Even after US President Barack Obama telephoned him and personally asked him to mediate between Israel and Hamas, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is doing it "unenthusiastically," as an advisor at the presidential palace defined it.
Al-Sisi sees it as only an "initiative" for a ceasefire in Gaza, and he is simmering it slowly. As far as he is concerned, Israel can continue crushing Hamas.
Al-Sisi's "kitchenette" reveals that he and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu see the same picture: Hamas is not in a bargaining position and should not be paid for the lull. The fire must be ceased only because of the residents in Gaza.
On the other hand, this is his opportunity to leverage Egypt's international status in the Arab world, with Turkey and Qatar breathing down his neck. Al-Sisi can't afford to lose. He is making his moves clear: To bring about a mutual ceasefire declaration and to restore the understandings which were reached following Operation Pillar of Defense.
Until the Egyptian initiative takes shape, al-Sisi is mixing drafts and conducting talks on the telephone. According to his senior advisor, Netanyahu voiced a firm stance in their conversation: "Any agreement leading to a ceasefire will not be at our expense. Israel plans to crush Hamas and not to accept their demands."
Hamas, which explicitly said that it is interested in Egyptian mediation in the negotiations for a ceasefire, is setting difficult conditions: It is demanding that Israel release the activists arrested in the West Bank following the kidnapping and murder of the three teens. It is demanding that Egypt lift the siege off Gaza and open the Rafah border crossing.
Hamas won't get that. The Egyptian terminal was opened over the weekend to bring medications and medical equipment from Qatar into the Strip and to evacuate wounded Gazans to hospitals in Sinai. As soon as they recover, they will be returned to Gaza.
"Egypt thinks about Hamas exactly what Israel thinks," an Egyptian commentator explains," but the mission to bring about a ceasefire is inevitable here."
Cairo officials explain that al-Sisi "has no objections" that Israel will continue the operation against Hamas. On Saturday, Egypt even seized a delivery of 30 Grad rockets in Sinai which were meant to be aimed at Israel.
On the other hand, as the death toll in Gaza increases, so does the level of criticism against al-Sisi in Egypt.