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Egypt, Palestine and the Islamists: lessons from Syria

Since the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Spring,” the focus towards the Palestinian cause has declined significantly

Dr. Naser al-Tamimi

Published: Updated:

Since the outbreak of the so-called “Arab Spring,” the focus towards the Palestinian cause has declined significantly at the international and regional level. It seems that the Palestinian issue has been put on the back burner or dropped in favor of pressing local issues. Of course, this is an understandable situation where most of the Arab countries are facing intractable economic, social and political problems.

In this context, some have started to argue that what is happening in Palestine is nothing to do with us and let the Palestinians solve their own problems. Surely, this approach relieves its supporters from the political burdens of the Palestinians issue, or at least in theory. Nevertheless, things on the ground are quite complex and what is happening in Palestine is bound to have an impact on the region, especially Egypt.

Perhaps the dilemma which is now facing President Sisi is that pleasing Israel is no longer an acceptable option, ignoring Gaza is a risky policy and sitting on the fence is impossible

Dr. Naser al-Tamimi

Here we can say that the Israeli discourse in the international arena is trying to portray that what is happening in the Arab countries as not related to the Palestinian situation. However the Palestinian situation has become like a time bomb that may explode in the face of everyone sooner or later. If you need evidence of how the situation could spill over, just look at Syrian borders.

Killing the peace

It could be argued that under the current political conditions, the Israeli government led by Netanyahu may now think that they can kill the peace process without having to worry about any regional or international repercussions. This trend could be reinforced, especially if Washington and Tehran reach a final agreement on the Iranian nuclear program.

This scenario alone is a nightmare for Egypt. It has become clear that the status quo in occupied Palestine is no longer sustainable. The deterioration of the situation or even the collapse of the Palestinian Authority is not one of pure fantasy, but has become a very realistic prospect. This situation prompts the obvious question: if the peace process fails, what will be the reaction of the Egyptian government?

Let’s be clear, at the moment there’s no magic solution to Egypt’s problems. Boosting the economy needs time, more patience and great efforts to succeed. The dangerous recipe here is the convergence of Egyptian peoples’ frustration with the explosion of the situation in Palestine. Surly, this issue will provide the Islamic opposition (whether the Muslim Brotherhood or extremists) once again with other affective ammunitions to undermine the current Egyptian regime, which was the case in the period of Mubarak. This time the situation is more serious because al-Qaeda affiliates are operating on many fronts.

Stability in Sinai

The new Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is perhaps the most qualified person in Egypt to know the real dynamics of the situation in Sinai or Gaza. He knows very well that the security solution alone will not solve the problem. Without sustainable development for the local population, it is difficult to bring stability to the region. To be sure, it is very difficult to imagine how the Egyptian government can bring stability Sinai under the gloomy prospects for the peace process.

Here, let’s speak frankly, as long as the Islamists are the main opposition, the Palestinian issue will not disappear from their agenda. On the contrary it could “blow up” once again and spread beyond Palestine. Perhaps the dilemma which is now facing President Sisi is that pleasing Israel is no longer an acceptable option, ignoring Gaza is a risky policy and sitting on the fence is impossible.

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Dr Naser al-Tamimi is a UK-based Middle East analyst, and author of the book “China-Saudi Arabia Relations, 1990-2012: Marriage of Convenience or Strategic Alliance?” He is an Al Arabiya regular contributor, with a particular interest in energy politics, the political economy of the Gulf, and Middle East-Asia relations. The writer can be reached at: Twitter: @nasertamimi and email: nasertamimi@hotmail.co.uk

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.