In a bid to appease Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood, the new rulers of Egypt have been hinting that they are considering reopening the border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Reopening the border terminal would be seen as a victory for Hamas, which seized control over the Gaza Strip through a violent coup in the summer of 2007.

Egypt's intention to reopen the border crossing will undoubtedly help Hamas solidify its control over the Gaza Strip, and also embolden Hamas at the expense of its rivals in the Palestinian Authority.

Egypt's new foreign minister, Nabil al-Arabi, has already demanded an end to the five-year siege on the Gaza Strip. Al-Arabi is known as an opponent of the peace treaty between his country and Israel.

Al-Arabi's policy has won praise from Hamas, whose leader, Ismail Haniyeh, rushed to phone him to express his gratitude.

"We praise the positions of the new Foreign Minister of Egypt Nabil al Arabi on the issue of the Gaza siege and his rejection of this unjust policy, as well as his position that damage was caused by the Camp David Accords [between Israel and Egypt]," Haniyeh said in a statement.

"We hope these positions will be translated during his new post, and that they will be a new beginning in the Egyptian Foreign Ministry's policy."

Egypt's new policy shows that the new government prefers to appease Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood than support moderate Arabs and Muslims. The recent release from prison of Aboud al-Zumar and his cousin Tareq al-Zumar, the two primary defendants in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, should also be seen in this context. The two were members of Jihad organization, the group that took credit for killing Sadat because he had signed a peace treaty with Israel.

A victory for Hamas is also a victory for the Muslim Brotherhood, whose motto, "Allah is our objective, the prophet is our leader, the Quran is our law, Jihad is our way, dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope," should be taken literally and seriously.

The border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip has been closed ever since Hamas drove the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza and seized control over the entire area.

Until then, the border crossing was under the control of forces loyal to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

European monitors who were stationed at the border crossing left after Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian Authority leaders have expressed concern over what the "rapprochement" between Hamas and Egypt's new rulers. Palestinian leaders in Ramallah have warned that Egypt's new policies would undermine the "moderates" among the Palestinians, while bolstering Hamas's popularity.

In the past few weeks, the Palestinian Authority leadership dispatched a number of emissaries to Cairo in an attempt to persuade the new rulers of Egypt not to take any step that could help Hamas tighten its grip on the Gaza Strip.

The rapprochement between Hamas and Egypt follows years of tense relations between the Islamist movement and the regime of Hosni Mubarak. Hamas leaders had accused Mubarak's regime of participating in the siege on the Gaza Strip by keeping the Rafah border crossing closed.

If Egypt's new rulers want to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians living there, they need to coordinate the move with the Palestinian Authority. Lifting the siege is a good idea, but only if its goal is to help the Palestinians, and not Hamas and Muslim Brotherhood.

Related Topics:  Egypt, Palestinian Authority  |  Khaled Abu Toameh receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free gatestone institute mailing list

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