Our Egyptian friends

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Well, that was quick. No sooner had the blasts gone off in Sharm e-Sheikh than the Egyptians were already blaming the murderous attack which claimed at least 88 lives on the Jews. As Khaled Abu Toameh reported in Sunday's Jerusalem Post, the immediate reaction to the bombings Saturday night on Egyptian state television and pan-Arab television networks Al-Jazeera and Al Arabiya was to blame the bombings on Israel.

As retired Egyptian army general Fuad Allam stated in an interview on Egyptian television that was repeatedly rebroadcast, the perpetrators of the October 2004 bombings at tourist sites in Sinai, where 12 Israelis were among the 34 dead, were "apparently linked to Israel's security forces." He continued: "I'm almost certain that Israel was also behind this attack because they want to undermine our government and deal a severe blow to our economy."


One has to wonder what purpose such statements serve for the Egyptian government, which controls its state television network. Why would Egyptian television push such a ridiculous claim while Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak stated "this cowardly, criminal act is aimed at undermining Egypt's security and stability and harming its people and its guests"?


The only reasonable explanation of this behavior is that statements such as Allam's are an indication of a lack of intent on the part of the Egyptian government to take any concrete or effective action against Islamic terrorists operating in the Sinai. In blaming Israel for the attacks, Egypt was essentially doing two things. First, it was making common cause with the bombers on the one issue – hatred of Israel and the Jews – that unites them.


IN A PEW Global Attitudes poll released on July 14, citizens in Lebanon and Jordan were asked if they had a favorable or unfavorable view of Jews. In Jordan, 100% of those polled stated they have an unfavorable opinion of Jews; in Lebanon, 99 percent of respondents said the same. While Egypt was not surveyed in the poll, given that under Mubarak's reign Egypt has acted as the epicenter for the propagation of anti-Semitism throughout the Arab world, it is hard to imagine that Jews receive significantly more sympathy there than we receive in Jordan and Lebanon.


So in blaming the Jews, Mubarak's television station was showing the government's affinity with the murderers of its own people at Sharm e-Sheikh.


Given this endemic hatred of Israel, it stands to reason that once the conspiracy theory has been officially propagated, any attempt to take action against the actual culprits – who of course have no links to Israel but rather are affiliated with al-Qaida – will be seen by the properly incited,


thoroughly anti-Semitic Egyptian public as a form of collaboration with the Jews.


And so the second thing Egypt has done in alleging that Israel was behind Friday night's blast is delegitimize any concrete action it could take against the perpetrators in the future.


After last October's attacks the Egyptian government, whose tottering economy is in large measure dependent on tourism, took no effective action against the al-Qaida terror cell responsible for those attacks. Nor did it take any effective action to protect its easily defended tourist villages.



Rather, it rounded up some 100 or so Beduin, whose links to the attacks were never altogether clear. As in the most recent attacks, last October the Egyptian media was quick to lay the blame on Israel.


And now, as then, the Egyptians have already rounded up some 100 Beduin whose links to the attacks are as unclear as they were in October.



ALL THIS must be taken into account as this week the Israeli government is poised to sign a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptians which will enable the deployment of 750 Egyptian forces to the Philadelphi Corridor linking Gaza with the Sinai.


For the past five years of the Palestinian terror war, Egypt has done nothing to prevent, and so has enabled, massive arms smuggling into Gaza through the Philadelphi Corridor, which the IDF is set to vacate upon its withdrawal next month from the Gaza Strip. Now, both Ariel Sharon's government and the Bush administration are arguing that Egypt can be trusted to block the infiltration of terrorists and weaponry into the Gaza Strip after the IDF's scheduled retreat. The notion that has been sold to the public is that Egypt will not be interested in allowing Gaza to turn into a base for global jihad because such a transformation could manifest a threat to Egypt.


The fact that Egypt has taken next to no action against terrorists operating in its territory, against its own economy and citizenry, should expose the folly of this view. Aside from that, the delusion that Egypt is interested in fighting terrorism was put paid the evening after the Sharm e-Sheikh attacks by none other than the deputy chief of Egyptian Military Intelligence.



Saturday night, less than 24 hours after the Sharm e-Sheikh attacks and just an hour or so before Dov and Rachel Kol were murdered along the Kissufim route after finishing a weekend visit with their family in Gush Katif, Egyptian deputy intelligence chief Mustafa al-Beheiri was meeting with leaders of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza. Rather than hurrying home to protect Egypt from terrorism, Beheiri was continuing Egypt's four-year official dialogue with Hamas, Fatah and Islamic Jihad in a supposed attempt to integrate these murderers into the Palestinian Authority.



The two terrorists who murdered the Kols claimed membership in Fatah and the Islamic Jihad.


Egypt's refusal to take any action against Palestinian terrorists should have disqualified it from any role in Gaza after Israel's planned withdrawal. As well, Egypt's abject refusal since October 2004 to take any effective action against al-Qaida operatives in Sinai raises clearly the specter that subsequent to Israel's retreat, not only will Palestinian terrorists flourish, al-Qaida will seed itself in Gaza.



As Maj. General (res.) Ya'acov Amidror noted in a policy paper published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs in November 2004, al-Qaida has a tendency to locate its operatives and operational bases "wherever there is a security vacuum." Gaza is certainly such a location today and will likely become even more chaotic after the IDF's planned withdrawal.


THE PA EXERTS no effective security control over Gaza. The fact that the Kols were murdered in a joint Fatah-Islamic Jihad operation, like the fact that the suicide bomber intercepted by the IDF in the western Negev on Friday night after he had infiltrated from Gaza was also a member of Fatah, shows that PA leader Mahmoud Abbas does not even exert control over his own political-terror faction.


Hamas and al-Qaida share both ideological affinity and financing networks. They have also conducted at least one joint operation in the past. The bombing at Mike's Place nightclub in Tel Aviv, located spitting distance from the US embassy, which was perpetrated by two British terrorists in April 2003, was a joint al-Qaida-Hamas operation. As Amidror noted, there is little reason not to suspect that subsequent to the IDF's withdrawal and transfer of control of the Philadelphi Corridor to the Palestinians and Egyptians, Gaza will be transformed into a significant base for al-Qaida.


Egypt's readiness to continue to accuse Israel of being behind al-Qaida operations that take place on its soil should put to rest any notion that either Israel or the US can look to Cairo for any assistance in stabilizing a post-retreat Gaza or in combating jihadist forces generally.


The fact that neither Jerusalem nor Washington is willing to acknowledge this fact is a disturbing indication that the Sharm e-Sheikh bombings and the murder of Rahel and
Dov Kol are but a small taste of what awaits us.


Originally published in The Jerusalem Post.

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