April 28, 2011

Egypt fiddles, while Gaza burns?

My fellow think-before-you-blogger Micah Halpern has noted that Hosni Mubarak's name is being removed from buildings, monuments and signs all across Egypt, and soon he will be expunged from the schoolbooks. This reminds me of the ancient practice by Pharaohs, who would obliterate all references to -- and likenesses of -- their immediate predecessor. But will the Old Egypt really disappear into the night, like cursive writing in the age of iPads and SMS? (No.)

The Army is still running Egypt behind the scenes, and the not so brand-new foreign minister, Nabil El-Araby, served as Mubarak's UN Ambassador not so many years back. One likely prospect to be the new President is Amr Moussa, one of El-Araby's predecessors as chief diplomat -- under Mubarak -- and a highly adaptive tell-you-what-you-want-to-hear overnight champion of Mideast democracy (e.g., "Tonight's specials are...").

El-Araby has now announced that Egypt's border crossing with Gaza, at Rafah, will be opened permanently. This may mean easier access for the rockets and missiles Hamas regularly launches against Israeli homes and schools, or it could allow desperate Palestinians to spill across the Sinai and into Egypt proper. Good luck with that...
Timing the border opening to a new reconciliation between the Gaza-based Hamas and West Bank-based Fatah (negotiated by the Egyptians mostly before the January 25 counter-revolution) may just be intended to incentivize the agreement and maybe even lure Hamas into peacekeeping, if the new guys have the same grand ambitions as Mubarak did. But more likely, the Egyptian Army will let the political lightweights (which every politician has to be when the generals still rule) have some fun and then shut things down. They military is probably waiting to see who wins the upcoming election before taking drastic steps like turning off the Internet again. 

It's also an opportunity for the Republic of Egypt to gain some lasting advantages over Israel and the United States, since everyone is giving the popular uprising a wide berth, lest we derail democracy or -- even worse -- further soil Brand America. And with 2-1/2 wars just the other side of Arabia, we REALLY need that Suez Canal to stay open. REALLY.

It is just possible that the border opening will allow Palestinians to let off some steam in a direction other than Israel, which is why the military will keep such matters on a tight leash. Either way, there is little the West or the Israelis can do about it at this point. And by the way, somebody just blew up the natural gas pipeline into Israel...

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