The Biden administration has reportedly settled on a plan to pitch to the Israelis as an alternative to a full ground incursion into Rafah. It raises more questions than answers.

The White House doesn’t want Israel to go into Hamas’s last redoubt in the numbers with which it would normally try to capture and secure a city full of Hamas terror leaders and militants. One reason is that President Biden and his advisers are nervous about the pro-Hamas elements in his party ramping up their protests and threatening his nominating convention this summer in Chicago. Another reason is that Egypt doesn’t want Israel to do anything that would cause Palestinians to enter Egyptian territory even temporarily and even for humanitarian purposes, nor does Egypt want anyone seeing what’s underneath Rafah—probably because Egyptian-facilitated smuggling tunnels below the southern Gaza city will be revealed.

It’s that last reason that U.S. officials are focusing on, according to the Times of Israel. But they are doing so in an exceedingly strange way: “Washington envisions Israel focusing instead on preventing the smuggling of weapons from Egypt into Gaza through the Philadelphi Corridor.”

Instead? Why not “also”? Why should Israel have to choose? The report continues: “The official avoided blaming the Egyptian government for the smuggling that was partially responsible for Hamas’s re-armament amid successive rounds of conflict with Israel over the past 15 years.” Well that’s good—we wouldn’t want a country other than Israel to bear all the blame for the war inflicted upon it by its neighbors.

More: “However, they said reaching a new arrangement with Cairo and building the necessary infrastructure to cut off the smuggling route would be more critical to the dismantlement of Hamas than a major ground offensive in Rafah.”

Okay. So here’s what we know: The U.S. is aware that Egypt has been facilitating weapons smuggling from its territory into Gaza over the past decade and a half. The U.S. is also aware that this smuggling deserves a fair measure of blame for the situation everyone’s in at the moment, since it allowed Hamas to rearm between wars. Lastly, the U.S. believes it can get Egypt to close the smuggling tunnels.

The first question that comes to mind when reading this is: Why hasn’t the U.S. effort to force Egypt to close the tunnels been ongoing since the moment American officials found out about them? The specificity of U.S. knowledge suggests that this revelation occurred to them prior to Oct. 7. What were they waiting for?

Even if they didn’t know until recently, of course, it makes absolutely no sense that this hasn’t been made a priority. What kind of maniac uses this as a bargaining chip?

We will stop Egypt from flooding Gaza with arms and ammunition if you promise to go easy on Hamas is the kind of thing a mafia goon would say if you put him in the foreign service. What the Under Secretary of State for Gabagool is saying here is that if Israel helps the president calm the muppet babies in his party by summer, the Israelis get to choose the cause of the next war: Do they want it to be because Western leaders saved Hamas from oblivion, or would they rather the next war come because Egypt kept up its supply of cannonballs to the Jolly Roger?

Here’s what an Israeli counteroffer might look like: The IDF goes into Rafah, roots out Hamas, and seals the smuggling tunnels. Western governments’ role in this is limited to saying “thank you.”

Egypt, by the way, has a steady earmark of about $1.3 billion in U.S. aid per year. All the complaints about how the U.S. can just order Israel around because of military aid never seem to be applied to Egypt in the same way.

The U.S. is sending Americans to build a pier off Gaza because Egypt won’t open the Rafah crossing, so this isn’t just about Israel. Normally, you would say that this isn’t Egypt’s war or responsibility. But if everyone is conceding the fact that Egypt armed Hamas to the teeth, then that doesn’t hold water.

The smuggling tunnels should be closed and Hamas should be defeated. Israelis aren’t terribly interested in continuing to pick their own poison and being condescended to while they do so.

+ A A -
You may also like
Share via
Copy link