Feature

Hamas busts out

Egyptian Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have staged protests expressing anger over the treatment of Palestinians who rushed out of the Gaza Strip to buy supplies. If this keeps up, said Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal, Gaza co

What happened
Egyptian Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, have staged protests expressing anger over the treatment of Palestinians who rushed out of the Gaza Strip to buy supplies. The demonstrations were ostensibly a show of solidarity with the Palestinians—who are being squeezed by an Israeli embargo imposed after a rise in rocket attacks out of Gaza—but they also fueled opposition to the 26-year-old Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak. (Los Angeles Times, free registration)

What the commentators said
It seems ludicrous to say that Gaza could “conquer Egypt,” said Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal, but “the possibility is not as remote as it may seem just by glancing at the map.” Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which is the Palestinian branch of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. No wonder liberal Eyptians were sent into a state of “near-hysterical alarm” when Hamas toppled the border wall keeping Gaza residents in their place—the weapons that have flowed over the border into Gaza could just as easily flow back, and into the hands of terrorists looking to attack Mubarak’s government.

Egypt is to blame for letting Hamas become such a threat, said Jonathan Spyer in the London Guardian. Cairo has only “half-heartedly and unwillingly” tried to slow the flow of arms into Gaza. But Israel is the target of Hamas’ wrath, not Egypt. The wall has been plugged, for now. It will start leaking again because of Egypt’s failure to police the border, but it is Israel that will pay the price.

There is now officially no hope for Middle East peace without dealing with Hamas, said Helena Cobban in The Christian Science Monitor. The “bust out” of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians into Egypt—brilliantly orchestrated by Hamas—“reinforced the strength of Hamas's popular support among Palestinians and has started to change the political map of the region.” Washington will have to talk to the leaders of Hamas—regardless of the group’s terrorist history—if the peace process is to have a chance.

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