Egypt’s prime minister visited the Palestinian territory Friday.
Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said Egypt will exert every effort to stop the aggression and achieve a sustainable truce between Israel and Hamas leaders in Gaza.
Reporter Noel King observed the visit from Egypt.
She says this was Egypt’s first high-ranking official to visit Gaza since 2007.
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Aaron Schachter: Egypt’s prime minister visited the Palestinian territory today, and while still in Gaza, he pledged his country’s support for the Palestinian people. Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said Egypt will exert every effort to stop the aggression and achieve a sustainable truce. “This is a tragedy we can’t remain silent about,” said Kandil. “The entire world should be responsible regarding this aggression.” Reporter Noel King is in Cairo. Noel, this is a huge turnaround for Egypt. The pre-revolution Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak shied away, to say the least, from dealing with Hamas.
Noel King: That’s absolutely right. In fact, Hisham Kandil was the first high-ranking Egyptian official to visit the Gaza Strip since 2007 when Hamas took over. There were two sides to this trip today that are really worth noting. In practical terms, the visit was something of a failure. Going in there was some hope that as Kandil entered the Gaza Strip we might be looking at the beginning of a cease-fire. The timeline is a little unclear, but needless to say both sides took turns firing even as Kandil was there and that took the prospect of a cease-fire off the table. Now if you look at the symbolic, this was something of a success I would say. There’s an image that’s being widely disseminated in Egypt and I’m sure broadly in the Arab world right now. It’s a picture of Hisham Kandil and the Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. They are together holding the body of a Palestinian toddler, a little boy who was reported killed in an Israeli air strike. That picture’s telegraphed a lot to the Egyptian people about Egypt’s support, in this case a picture worth many more than a thousand words.
Schachter: Now are people in Egypt firmly behind the Hamas government in Gaza? Is there any talk, from the Muslim Brotherhood perhaps, of repealing the peace treaty with Israel?
King: There are a couple of levels of support within the Egyptian people. Overwhelmingly, popular support is behind the Palestinian cause. Now that runs the gamut from a sort of militant strain of thinking, which I would say is a minority in Egypt. Then there’s the academic perspective which looks at both sides and sort of sighs heavily. But the majority of Egyptian people feel a really emotional pull toward the Palestinian cause, if not for Hamas, And so much of this groundswell of support within Egypt comes from a place, I think, of real emotional longing and emotional support for the Palestinians.
Schachter: The Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi’s government are in a bit of a tough spot. What are the real options now for Egypt? Militarily, they can’t risk confrontation with Israel. Where do they go from here, do you think?
King: Well that’s right. Egypt in no way wants to get drawn militarily into a broader fight. What we’ve heard today, what I’ve heard today, both from sources off the record and from analysts, is that Mohamed Morsi is negotiating frantically behind closed doors trying to find some way to broker a truce. He’s trying not to telegraph that he is entirely on the side of Hamas’ aggression, but he’s also come out and condemned Israel, which is what Egyptians sort of want him to do. So in some ways he’s played both sides of the field, and he’s played both sides of the field pretty successfully so far.
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