Contrary to what many Israeli analysts have been saying in the aftermath of Sunday’s terrorist attack in the Sinai, the event does not illustrate that Egypt and Israel now have a common enemy on which to focus renewed cooperation.
Though it is true that the dozens of jihadists — disguised as Bedouin — descended upon the Kerem Shalom checkpoint and slaughtered 16 Egyptian policemen with rifles, grenades and knives, they did so to infiltrate Israel. Once they had removed the obstacle to this aim, they packed up a truck and a tank with explosives that had been smuggled through tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip to Sinai, and headed toward their Jewish target.
It was through Israeli intelligence-gathering — and by the grace of God — that a mega-massacre inside Israel was thwarted. Indeed, Israeli security services had been on high alert, as was indicated by their repeated warnings to vacationers to stay away from or evacuate Sinai.
Did Israel’s swift and precise targeting of the terrorists elicit even a moment’s gratitude, solidarity, or desire for warmer relations from its neighbors to the south?
Not on your life.
Let’s begin with the response of the Muslim Brotherhood — the organization from which the newly “democratically elected” president of Egypt, Mohammed Morsi, hails.
Attributing the attack to the Mossad, the Brotherhood accused Israel of having “been seeking to abort the revolution since its inception and the proof of this is that it gave instructions to its Zionist citizens in Sinai to depart immediately a few days ago … which makes it imperative to review clauses in the signed agreement between us and the Zionist entity."
Hamas, too, condemned “Israeli agents” for the attack, which it called “a despicable crime that only serves the interests of the Zionist enemy."
Hamas, you see, was pleased as punch with Morsi’s electoral victory. Being a member of the Brotherhood, he was their kind of guy. And up until Sunday’s attack, he was making nicey-nicey with its prime minister, Ismail Haniyeh. Among his other goodwill gestures towards his brethren in the Gaza Strip, Morsi reopened the Rafah crossing, which gave the terrorist enclave the kind of freedom of movement its inhabitants craved.
But Morsi saw that the raid this week, which left so many Egyptian security personnel dead and wounded, had “Palestinian” written all over it — though no specific group has taken credit for it yet. He is also aware that the perpetrators are likely connected to al-Qaida, or another global jihadist cell that takes its orders from Iran.
Now Morsi may be a radical Islamist, but he’s no dummy. And he does not wish at this point to antagonize such a fawning American administration — especially one that keeps vowing to keep the bucks flowing unconditionally. Nor does he want to appear weak in the face of factions in his midst that are out of his control. It is for this reason that he hurried to make a speech that sounded like a mixture of a Muslim decree and an expression of Egyptian patriotism.
“We will avenge the blood of the martyrs,” he announced — in true “democratically elected” fashion. The “martyrs” to whom he was referring were Egypt’s men in camouflage khakis, the armed forces whose “blood would not be spilled in vain.”
And then he issued a threat to the “infidel” attackers and their dispatchers: “Just wait until tomorrow; then you’ll see what we’re going to do to you.”
Finally, there was the customarily late reaction of the Obama administration. But what it lacked in speed, it made up for in predictability.
"We condemn in the strongest terms yesterday's deadly terrorist attack," acting deputy State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said. “The security situation in the Sinai is something that we've raised with Egyptian authorities, it's something that has been a matter of ongoing concern … we stand ready to assist the government of Egypt as it acts on President Morsi's pledge to secure the Sinai and address the threats of violent extremism."
Has it occurred to anybody that it was Morsi’s very rise to power that provided the impetus to all radical Islamist factions in Egypt and the Gaza Strip to step up activity against Israelis and “infidel” Arabs?
Has it crossed anyone’s mind that it was Morsi’s own cool treatment of the military which signaled to the Islamists that soldiers and police no longer posed a threat to them?
It doesn’t seem to have struck Defense Minister Ehud Barak that way. Stating that the incident should serve as a “wake-up call” to the new Egyptian president is laughable. Morsi is fully cognizant of the fact that he, like his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak, has to worry about chaos in his country. He also knows that an American election is approaching, and that he might not find such a good friend in the White House if Mitt Romney emerges victorious.
Nevertheless, the only “common enemy” in the region remains Israel. This is the source of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s reiteration that, when it comes to Israel’s security, “We have no one to rely on but ourselves.”
Ruthie Blum is the author of “To Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,‘” now available on Amazon and in bookstores in Europe and North America.