By Wael Qandil
It is no surprise that Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi’s decision to wage a water war on Gaza, flooding the tunnels and destroying them (and damaging the environment in the process), stemmed from Israel’s request or direct order. This was announced by Israeli Minister of Infrastructure Yuval Steinitz a couple of days ago.
What is surprising to me is Israel’s arrogance in exposing what is going on behind closed doors between itself and Al-Sisi’s government. This raises a question about its desire to expose its favourite general in such a disgraceful manner.
Tel Aviv knows very well that its orders are never refused when it comes to its relationship with the Egyptian government. This is supported by the fact that no Egyptian official came forward to refute or deny the claim by Steinitz, or even to set the record straight on other occasions since Al-Sisi came to power in Egypt; thus does the Egyptian government fulfil Israel’s desires. Since the 2013 coup, Egypt has been exposed in abrasive terms and statements made by Israeli generals, rabbis, media personalities and diplomats, but has never responded angrily to the statements or leaks. Nor have we ever heard that Cairo has taken diplomatic measures against Israel’s violation of Egypt’s sovereignty, when Israeli fighters frolic in Sinai’s air space without permission, for example.
A few weeks ago, following the outbreak of Palestinian anger against the Zionist attacks on Al-Aqsa Mosque, Benjamin Netanyahu said something about teaming up with Cairo against terrorism. At the time I wondered if there is anything more shameful than the fact that no Egyptian official had the courage to respond to the Israeli prime minister’s claim that, “Israel and Egypt are in the same trench in the war on terror.”
Of course, no one commented on or refuted what Netanyahu said, just as no one in the Egyptian government can deny or contradict anything said by the Israeli government; Tel Aviv is, after all, the biggest diplomatic supporter of the Egyptian government internationally. In order to continue to gain Israeli satisfaction and approval, Egypt under Al-Sisi continues to wage a war on Sinai and Gaza by air and sea.
It is no coincidence that the announcement of Egypt’s Operation Haqq Al-Shahid (“Martyr’s Right”) against the people in Sinai was made two weeks or so before Al-Sisi started the water war against Gaza. This was preceded by a media campaign headed by government mouthpieces with the general message that, “From the Bar Lev Line to the tunnels, water is the means to destroy the enemy’s capabilities.”
Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi sends poor Egyptian soldiers to their death in Sinai under the slogan of “Martyr’s Right” while it is, in reality, an unholy war serving Israel’s interests. It should be renamed “Operation Israeli Partner’s Right” in order for Tel Aviv to gain more of the security provided by Al-Sisi. Meanwhile, the dead soldiers get televised funerals that turn into occasions for political hypocrisy and deception for the benefit of those who sent them to their deaths.
Many have addressed Al-Sisi’s obsession with Anwar Sadat; it consumes him and he is haunted by the dream of surpassing him and his successor Mubarak in gaining the approval of Israel. If Sadat had the approval of the Israeli Knesset itself, then Al-Sisi is going to look for something bigger or more important than the Knesset in order to become a national hero in the eyes of the Israelis. If Mubarak was granted the title of “strategic treasure” by the politicians in Tel Aviv, then what is holding Al-Sisi back from being a gift to the rabbis and generals as well?
Israeli media archives suggest that he is well on the way to such status. According toHaaretz political commentator Ari Shavit, “The new Israeli hero is an Egyptian figure − General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. You don’t need an especially discerning eye to see the Israeli elite’s deep sympathy and barely concealed admiration for the commander of our large southern neighbour’s armed forces. The one who has just imprisoned the elected president who appointed him to his position.” That was a reference to the coup which ousted democratically-elected President Mohamed Morsi.
“While the US administration’s stomach is turning at the headlong collision between General Al-Sisi’s undemocratic enlightenment and Mohamed Morsi’s unenlightened democracy, Israel has no doubts,” added Shavit. “We’re all for Sisi. We’re all for the military coup d’état. We’re all for the right of clean-shaven generals who were educated in America to end the rule of an elected, bearded leader, who was also educated in America and who was supposed to subordinate the generals to his authority.”
The military commentator with Yedioth Ahronoth, Ron Ben-Yishai, referred to the strategic predictions made by the Israeli security institution in 2014, and stressed that a shift has occurred in the Egyptian army’s policy since Morsi was deposed. This is especially true with regards to intensifying the blockade imposed on the resistance in Gaza. He also pointed out that the policy adopted by the coup in Egypt against the Palestinian resistance in Gaza has reduced its abilities to have an open confrontation with Israel.
Israel’s approval and embrace of Al-Sisi moved from the political commentators to the rabbis, when it was said of him that he is “the Egyptian gift sent by the Lord.”