Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood’s Role in Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process
When a civilian bus was bombed in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, many feared the incident would derail negotiations for a truce in the latest conflict between Israel and Hamas. That proved not to be the case. The other anxiety was that an Egypt with the Muslim Brotherhood in power would somehow jinx the prospects for peace. That fear proved to be groundless too. Indeed, the government of President Mohamed Morsy took the lead role in brokering the Gaza truce announced in Cairo Wednesday night and will reportedly act as its guarantor. “It was unknown how Egypt would react,” Likud party legislator Yohanan Plesner told Britain’s Telegraph. “When the moment of truth came, the Egyptian leadership moved responsibly and clearly said they were trying to restore stability.” Not only that, says analyst Michael Wahid Hanna at the Century Foundation, “Egypt’s government has put its own international credibility on the line by effectively undertaking to ensure that Hamas observes the terms of its cease-fire. That’s a subtle but profoundly important change.”
Egypt’s Gaza role reflects the emerging contours of a Middle East profoundly changed by the Arab Spring yet still forced to confront decades-old challenges. The essential partnership in tamping down the Gaza violence, notes former U.S. ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk, is the one “between the United States and Egypt — one using its influence with Israel, the other with Hamas — to put together a cease-fire package as the foundation for a wider resolution of the conflict.” Although U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton may have played an important part in finessing the deal, Morsy and the Egyptians provide a service Washington cannot in dealing with Gaza. The U.S. is officially sworn to avoid engagement with Hamas, a movement it defines as a terrorist organization. And while Washington has a preferred Palestinian interlocutor — President Mahmoud Abbas, who is based in the West Bank — Abbas has no influence over events in Gaza, where his rivals in Hamas hold sway. And so the Obama Administration turned to Egypt, urging it to use the Muslim Brotherhood’s political ties with Hamas and the Egyptian intelligence service’s long-established relationship with its Israeli counterparts to broker a truce.