Israeli-Egyptian coordination is working, but it’s not enough
Smadar Perry /Ynetnews/Published: 07.05.15/ Israel Opinion/Analysis: Officials in Cairo and in Jerusalem voiced the same mantra over the weekend: It’s not ISIS, it’s Hamas which is insisting on rocking Egypt. But for how long can Israel rely solely on Egypt to keep the triangle of terror off its fence? There are two ways to look at the image and conduct of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt: He is either a nervous dictator who takes the law into his hands, silences people, throws his rivals in jail and sentences them to death by mere words, or a patriotic leader who has come to turn over a new leaf, stabilize the complicated security situation, create economic solutions and restore the trust of the world and of some 100 million Egyptian residents.
One thing’s for sure: He should not be envied. Last week’s assassination of Egypt’s top public prosecutor, Hisham Barakat, conveys a threatening message to go even further, all the way to the presidential palace. Al-Sisi decided to flex his muscles and showed up at Barakat’s funeral – quite a big headache for his bodyguards. On Saturday he made history by paying a visit, in military uniform, to the soldiers in Sinai in order to lift their spirits.
His message is clear and firm: All’s fair in love and war, and those who have been hit with a death sentence for their contribution to terror attacks had better not dream of escaping the gibbet. The cameras caught a glimpse of ousted President Mohamed Morsi, in his cage, marking the “we slaughtered him” sign on his neck. Who needs further proof of the Muslim Brotherhood’s involvement in the tsunami Egypt is experiencing now?
Unlike US President Barack Obama, Israel is indifferent to the state of democracy and human rights in Egypt. Israel wants a strong rais. After all, al-Sisi’s enemies are our enemies. Over the weekend, we heard the same mantra from Cairo and from Tel Aviv: Hamas’ military wing is pushing for radicalization vis-à-vis Israel and vis-à-vis Egypt. Here, the coordinator of the government’s activities in the territories, Major-General Yoav Mordechai, chose to quarrel with an al-Jazeera anchorwoman in order to relay the following message: Israel knows that Hamas’ military wings are smuggling murderers, weapons and combat trainers into Sinai.
In Cairo, at the same time, a military source went on the air and hurled similar accusations: It’s not the Islamic State, it’s Hamas which is insisting on rocking Egypt. The immediate conclusion is that the coordination between the Mukhabarat headquarters in Cairo and the Kirya base in Tel Aviv is working. No one is talking about the extent and depth of the cooperation with Egypt. One thing is clear: Israel cannot afford to have the triangle of terror – the new local branch of ISIS, the Muslim Brotherhood’s “volunteers” and the infiltrators from Gaza – sitting on its fence. When this triangle demonstrates alarming abilities against the Egyptian security organizations in Sinai, attacking 19 of the security forces’ centers simultaneously, red lights are turned on here. When they fire a missile (or three missiles, according to reports on the other side), it raises the question how long can we continue relying solely on Egypt. The Egyptian prime minister is willing to admit that there is a “real war” taking place in Sinai. Officials in Tel Aviv’s Kirya base say the Egyptian army can do much more and enter the real centers of terror in Jabal Halal and in the Sinai caves. Egypt must choose who will be more convenient to confront – terrorist gangs infiltrating from Libya or the military wings of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.
In the meantime, the wave of terror torpedoed the first anniversary celebrations of al-Sisi’s presidency. The Brothers in their prison cells are not afraid to boast that “the final word has yet to be said,” and Cairo is preparing to curb the next terror attack – as no one can guess where and when explosive devices will be planted. Al-Sisi’s major test will arrive next month, with a long series of ceremonies and VIPs who have been invited – although it’s not so sure they will arrive now – to the inauguration of the new Suez Canal. This is the future. Tens of thousands of new workplaces are being created here. The date, the location and the targets have been marked by the military wings and terrorist gangs. They will do anything to sabotage the event.
Analysis: Egypt, Hamas, ISIS and Israel after the latest rocket attack
YOSSI MELMAN/J.Post/07/06/2015/For a few hours last week, after the rockets landed in Israel, there was uncertainty from where they were fired. At first it was thought the projectiles came from the southern Gaza Strip, but later it was reported that the Islamic State’s Egyptian affiliate in the Sinai claimed responsibility for the attack. Hamas denied that the rockets were fired from Gaza. Nonetheless, it’s conceivable that the group that fired the rockets on Friday was a rebellious Salafist organization in Gaza, that does not recognize Hamas’s authority and wants to drive a wedge between it and Israel. What this would mean is that despite Egyptian efforts to control them, the Sinai-Gaza smuggling tunnels are still operational. In any case, Israel needs to be concerned about the latest rocket fire, but the incident does not mark a dramatic turn of events. In the past, formerly al-Qaida affiliated Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, that recently pledged allegiance to the Islamic State and now calls itself Sinai Province, fired rockets on the Negev and Eilat. Members of the Sinai Province group also succeeded in infiltrating Israeli territory more than three years ago when they engaged IDF soldiers and attacked Israeli motorists on Highway 12 that runs between Eilat and Mitzpe Ramon. That attack was carried for Hamas that wanted to open another front against Israel.
But the situation has changed since that attack. Hamas, and in particular its political leadership, has no interest in cooperating with Islamic State, which would lead to a deterioration in its relations with Egypt. A possibility remains alive that Hamas’ military leadership could decide to cooperate with Islamic State because of internal tensions with the political leaders. Lately, there are signs of warming relations between Egypt and Hamas, including intelligence sharing with regard to Islamic State. What is really important for Israel is the Egyptian military’s struggle against Islamic State in the Sinai, a struggle that will only intensify after Wednesday’s attack in which the army suffered heavy losses. But alongside its determination, the Egyptian Army seems lacking in its intelligence and operational capabilities. The IDF and the Israel Security Agency on the other hand have extensive intelligence knowledge of the Sinai and a few years ago created a unit for this purpose. It can be assumed that in its efforts to secure the Sinai border, Israel is sharing intelligence with the Sisi regime in Cairo.