Egypt’s failure to calm the Israel-Gaza conflict created a vacuum for Qatar’s influence


Recent months have witnessed the loss of Egyptian regional influence concerning the Palestinian cause, especially its role in bridging the rift between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s resistance movements. This development resulted from the intense rapprochement between the UAE and Israel, which culminated in a normalisation agreement. In contrast, there is Qatar’s rapprochement with the resistance movements in Gaza, after the continuous support of the residents of the Strip, to confront the blockade imposed on it by Israel and Egypt.

This Egyptian retreat with Israel was revealed by the former Tel Aviv ambassador to Cairo, Itzhak Levanon, when he said that Egypt is losing its influence and predominance in the region and its position with Israel after the UAE entered into a relationship with Tel Aviv. In an article published in the Hebrew newspaper Maariv, he pointed out that “since the signing of the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel, Egypt has stood at the forefront in everything related to Tel Aviv and the Middle East.”

Egypt participated in finding a solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, mediated with Hamas, and silently intervened with Turkey to prevent the Marmara fleet, and conducted behind-the-scenes talks with former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad to push the settlement with Tel Aviv forward.

However, with the entry of the UAE on the line of relations with Israel, according to Levanon, Egypt may lose its primacy. If other Arab countries join the path of relations with Israel, Egypt may lose more of its influence with Tel Aviv. He claimed that the new Arab players with Israel would compete with each other over who will help the Palestinians more, and transfer the stalemate in the Palestinian issue and the pendulum of influence to the Gulf region.

In Israel’s eyes, the lead is still in the hands of Egypt, and it should remain that way. Cairo is linked to massive issues with Tel Aviv, the war against Islamic organisations, Gaza and Hamas, and the gas agreements between the two sides, with Greece and Cyprus’ participation. According to the former Israeli ambassador, it is very likely that if the agreement with the UAE develops into meaningful relations that are interpreted as a formal normalisation of relations with Tel Aviv, this will encourage Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to improve bilateral ties with Israel. On the other hand, concerning the Palestinians themselves, Egypt has failed to mediate between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s resistance movements, which has escalated during the past two weeks. Israeli media reported that the Egyptian mediation between the Gaza Strip’s resistance movements and Israel reached a dead end.

The official Israeli Broadcasting Corporation (Kan) quoted a senior Israeli political official as warning that “if calm is not reached with Gaza, we may be on the verge of another round of fighting.” It pointed out that the dispute between Israel and Hamas led to placing the Egyptian mediators in “a state of despair.” Last week, a delegation from the Egyptian intelligence service visited the Gaza Strip and met with the resistance leaders, without disclosing what had been reached.

On the other hand, Qatar has intensified its efforts to contain this tension. The head of the Qatari Committee for the Reconstruction of Gaza, Muhammad al-Emadi, returned to the Gaza Strip after leaving the Strip for several hours to restore calm. In recent days, the Qatari official held meetings with the Hamas movement’s leadership and listened to the movement’s demands to end the tension and defuse the crisis.

According to informed sources, al-Emadi’s mission is not over yet, and he has intensified his efforts during the past two days to calm the situation in the wake of the Israeli bombing. The resistance responded by escalating the launch of incendiary balloons and responding to the bombing with more bombing. It is reported that al-Emadi carried a response to the demands of the Hamas leadership to end the tension, which includes stopping the siege and Israel implementing the provisions that were mentioned in the previously concluded truce understandings.

The most important of these items is the implementation of large infrastructure projects related to electricity and water, temporary employment projects, and the provision of necessary measures for the Strip to face the threat of the coronavirus, which is currently spreading among the residents of Gaza. A few days ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened Hamas, saying that he would escalate attacks against the Strip in response to the launching of balloons. The incendiary balloon launchers say that they aim to force Israel to ease the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007, which has caused deterioration in the living conditions of the population.

Israel recently closed the Karem Abu Salem crossing, the only commercial port with the Gaza Strip, and banned the transportation of fuel to the Strip and fishing in the sea off Gaza, completely.