Will Egypt's Stance Shift Balance Between Israel and Palestinians? Unlikely

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This current crisis won't revive serious negotiations so long as the conflict is confined to Israel's military and Hamas, and the deaths are mostly in Gaza.

[Black Star News Editorial]

The current overwhelming Israeli strikes on Gaza are primarily meant to test the United States as well as the new government in Egypt.

Before the recent U.S. elections Israel was seen as holding a powerful card with which to influence American policy -- the threat of launching a pre-emptive strike against Iran's nuclear program facilities.

That equation changed with Obama's re-election. The logic is that the Obama administration is now freer to conduct foreign policy without fear of how an attack on Iran by Israel would affect the outcome of the U.S. vote.

It's not a secret that Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was praying for a Mitt Romney victory. So Israel wanted, at the earliest opportunity, to force President Obama to make a strong statement showing that the U.S. would always side with Israel in a conflict.

Predictably the U.S. has made the statement, including by the president that it consistently does -- that Israel has a right to defend itself. So one Israeli concern has been answered.  

But of course this logic may not apply when it comes to a potential strike against Iran. Obviously conflict with Iran would have far more unpredictable consequences when compared to an incursion against the Palestinians -- hence the strike on militarily weak Gaza. 

The rocket attacks by Hamas had been going on for a while. Why launch the strike against Gaza now? Because it was politically very critical for Israeli global diplomacy, to show to other countries in the region, including Iran, that the U.S. still automatically endorses Israel's military strikes.

The second major reason for Israel's overwhelming use of force is to see how  Egypt would respond to escalated conflict with Hamas.

President Hosni Mubarak, long-time dictator was committed to the Camp David peace accord between Israel and Egypt. Egypt's new leader, Mohammed Morsi, owes his allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood. So domestic pressure within Egypt could force that country to take a more militant stance in supporting the Palestinians and by opposing Israel's overwhelming show of force.

Egypt has already started sending such signals by sending its prime minister to visit Gaza. But how far will Egypt realistically be able to go? Would Egypt risk jeopardizing the multi-billion dollar assistance from the U.S. each year? Will pressure from the streets in Egypt force Morsi to make a difficult decision and what would that be?

Given the precarious state of Egypt's economy and the fact that many senior officers have become accustomed to engaging in lucrative businesses, it's hard to imagine that Morsi would move away from Camp David. It's also unclear how much influence he has over the military.

So long as Israel maintains overwhelming military superiority against the Palestinians and Egypt is still neutralized, with no shift in a balance of power, the status quo will prevail.

It's clear that only a comprehensive peace deal with an independent viable Palestinian state will resolve the recurrent conflict. And this current crisis won't spark any serious negotiations so long as the conflict is confined to Israel's military and Hamas, and so long as the deaths are mostly in Gaza.
What's more, in the coming months the U.S. priority will be: dealing with the deficit; an agreement on new taxes on the wealthy; other means of additional revenue; the stalled jobs bills; and, comprehensive immigration reform.

Prospects for another serious attempt at peace between Israel and the Palestinians don't look good today.

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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