Gaza conflict revived stagnant Egyptian American relations

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After four months of ignoring him, US President Joe Biden called General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi. This call came after Egyptian efforts have succeeded in recent days in reaching a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the armed Palestinian factions in Gaza, after 11 days of escalation.

Egypt, which is adjacent to the Gaza Strip, has made extensive contacts with various parties to restore the truce that existed between Israel and the resistance movements, which Cairo played a key role in establishing and renewing time after time.

The phone call that US President Joe Biden made to his Egyptian counterpart, Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, took place hours before the ceasefire took effect. The phone call, as announced, discussed efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. This is the first time Biden has contacted Sisi since he became president. So why did Biden call Sisi after ignoring him for four months?

Researcher Abdel-Rahman Yusef says that Biden’s delay is because the US president knows perfectly well that Sisi has needed this call for a long time. Egypt knows that the most important issue in which America needs Egypt is Israel’s security, the Sinai, and then the Suez Canal. He added, “But it should have a real impact on the resistance and Hamas in Gaza,” noting that “Egypt has played the expected role, which is to be a mediator and pressure on the resistance.”

This pressure appeared in the decision of the mutual and simultaneous ceasefire “without conditions.” That saved the Israeli image “because the resistance had conditions related to the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and Jerusalem and the release of the Al-Aqsa demonstrators detainees,” according to the Egyptian researcher. It is noteworthy that the past months revealed Biden’s restlessness with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom he does not have a good relationship. He wanted to stop the escalation and end the war, despite the naturally unconditional bias in the fixed and unchanging US policy with Israel.

Biden and his progressive administration were not happy with what was going on and with the kindling of the situation that the Israeli side was causing, says Yusef. Therefore, there had to be a party that convinced the Palestinian resistance factions, which had the upper hand considering growing international sympathy. He added: “Pressure was increasing on Netanyahu from inside and outside to stop the war, while the latter wanted to appear victorious or at the minimum not publicly defeated, which would not have happened without the ceasefire conditions being dropped.” The Egyptian role came in persuading or pressuring the resistance to accept the dropping of these conditions, making the American side able to convince the Israeli side that it will not come out defeated.

According to Yusef, the Egyptian side has proven to the American side that it is the strongest and that it needs it not accidentally, but “substantially and strategically,” and it is not possible, of course, to bypass the regime’s head. He continues: “From here we understand the style and vocabulary of the Egyptian discourse, which showed its ability to mobilise the media, with elastic expressions equating the victim and executioner of Sisi while he is in France, while the foreign ministry shows its ability to lead the Arabs again.”

He adds: “But all the time, there was no personal praise for Gaza alone, and no particular faction was mentioned in the context of the praise. Hamas was not praised in the media, and all the talk was about the right of resistance and the history of Palestine, and even the issue of the crossing was formal in its practical applications.” Consequently, the Egyptian alignment was calculated at the level of discourse and international and even domestic movements.

He conveyed that the Egyptian regime is the gatekeeper through which American interests in the region and not the Emirates must pass. So, the Egyptian regime cannot be pressured with the human rights issue, and that America cannot turn its back on the interests of Egypt or the Egyptian regime. Yusef concludes with a question: “It remains to be seen, can the gatekeeper benefit from such a position in the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam case? ​Could he take a bold decision in which he regains the confidence of the Egyptian people in guarding the lifeline in Egypt?”