Egypt joining Gaza post-war task force ‘unlikely’, say analysts

Over the years, Cairo has played a key role in mediating peace deals between the Palestinians and Israelis, as well as among rival Palestinian factions. [Getty]

A recent Israeli news report suggested that both Egypt and the UAE were ready to join a post-war security force that would work alongside Palestinian officers in Gaza, as Israel’s deadly onslaught on the besieged strip nears its tenth consecutive month.  

In a report run on Wednesday, The Times of Israel cited three unnamed official sources, familiar with the matter, as alleging, a day earlier, that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had informed Arab counterparts during his recent visit to the region that he had received support from Cairo and Abu Dhabi.

“The US has been looking to recruit Arab allies for the initiative, as it readies to roll out its vision for the postwar management of Gaza, even though a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group remains elusive,” the report claimed, citing the anonymous officials.

Egypt had earlier refuted similar claims, however. Following Blinken’s regional tour, local news outlets cited officials as saying that Cairo had not approved any deployment of forces to Gaza “as part of an alleged joint Arab task force under the United Nations, which would follow the withdrawal of the Israeli occupation troops from the Palestinian strip.”

Nevertheless, the three officials, quoted by the Israeli outlet, reportedly involving one Arab, claimed that “Egypt and the UAE both stipulated conditions for their involvement, including a demand that the initiative be linked to the establishment of a pathway to a future Palestinian state—an outcome Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to block.”

One of the three sources claimed to the Israeli media outlet that “Egypt is also demanding the complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza—a condition likely to clash with Netanyahu’s pledge to maintain overall security control of the Strip after the war, with the ability to re-enter as necessary in order to prevent the revival of Hamas.”

As Blinken told counterparts that “the US would help establish and train the security force and ensure that it would have a temporary mandate so that it could eventually be replaced by a fully Palestinian body,” the report cited one of the sources as claiming, “the goal is for the Palestinian Authority to eventually take over Gaza.”

The Israeli war on Gaza killed so far over 38,000 Palestinians, mainly women and children, since it first broke out on since October.

While the Egyptian government has not officially commented on the allegations, analysts ruled out such a possibility.

“The US has been seeking to implicate Arab parties in handling the catastrophic situation in Gaza following the war. But the US-Israeli scheme seems unrealistic,” a high-profile Egyptian professor of politics told The New Arab on condition of anonymity for security reasons.  

“The US has been garnering the support of Arab leaders to end the war while denying to hold Israel responsible for atrocities committed against Palestinians in Gaza in the process,” scholars argued.   

“No wonder Arab countries, especially Egypt, have not yet officially reacted to the claims in the report in question, for they won’t clean up Israel’s mess and antagonise anti-Israel Arabs in the process,” a prominent political sociologist told TNA, also requesting anonymity. 

“Egypt’s official stance towards the war in Gaza has been on the horns of a dilemma, arguably, given its interests with Tel Aviv and the US amid nationwide public demands for an end to the brutal fighting in the strip,” the expert added. “Another possibility is that the statements quoted by The Times of Israel, whether true or fabricated, could be a way to test the waters and determine reactions for Egypt has a strategic significance for all parties of the conflict”.

The Egyptian foreign ministry could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.

Over the years, Cairo has played a key role in mediating peace deals between the Palestinians and Israelis, as well as among rival Palestinian factions.

But in recent months, the growing diplomatic spat between Egypt and Israel, who have been at peace since the late 1970s, escalated after Israel pushed ahead with its ground invasion of Rafah last month, despite pleas from Egypt, the US, and others to not invade the border city where around 1.4 million Palestinians from elsewhere in Gaza have been sheltering.

The Israeli move has made it difficult for Egypt to continue operating the Rafah border crossing with Gaza without facing accusations that it is collaborating with the Israeli operation, a highly sensitive issue in the country.

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