Saturday, November 24, 2012

Hamas & Egypt have little victory to celebrate

Telegraph    Yet perhaps, behind the public face, and certainly as Hamas leaders sheltered from Israeli smart missiles in their bunkers, the reality of Hamas's victory was less clear cut. Once again, Israeli F16 fighter aircraft, naval vessels, tanks and Apache helicopters have rained destruction on Gaza, much of it carefully targeted, creating hundreds of craters and reducing homes and government buildings to rubble. 

In more than 1,500 strikes, the Israeli military says it successfully targeted 30 factional leaders, 19 Hamas command centres and countless ministries. The network of smuggling tunnels to Egypt, which not only delivered arms to the Hamas government but also brought substantial revenue through a cash levy on everything transported, has been badly damaged. 

That certainly is the view in Jerusalem. Dan Meridor, Israel's urbane intelligence minister, was particularly scathing about the claims of both Hamas and the more radical Islamic Jihad to have brought fear to the heart of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, with missiles which struck their suburbs. 

"What happened in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?" he said. " Nothing. They said the Gates of Hell would open. Well if that is Hell, it isn't such a bad place." 

More significantly, perhaps, is the secondary strategic result Israel has achieved. For with Hamas's new-found respectability also comes a responsibility - if not for Hamas, then at least for Egypt. 

Since last year's revolution, and the loss of its ally Hosni Mubarak, Israel has feared for its vital diplomatic partnership with its huge neighbour. The rise to power of the Muslim Brotherhood and its new president, Mohammed Morsi, a man who refuses to mention Israel by name, is what really sends shudders through the minds of Israeli politicians, not Hamas's inaccurate, Iranian-made missiles. 

For now, Mr Morsi faces troubles of his own - his attempts to cut through the morass that is Egypt's new constitutional settlement ended in riots across the country on Friday. 

Perhaps that is why Israel has faced him with his new test now. The praise heaped on Mr Morsi for his brokering of the peace deal obscures the fact he has now taken on a task Mr Mubarak never attempted and Egypt has long sought to avoid - becoming a guarantor of Israel's security by preventing remilitarisation of Gaza. 

Israel's demand, in return for an easing of its long blockade on Gaza, is that Egypt stop further rocket smuggling into Gaza through the Sinai. 

Much now depends on the lifting of the blockade, particularly among a Gazan civilian population already growing restive at Hamas's authoritarian rule.

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