Morsi assumes central role in conflict
ANALYSIS:The Arab Spring has ensured support for Hamas from new governments
Facing severe criticism over his failure to boost the economy and provide jobs, Egyptian president Muhammad Morsi has earned praise for creating a role for himself and Egypt during the Gaza crisis.
He condemned Israel strongly, and declared that “Gaza will not remain alone”. He also dispatched prime minister Hisham Qandil to the area, summoned today’s emergency session of the Arab League, and ordered the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza to remain open for medical supplies and wounded.
These moves contrasted positively with the response of ousted president Hosni Mubarak, who during Israel’s last war blamed Hamas and sealed the Gaza Strip.
The difference between the two is “legitimacy” – Morsi was elected and is answerable to the Egyptian electorate while Mubarak, regarded by Egyptians as Israel’s advocate and ally, was not. Furthermore, Morsi is a longstanding member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’s parent, and claims to represent not only Egyptians and Arabs but also Muslims.
His call for Palestinian self-determination in an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital resonates across the Muslim world.
The need to respond to voters also prompted Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki – who characterised Israel’s military strikes as “barbaric aggression” – to schedule a visit to Gaza today by foreign minister Rafik Ben Abdelssalem.
He proposed an Arab League mission to Gaza led by secretary general Nabil al-Arabi.
The largest bloc in Tunisia’s elected parliament is the Nahda party, an offshoot of the brotherhood.
Morsi and Marzouki could lose domestic and regional credibility if the conflict continues to escalate while US president Barack Obama, who called Israel’s actions self-defence, will be seen by Arabs and Muslims as giving a “green light” if Israel launches a full-scale air, land and sea operation.
This could mean that Obama could alienate Arabs and Muslims and finish off any possibility that he might be able to mediate an end to or even contain the Palestinian-Israeli conflict during his second term.
For Hamas, which does not enjoy the legitimacy of being elected, rising violence poses great risks. The majority of the 1.5 million Palestinian residents of Gaza do not want to suffer another Israeli war. Many have not yet rebuilt their lives and homes in the deadly and destructive wake of the last.
Hamas could lose whatever credit and credibility it enjoys with Palestinians and with post-Arab Spring governments if it does not rein in the rocket and mortar teams of its own military wing, Islamic Jihad, and other fundamentalist groups and opt for an Egypt-brokered ceasefire.
If Hamas politicians fail to reimpose control, radical groups could destabilise Gaza.
In spite of their longing for a truce, Gazans believe that if rockets and mortars do not challenge the Israeli siege and blockade, the strip will remain cut off, poor, dependent for shelter and sustenance on foreign donors, unable to develop and provide a decent future for its children, more than half the population.