Mixed reaction to Egypt plan

25 June 2004
Both the White House and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon gave cautious backing on 24 June to Cairo's proposal to secure the Gaza Strip once Israel goes ahead with its plan to withdraw from Gaza. All three parties are seeking to prevent a descent into chaos in the potential power vacuum created by an Israeli retreat.

The proposal calls for Cairo's active involvement in administering Gaza when Israeli forces pull out, including the training of a 30,000-strong security force and the deployment of a multinational force. A series of conditions have been attached to the plan, including reform of the Palestinian security forces and a halt to both Palestinian attacks and Israeli military strikes on Gaza.

'Egypt... is playing a very constructive role and we look forward to the results,' said US assistant secretary of state William Burns, in Cairo on 24 June to discuss the initiative. 'We're confident that we are going to be able to make progress. We have no illusions about the difficulties in the path but we are going to do everything we can.'

Sharon has also voiced his approval, saying Egyptian engagement in the strip is vital if militant groups such as Hamas are not to expand their influence. However, he was adamant that the move would not give Cairo a say in the general peace process. 'I don't plan to allow the Egyptians to become mediators between Israel and the Palestinians or to put on the agenda general Israeli-Palestinian peace talks,' he said. 'The dangers of such negotiations are greater than the benefits of Egypt's involvement.'

There was unsurprisingly little support for the Egyptian proposal from Gaza's militant groups. Following a meeting in Beirut on 21 June in which they discussed the situation, they issued a statement. 'We express our dismay and surprise over a security role for certain Arab parties in the Gaza Strip and West Bank,' said Hamas' Gaza spokesman Sami Abu Zohri. 'No one but the Palestinians can give any commitment to the Israelis.'

A MEED Subscription...

Subscribe or upgrade your current MEED.com package to support your strategic planning with the MENA region’s best source of business information. Proceed to our online shop below to find out more about the features in each package.

Get Notifications