Can Morsi Make History and Put Peace Process Back on Map? the Lethal Bombing Campaign between Israel and Gaza Is a True Crisis, but One Which Presents a Unique Opportunity for a New Settlement. David Williamson Examines One of the Greatest Foreign Policy Challenges since the Arab Spring

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), November 20, 2012 | Go to article overview

Can Morsi Make History and Put Peace Process Back on Map? the Lethal Bombing Campaign between Israel and Gaza Is a True Crisis, but One Which Presents a Unique Opportunity for a New Settlement. David Williamson Examines One of the Greatest Foreign Policy Challenges since the Arab Spring


MOHAMED Morsi only took the reins of the Egyptian presidency in June but already he faces the foreign policy test which may define his career.

This leading figure in the Muslim Brotherhood will make decisions in the coming days and weeks which have the potential to secure a ceasefire and possibly reboot the peace process between Israel and Hamas. If he fails this challenge the region could spiral into a new chapter of bloodshed, extremism and chaos.

To bring a halt to the violence a deal must be struck that will allow the authorities in Israel and Hamas-controlled Gaza to each claim that their people are now better off. The road to such a solution runs straight through Egypt.

Israel's Government - especially in this pre-election season - must be able to convince its people they are safer than before and no longer face an immediate threat from rocket fire.

Hamas will also need to show that it has not been beaten into submission. It will want a weakening of the so-called "siege" so that residents will have easier access to medical supplies, food, construction materials and other products. Egypt has a vital role to play if either of these goals are to be secured.

Violent Islamist extremists have gained a foothold in the Sinai peninsula, which is officially under Egyptian control, and they have fired on Israelis from within Gaza.

Any Government would find routine shelling intolerable but the game-changer is that long-range rockets are now reaching the vicinity of Tel Aviv.

These armaments are now not just a danger to Israelis living in regions bordering Gaza; a country founded with the goal of ensuring that Jews will be safe from their enemies now faces a dire threat.

According to the Israeli Defence Forces: "Since Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, terrorists have fired more than 8,000 rockets into Israel.

"Over one million Israelis are currently living under threat of rocket attacks.

"In 2011 alone, 630 rockets from Gaza hit Israeli towns... Since 2001, more than 12,800 rockets and mortars, an average of three attacks every single day, have landed in Israel."

AIPAC, which describes itself as "America's pro-Israel lobby", states in its briefings that Hamas possesses more than 10,000 rockets while Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, has 60,000.

The November 14 assassination of Ahmed al-Jaabari, a pivotal figure in the military wing of Hamas, followed mounting frustration that Hamas was not only failing to clamp down on attacks by rival militants but was directly engaged in violence.

Barak Mendelsohn, writing in Foreign Affairs, gives an insight into the tortured internal politics of Gaza.

He writes: "Since Hamas was elected, it has found the Salafi groups in Gaza especially difficult rivals to manage. Fatah, Hamas' main competitor before it pushed the group out of the area in 2006, was never such a challenge.

"The small jihadi outfits, though, embodied the fighting ethos. And unlike Hamas, they were free from the constraints that governing puts on ideological purity."

Extremists have been able to funnel arms and fighters through the 400 tunnels that line the Gaza-Sinai border. Their activities need to be curtailed if Hamas is going to stabilise Gaza. …

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