Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, political Islam and the Jihadist bands, have always been two sides of the same coin, but the argument remains a persuasive one in the great halls of diplomacy.
Egypt had bottled up Hamas to avoid a repetition of the jailbreaks, terrorist attacks and street violence that had freed Morsi and Brotherhood leaders and later enabled Morsi to attempt a takeover of the Egyptian military.
The path to putting the Muslim Brotherhood back in power in Egypt runs through Hamas.
Hamas attacked Israel. There was enough backing for Israel’s attack on Hamas to get it to the negotiating table. But once a ceasefire offer was on the table, Egypt would no longer be calling the shots. Instead the deal would come through two of Hamas’ state sponsors; Qatar and Turkey.
For this to work, Obama had to keep a leash on Israel, giving it permission to fight and then pulling it back at the critical moment. Meanwhile Egypt would be surprised to learn that it was no longer setting the terms of the ceasefire based on the same old arrangement, but that its place would be filled by Qatar and Turkey. Their ceasefire terms, approved by the US, would loosen the blockade around Hamas.
Egypt had attempted to hold Hamas to the original ceasefire terms. That was not in the interests of the White House. The ceasefire negotiations had to be sabotaged with a political intervention on behalf of Hamas. And who better to conduct that political intervention than Secretary of State John Kerry?
Egypt, Israel and the PLO had not wanted Kerry to come. Israel’s former ambassador to the US had said that he was not invited. But he was caught on a hot mic saying that he was going to come anyway.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was even more unwanted, but Qatar transported him to Israel.
Kerry, the UN and Hamas had all become projections of Qatari state power into Egypt and Israel.
The US and the UN pushed for an urgent and immediate ceasefire. Israel accepted the ceasefire several times, but Hamas resumed firing each time. While Israel thought that this demonstrated its peaceful intentions, what it actually did was give Hamas the power to set the terms of the ceasefire.
Once Hamas had that power, meeting its demands became the key element of ending the violence.
One of Egypt’s remaining political assets had been the ability to turn off Hamas violence. Now Qatar and Turkey had demonstrated that it could no longer do that. With Qatar, Turkey and the US undermining Egypt, it could no longer pressure Hamas. Meanwhile the UN and the US were pressuring Israel to accept the Qatar/Turkey ceasefire terms favorable to Hamas and unfavorable to Egypt and Israel.
But diplomacy was never Kerry’s strong suit. His blatant Qatari intervention instead alienated everyone.
Netanyahu has chosen to extend the operation against Hamas. Backing him up are poll numbers which show that the vast majority of Israelis want the job done. The PLO now suspects that Obama is about to back a Hamas coup against it. And Egypt’s military has gotten a lot of recent experience watching Obama’s botched diplomatic strategies blow up in his face.
The real objective of this war was to undermine Egypt. Egypt was supposed to scramble into the new alignment by developing closer ties with Hamas and cutting a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood.
And if Egypt’s government wouldn’t cooperate, the Muslim Brotherhood might be able to tap into enough of the anti-Israel and pro-Hamas sentiment to topple the government a second time. But if Egypt remains opposed to Hamas and Israel pushes forward with a plan to demilitarize Gaza, then the goals of those in the great halls of diplomacy who are behind this war will fail.