense sirens again sounded on Friday afternoon in Tel Aviv, followed by what sounded like an explosion. It was unclear in the immediate aftermath exactly what caused the sound.
Egypt has already expelled the Israeli ambassador and frozen diplomatic ties with Israel, lifted some restrictions at Egypt's border crossing with the Gaza Strip and dispatched Mr. Qandil to Gaza City. Yet the crux of the problem for President Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party, which has deep ideological ties with Hamas, is that they being asked by their militant Palestinian allies to do much more, as they are at the helm of power in the Arab world's most populous and influential state after the fall of Mr. Mubarak during the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011.That's all well and good, but the crux of the matter is that Morsi must suck up with some diligence if he wants economic support for Egypt's crumbling economy:
Still, Mr. Morsi is dealing with monumental tasks at home. Jumpstarting Egypt's ailing economy and easing hostility among sizeable segments of the population, who are unsettled at the Muslim Brotherhood's sudden rise to power, are high on the priority list—and closely connected to the process of drafting a new constitution that is currently under way. Beyond domestic concerns, veering too close to Hamas threatens to alienate Israel's main international backers in the U.S. and Europe, both of which Egypt is counting on to help revive the economy with loans, investment and trade opportunities.The challenge as far as Morsi is concerned is to show his Islamist constituency that he is "standing up to the West" which is backing Israel strongly, all the while still being able to beg for the aforementioned $4.8B from the US-dominated IMF. It's a well nigh impossible balancing act. Mark my word, though: If Egypt shows more or less unequivocal support for Hamas, then the chances of Egypt obtaining IMF funding are size zero slim. $4.8B? Maybe they won't even lend $4.80 if sufficiently annoyed.
Even given America's bedraggled state, you simply don't bite the hand that tells others to feed. (See the previous "Allah and moolah" post for more on the tricky Egypt-IMF negotiations.)
UPDATE: Talk about Morsi's pro-Hamas leanings causing the US president no small amount of difficulties.