At the center of the problems is the bitter enmity between Egypt and its Gulf allies, such as Saudi Arabia on one side and Gaza’s Hamas rulers and its allies, Turkey and Qatar, on the other.
An Egyptian cease-fire proposal quickly fell apart this past week when Israel accepted it but Hamas rejected it. Hamas demanded greater guarantees for the lifting of the blockade of Gaza, enforced by Israel and Egypt. The Egyptian proposal called for both sides to halt hostilities unconditionally — dangling only a promise of further talks.
Qatar-based Hamas spokesman Hossam Badran described Cairo’s cease-fire proposal as “all but dead,” calling it a “surrender” to Israel.
He and other Hamas officials said they were instead turning to Qatar, which they said had an initiative that would address their demands, including release of prisoners and giving unfettered access to the densely populated strip. That quickly sparked accusations by Egypt that Hamas’ allies were undermining it.
“The Hamas-Qatar-Turkey axis is trying to abort Egypt’s role, which is the region bulwark in the face of a plot aimed at fragmenting the region into rival mini-states,” Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri told reporters Thursday night, just before Israel announced the start of its ground assault into Gaza.
Shukri said Egypt is in a “very tense and difficult” relationship with Hamas, where reaching common ground is nearly “impossible.”
On Saturday, Shukri said he knows of no other initiative and “the Egyptian initiative remains the initiative on the table” with international support.
Speaking next to visiting French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, Shukri said there was no intention to amend the proposal, which he said meets the demands of both sides.
The tensions are rooted in the turmoil in Egypt over the past year. Hamas spawned off the Muslim Brotherhood, which Egypt’s government has branded a terrorist organization. Egyptian authorities have been cracking down hard on Morsi’s Brotherhood and accuse Hamas of helping Islamic militants waging a campaign of violence in Egypt, which the group denies.