How did Sisi benefit from the Israel and Hamas conflict?

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Political analysts have said that the Egyptian General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is the biggest winner in the recent fight between Israel and Hamas. Political analysts came to that conclusion given the success of reaching the ceasefire agreement, in which Egypt played the mediating role.

“In the face of statements about the declining importance of Egypt in the politics of the Middle East, Sisi showed that the role of Egypt is important,” said Mustafa Kamel Al-Sayed, professor of political science at Cairo University. He added, “It has shown the United States that it is effective in the Middle East,” according to what was reported by The New York Times.

During the past years, observers said that some Gulf countries began to compete with Egypt in some of its regional and international roles. Despite the agreements to normalise relations between Israel, the UAE, and Bahrain, neither of these two countries offered tangible mediation.

Egypt has reaffirmed its pivotal role concerning the Palestinian-Israeli issue. UAE and Bahrain justified their normalisation of relations with Israel by saying that this step would allow them to improve the conditions of the Palestinians. However, the recent war has shown Abu Dhabi and Manama entirely out of frame.

In this context Muhammad El-Minshawi, columnist for the Egyptian newspaper Al-Shorouk, wrote via Twitter: “I think that the only real winner in this round of conflict was Egypt and its president, who received a long-awaited call.” El-Minshawi is referring to the first phone call between US President Joe Biden with Sisi since the start of his term in the White House. Last January, Biden pledged that there would be no more blank cheques for Trump’s favourite dictator, a reference to Sisi. Biden called on Sisi to improve the human rights record in the country. In the first four months of his presidency, he did not contact Sisi in unprecedented disdain for a key ally in the Middle East.

Some US lawmakers have called for cuts to Egypt’s annual military aid, which amounts to $1.3 billion, to seek more pressure to improve human rights. However, after brokering a ceasefire in Gaza, Biden expressed his “sincere gratitude” to Sisi and his mediation team for playing “such a decisive role in this diplomacy,” as he put it.

Sisi’s mediation will make some lawmakers in the USA Congress strong enough to support waiving human rights conditions on military aid to Egypt. Last Thursday, Biden telephoned Sisi to discuss efforts to reach a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. The White House said in a statement that “the two leaders discussed efforts to achieve a truce that would put an end to the current hostilities in Israel and Gaza. They agreed to continue communication between their teams until the end.”

In a series of tweets on Friday, Sisi expressed his happiness at receiving Biden’s call and thanked him for his role in the success of the Egyptian ceasefire initiative. He added, “This confirms the depth and strength of the strategic relations between Egypt and the United States.” The Egyptian president pledged to provide $500 million for the reconstruction of Gaza and to allow wounded Palestinians to enter Egypt through the closed Rafah border crossing to receive medical treatment.

Other European and regional leaders also expressed their appreciation for Sisi, referring to Egypt’s status for decades as a stabilising force in the Middle East, even as Sisi’s regime is considered the most repressive in Egypt’s modern history.

On the other hand, observers considered that Sisi proved to his allies, who began to tire of him (Saudi Arabia, the Emirates, and Bahrain), that he was indispensable. The Palestinian resistance’s missiles have strongly questioned the safety of the pipeline project to transport Gulf oil to Israeli ports. This project had been able to undermine the importance of the Suez Canal.