Editorial: Netanyahu’s madness

Al-Ahram Weekly Editorial
Tuesday 13 Feb 2024

Nearly the whole world has been warning Israel’s current, extremist government against proceeding with a catastrophic military attack on Rafah.


The small, 60 square kilometre city has had to host over one million Palestinians forcibly displaced by the Israeli army over the past four months, who have nowhere to go. Egypt’s stand on the issue has been outspoken and minced no words.

Our historic, principled stand remains in support of the Palestinian people and their right to establish their independent state on territory occupied since 5 June 1967: Gaza, the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem. Considering that Egypt is the only country that borders Gaza, the border cutting through the city of Rafah, such irresponsible Israeli actions and threats will certainly affect Egyptian national security.

Nearly 76 years after the original Nakba that led to the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 following the forced displacement of more than one million Palestinians, Egypt will not accept or tolerate any attempt by the Israeli army to achieve a long-standing Zionist ambition to carry out a second Nakba, forcibly transferring Palestinians in Gaza into Egypt, and those living in their homeland in the West Bank and Jerusalem to Jordan.

There is no possible scenario to invade Rafah without a massive human death toll that will probably kill thousands more, in addition to nearly 30,000 who have already been killed, including over 12,000 children and 8,000 women, since 7 October.

The claim that invading Rafah is the only way to defeat Hamas is clearly false since neither Israel’s indiscriminate bombing of the whole of Gaza nor the occupation army’s ground invasion have achieved their declared goals, uselessly reiterated by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over and over: the destruction of Hamas, and the release of over 130 Israeli prisoners held by Hamas, including dozens of army soldiers and officers captured on 7 October.

On the contrary, even after Israel declared it had managed to bring under control both north and middle Gaza, crushing and dismantling Hamas units, the reality on the ground proves day after day that the resistance fighters continue to inflict extremely heavy losses on the occupation army, both in terms of personnel and highly advanced tanks and armoured vehicles, all while using very primitive and locally made weapons and explosives.

Any Israeli claims of providing safe passages for Rafah residents to move to so-called “safe zones” ahead of military operations, what is more, are blatant lies. The United Nations and all international humanitarian organisations working on the ground in Gaza have confirmed that there is nowhere safe in Gaza as Israel’s occupation army continues with its daily military attacks all over the densely populated Strip, in the north, middle and south.

To carry out a covert operation, reportedly in the making for weeks, to free two elderly Israeli hostages early on Monday, Israel’s fighter jets committed bloody massacres in Rafah, killing over 70 Palestinians.

The attack provided a small example of how deadly any possible attack against Rafah could be, considering that hundreds of thousands of displaced Palestinians have been forced to take to the streets, living in tents in unbearable conditions after they were told by the Israeli army to flee their homes in the north and the middle of Gaza when the war started more than four months ago.

A statement by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday warned of “dire consequences” should Israel go ahead and carry out a military operation against Rafah. The statement stressed Egypt’s categorical rejection of statements made by high-level Israeli government officials, including the prime minister, confirming the intention not only to invade Gaza, but also to take control of the 14-kilometre joint border with Egypt, known as the Salaheddine, or Philadelphi Corridor.

That would be a flagrant violation of the 1979 Camp David Peace Agreement between Egypt and Israel, which prohibits the presence of Israeli army troops in that area, and will bring Egypt to the point of reconsidering its relations with Tel Aviv.

Israel has to make sure that this is not a stand aimed at local consumption or satisfying an extremely outraged public opinion who have been appalled by the extreme level of human losses among Palestinians with whom Egyptians identify and enjoy a long, shared history. If the government of Egypt was not practising maximum self-restraint and heeded public demands to take action reflecting the level of outrage at the Israeli massacres of Palestinians, a decision to suspend diplomatic ties with Israel would have been taken a long time ago.

Instead, the government of Egypt has sought to play an active role in bringing an end to the war against Gaza, ensuring the delivery of very urgently needed humanitarian aid to over 2.3 million Palestinians and acting as a mediator in efforts to release Israeli hostages held by Hamas in return for thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

In this framework, Egypt agreed to host a second round of extremely important talks with top intelligence officials from Egypt, the United States and Israel as well as the prime minister of Qatar to negotiate a deal that would put a stop to the ongoing fighting in Gaza, hopefully long enough to allow for the exchange of prisoners and, more importantly, to turn into a permanent ceasefire.

That would be the only way to save Palestinian lives, not just in Rafah, but all over Gaza, as well as the West Bank where nearly 400 Palestinians have been killed by both the Israeli army and extremist settlers since 7 October.

If no such deal is reached, and Israel carries out its threat to invade Rafah, we might be looking at a different scenario, one that could change the entire arrangements this region has known since Egypt and Israel signed their peace treaty more than 40 years ago.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 15 February, 2024 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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