The Blog

Egypt Between the Palestinian Rock and Anvil

12:43 AM, Jan 27, 2008 • By BILL ROGGIO
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

On Friday, I noted the open border between Egypt and Gaza threatened not only Israel, but Egypt, allowing Islamists of all stripes to freely enter the country. Yesterday an Egyptian official explained the country's predicament to the Associated Press:

Cairo was now caught between the hammer and the anvil, the officials said. On the one hand, they said, Egypt did not want to use force against the Palestinians for fear of being accused by the Arabs of taking part in the blockade on the Gaza Strip; on the other hand, the Egyptians were very worried that Hamas and its allies would "occupy" the northern Sinai, turning it into a center for Islamist terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida.

The Egyptian authorities are now focusing their efforts on preventing Gazans from heading toward Cairo and other cities. Authorities also warned Egyptians not to allow Palestinians to stay with them.

Thirty-eight Egyptian border guards were wounded, several critically, during failed attempts to close the border. And tens of thousands of Palestinians are still pouring into the Sinai.

The breakdown of the Gaza border also exposes the rift between the moderate government in Cairo and the Palestinians. While Arab governments delight in Palestinian attacks on Israel, they are wary of the violence spilling over. The Kuwaitis despise the Palestinians for backing Saddam Hussein during the invasion of Kuwait in 1990. Palestinians wore out their welcome in Baghdad after some were connected to terror attacks following the U.S. invasion in 2003. And the Palestinians in Lebanon are treated like third class citizens, unable to hold jobs outside the refugee camps. The Fatah al Islam uprising in the Nahr al Bared camp in northern Lebanon claimed the lives of 122 Lebanese troops while the Ein al Hilwah camp is essentially a no-go area for government forces.

Egypt will now need to deal with its own Palestinian problem. It must prevent terrorist groups that run Gaza from spreading within its own borders, and all while not appearing too harsh on the world's most favored victims.