After a conducting an openly unfair election and committing a rash of documented human-rights abuses, the new Egyptian government is running short on legitimacy. But President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi now has his first chance to prove himself to the world by negotiating a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel, putting a stop, however temporary, to an increasingly bloody conflict in the Gaza Strip.
Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Monday night, joining Sisi and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in trying to devise a cease-fire agreement that both Israel and Hamas could agree to. As of Wednesday, Kerry has been shuttling between Israel and the West Bank to meet with leaders from both sides, but an agreement remains out of reach.
This is Egypt’s second stab at peacemaking in this conflict. Last week, it put forward a cease-fire proposal that won Israel’s acceptance but was rejected by Hamas. The rejection was posted to the official website of Hamas’s military wing, the Qassam Brigades, which claimed it was never consulted about the agreement. When it learned of its contents, the Qassam Brigades called the proposal an “initiative of submission,” indicating that it was not interested in “surrender.”
As Egypt plays host to the push for a cease-fire, it is already seeing positive effects on its global image. “The United States is very grateful for Egypt’s leadership and we’re here today — I am here personally at the request of President Obama — to immediately try to find a way to support Egypt’s initiative,” Kerry said after meetings in Cairo on Tuesday. And back in Washington, President Sisi garnered a “round of applause” at a pro-Israel event when the host mentioned how many Hamas tunnels he has shut down.
Egypt is sorely in need of the good Western press after a rash of political moves that earned it worldwide censure over the last year. Sisi led what was effectively a coup against the democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood politician Mohamed Morsi in 2013, leaving his post as commander in chief of the military to take on the presidency. A presidential election in late May of this year to solidify his takeover saw Sisi walk away with almost 97 percent of the Egyptian vote, amid widespread boycotts and allegations of a political landscape profoundly skewed in the general’s favor.
Since the election, two separate mass death sentences were handed down to more than 800 dissidents accused of ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and three al-Jazeera journalists remain in captivity after being sentenced to seven- to 10-year prison terms for “falsifying the truth” in their reporting. The sentences drew the condemnation of U.S. lawmakers, who in June suggested that U.S. aid to Egypt should be pulled as Egypt descended “toward despotism.”
Despite all this, Egypt remains the last best hope for a cease-fire in Gaza. Egypt’s strong ties to Israel put it in a good negotiating position — these ties were affirmed when Israel quickly accepted Egypt’s earlier cease-fire proposal. It is in a better position than even the U.S., whose efforts have been maligned by the Israeli side. A former Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had “not invited” Kerry to try to broker a cease-fire on Monday. Nonetheless, Kerry is playing a leading role in the push for an agreement based on the “Egyptian framework.”
Egypt faces more of a hurdle in dealing with Hamas, a group that was close with the previous Morsi administration in Cairo, but which has clashed with Sisi. But Egypt’s situation right now is something of a political win-win for Sisi at home: if Hamas and Israel agree to its cease-fire proposal, he looks like a diplomatic hero; if not, then Israeli forces will continue to chip away at an organization that Egypt is happy to see weakened. But the president must be careful: popular support for the Palestinian cause within Egypt could make Sisi look out of touch if his distaste for Hamas gets in the way of negotiating for Gazans’ lives.
Even if the cease-fire agreement that comes out of this current diplomatic push falls short of what is necessary, or if Kerry’s shuttle diplomacy is altogether unsuccessful, Egypt is likely to come out ahead in the eyes of the West. The fact that the U.S. secretary of State joined the U.N. secretary general in Cairo to regroup and begin the campaign for a diplomatic agreement afforded Egypt’s government some much-needed legitimacy and bolstered its fading image. By demonstrating its essential role in the Gaza conflict, Egypt and Sisi make it easy for the world to focus on today’s reality in Cairo and begin to ignore the human-rights violations and shady political deals.
- 1 Why George W. Bush Won’t Go to the GOP Convention
- 2 Democrats Plan to Pound Trump Before He’s Nominated
- 3 Schools in Poor Areas Have More Students with Mental Health Needs
- 4 Is Trump Rich Enough to Fund a General-Election Campaign?
- 5 The 1 Easy Way Donald Trump Could Have Been Even Richer: Doing Nothing
What We're Following See More »
Paul Ryan told CNN today he's "not ready" to back Donald Trump at this time. "I'm not there right now," he said. Ryan said Trump needs to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of. And we've got a ways to go from here to there."
In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin gives Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the longread treatment. The scourge of corrupt New York pols, bad actors on Wall Street, and New York gang members, Bharara learned at the foot of Chuck Schumer, the famously limelight-hogging senator whom he served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. No surprise then, that after President Obama appointed him, Bharara "brought a media-friendly approach to what has historically been a closed and guarded institution. In professional background, Bharara resembles his predecessors; in style, he’s very different. His personality reflects his dual life in New York’s political and legal firmament. A longtime prosecutor, he sometimes acts like a budding pol; his rhetoric leans more toward the wisecrack than toward the jeremiad. He expresses himself in the orderly paragraphs of a former high-school debater, but with deft comic timing and a gift for shtick."
President Obama has announced another round of commutations of prison sentences. Most of the 58 individuals named are incarcerated for possessions with intent to distribute controlled substances. The prisoners will be released between later this year and 2018.
The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"