Minutes before Egyptian police officers opened the gates and let Hamas pilgrims returning from Saudi Arabia back into the Gaza Strip, Amos Gilad’s phone rang. On the other end was an acquaintance from Cairo. Major General (Res.) Gilad from the Defense Ministry has some good connections in the Egyptian capital. We are opening the gates, the Egyptian caller informed the stunned Gilad.
Only three weeks ago, Gilad traveled to Cairo to warn our Egyptian allies that the pilgrims heading to Saudi Arabia include some Hamas men, including some terrorists who headed for training in Iran. He also warned that they will be bringing back plenty of money, aimed at greasing the wheels of the terror machine. Yet what the Egyptians heard in one ear immediately came out of the other ear.
Olmert, Livni, and Barak were stunned. The Egyptians made a move that could have only one meaning: Completely ignoring all the understandings reached with Israel. It is one thing to ignore past understandings, reached on the eve of the disengagement, regarding their responsibility for the border with Gaza. This time around they disregarded a fresh agreement from last week, reached when President Mubarak met Defense Minister Barak.
One of the people who was there when the news arrived later said he felt like Cairo was showing contempt to Israel; that it was disregarding basic rules of conduct between states, not to mention states that have a peace agreement and understandings on cooperation in the war against Islamic terrorism.
Nobody said a wordHowever, the feelings of Israeli leaders are one thing, and their actions are an entirely different thing. The “Mubarak effect”, that is, the inexplicable paralysis vis-à-vis the Middle East’s elder statesman, worked its magic again. Haunted by fears of the man who recently dispatched his foreign minister to blast our own foreign minister, our leaders chose to say nothing.
After they saw what the old man did to the woman who dared claim that Cairo is not doing its share to stop the smuggling on the Philadelphi Route, Israel’s leadership went silent. Nobody said a word. Even Lieberman and Dichter, who are among the most prominent critics of Egypt when it comes to its conduct on the Gaza border, remained silent.
A day late, Jerusalem issued a weak official statement about viewing the latest developments with concern and severity, as they “undermine the war on terror and the efforts to bring about calm and advance the peace process.” And who was the undersigned? Neither Olmert, nor any of his deputies, and certainly not Livni or any other cabinet member.
Nobody wanted to handle this hot potato, which Egypt hurled into Israeli territory. The Mubarak effect, no doubt, worked its magic.