"The Egyptian unease is trivial in comparison to the lack of security for citizens of the State of Israel – to whom the rocket attacks, explosive devices, and mortars smuggled into Israeli from the Philadelphi corridor are addressed," a government official told Ynet on Tuesday.
The controversy surrounding the matter stems from a videotape which the IDF sent to the military attaché to the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC a few weeks ago. The tape was meant to be shown to the US Congress during a discussion regarding the placing of sanctions on Egypt for its failure to act to prevent smuggling into the Hamas-ruled enclave.
However, a senior official in the Foreign Ministry told Ynet on Tuesday that Congress made a decision on the sanctions before the video arrived. Following Israeli Ambassador to the United States Daniel Ayalon's advice, the tape was never shown.
In the end, the tape was presented to the Bush administration to make them aware of the situation.
'Turning a blind eye'
The Israeli offensive on Cairo's administration of the Gaza-Sinai border comes at an inopportune moment for bilateral relations between the two states. Defense Minister Ehud Barak is set to meet with Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el-Sheikh on Wednesday.
However, Israel has said that given the tons of explosives that have been smuggled into Gaza in recent months, it was left with no choice but to confront the Egyptians on the matter.
The defense establishment has expressed its dissatisfaction with Egyptian conduct regarding smuggling into the Gaza Strip and southern Israel for some time now. Senior Defense Ministry officials claim that although the Egyptians are not taking an active role in the smuggling, they are turning a blind eye to the activity.
The Intelligence Branch of the IDF's Southern Command claims that weapons and explosive materiel makes its way through the Sinai desert unhindered. The contraband is then brought directly into Gaza through underground tunnels.
Top brass displeased
The IDF has noticed a steep increase in the extent of the smuggling activity in the last year. In addition to weapons and bomb-making material, the military claims large sums of money and terrorists are also brought through the underground conduits.
Security officials have said that Egypt only acts to hinder the operations when it comes under international scrutiny and desires to appear to be taking measure against the activity.
The Egyptians refute Israeli accusations on the matter. In a recent meeting between Prime Minster Ehud Olmert and President Mubarak, the aging Egyptian leader maintained that his country is tirelessly working to foil smuggling activity and cited a number of instances in which tunnels have been sealed on the Egyptian side.
The Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday that Egypt had acquired a sophisticated new system to locate underground tunnels costing millions of dollars.
Hanan Greenberg contributed to this report