The same applies to permissiveness toward cross-border raids from Egyptian territory into Israel. Again, there have been lots of Western media items about how much Egypt is doing to stop such attacks or arrest those involved. The problem is that these efforts have been token ones mainly directed at ensuring the terrorists don’t attack the Egyptian military and don’t launch operations too often.
There has been a lot of talk in ruling circles in Egypt about revising the peace treaty with Israel. Well, Israel is open to negotiating an increase in the level of Egyptian military presence in the eastern Sinai as long as the additional soldiers are stopping smuggling into the Gaza Strip and the use of Egyptian territory to attack Israel instead of taking bribes and looking the other way, or even helping the terrorists.
One is free to look at such a solution in two ways. If you want, you can believe that Egypt really is ruled by moderates who put peace and prosperity over jihad on their priorities list. Alternatively, it is equally okay to think that the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt is quite radical but that its interests dictate restoring calm and avoiding war for several years to come even though they would prefer otherwise.
What makes the difference is Israel’s credibility, willingness to defend itself, and ability to do so effectively. This situation was partly created because U.S. policy favored Hamas. Here’s what I wrote back in June 2010, before anyone had heard of an “Arab Spring,” when Obama pressured Israel to make life easier for the Hamas regime:
“Who’s really making the Middle East unsustainable? Barack Obama is with a policy of weakening your friends and helping your enemies get stronger. Note that Obama did not mention the conditions for easing the blockade–that Hamas abandon terrorism and accept Israel’s existence–nor did he say that anything the Palestinian Authority or Hamas is doing is ‘unsustainable.’ Only Western and Israeli policy are said to be unsustainable. In effect, Obama is saying that the policies of Hamas, Iran, Hizballah, and Syria, among others, are infinitely sustainable, especially because of his reluctance to do things to make them unsustainable. And thus in Middle East terms, he’s saying: Your intransigence has won. We couldn’t move you so our policy has failed. We must give in.”
Obama has now supported Israel’s right to self-defense and has been discussing a ceasefire with Turkey and Arab states. It is now the job of the United States, whose president has spoken and acted as if the government in Egypt is his client, and all the vaunted leverage that the U.S. government says it has gained in the Arabic-speaking world through various actions over the last four years. America and Europe need to use the aid and backing they have given to Egypt as a way to get something in return. And if, despite Egyptian efforts, Hamas still refuses a ceasefire, then the U.S. government and other Western states might well rethink their negative attitude toward an Israeli ground offensive.
Israel is refraining from a ground attack at the urging of Western countries, especially the United States, if it eventually gets something in return.
So far, Hamas has been turning down the efforts by Egypt and Qatar to broker a ceasefire, making huge and ridiculous demands. Hamas is banking on the idea that the suffering of Gaza’s people–a suffering that it adds to and fictionalizes–will bring enough Western sympathy to force Israel to stop fighting without conditions. It is not in anyone else’s interests to let this happen.