What Egypt's diplomacy can do for Palestine

Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart. AFP
Egypt's Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry in a meeting with his Israeli counterpart. AFP

The Sinai Peninsula is a difficult territory to manage. Located in the easternmost point of Egypt, the area’s history is as long as it is complex. One of its most notable landmarks is the compound of the Greek Orthodox Saint Catherine’s Monastery. The site has played an important role in the history of both Christianity and Islam. Today it remains a monument to the area’s diverse heritage, with its monastic buildings and historic mosque.

The Sinai’s story is no less complex in modern times. It was the site of pivotal 20th century wars with Israel, during which time it came to include the heavily militarised and geopolitically significant border between Egypt, Gaza and Israel.

Cairo now possesses one of the most important diplomatic portfolios related to the Palestine-Israel conflict. On Sunday, its influence came to light once again when Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry met his Israeli counterpart, Gabi Ashkenazi, in Cairo to discuss a permanent truce with Gaza, building on a temporary ceasefire that was agreed to on May 21. In Jerusalem, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held talks with Egypt's chief of intelligence, Abbas Kamel, on areas of concern for Israel that might stand in the way of achieving a lasting ceasefire.

Foreign Minister Shoukry also met the leader of Hamas, Yehiyeh Sinwar, left. AP
Foreign Minister Shoukry also met the leader of Hamas, Yehiyeh Sinwar, left. AP

The 'peace process' has delivered more 'process' than 'peace'

Cairo's diplomats and officials will be instrumental in getting Israel and Hamas onboard with a prolonged truce, and in securing the aid that Gaza's people so desperately need. Reconstruction costs following Israeli strikes in Palestine will cost tens of millions of dollars.

Egypt can help make this happen. With its other Arab partners, it also has a chance to break new ground on an even more important issue: finding permanent solutions to the challenges that make a continuous cycle of conflict in Gaza inevitable. Crises and wars in Palestine have a pattern of enacting a flurry of international activity, calls for ceasefire and aid. Necessary in the moment, these immediate goals do little to address the longstanding issues, including ending the occupation of Palestine, that ultimately provide the basis for future battles.

Decades of stalled international progress on the “peace process” have delivered more “process” than “peace”. However, it does not mean solutions cannot be found. Younger generations across the world are engaging with the issue, including in the US which has historically used its veto at the UN Security Council to block tangible change. The signing of the Abraham Accords last year led to Israel establishing ties with four Arab countries, creating new avenues for diplomatic engagement that should not be squandered.

The time for a just resolution for Palestinians has not yet passed. There are no easy solutions, but creative thinking and longstanding diplomatic relationships are the surest ways in which the case for permanent and just resolutions can be kept alive.

Published: June 1, 2021 07:00 AM

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